Auto Weekend Wheels

Weekend Wheels: BMW’s latest X1 has a price that’s right

PULLING AHEAD: The latest BMW X1. Photos by Howard Walker.
Luxury Living Tampa Bay

My big discovery of the week — in addition to realizing it’s impossible to go jogging in a face mask — is that one of the best BMWs money can buy just happens to be the least expensive. 

Ponder this for one sec. The battleship-gray bundle of compact SUV joy you see here has a base sticker of, drum roll please, $36,195. 

For a sweet-looking, tall-riding, fun-driving, big-on-the-inside, sporty crossover with BMW Ultimate Driving Machine genes, that’s a deal. And a half.

I know, I know. For that you’re getting the “starter” X1. Commence piling on those infamous BMW options and the sticker soars like humidity after a summer downpour. 

This little buggy you see here came with xDrive all-wheel drive ($2,000); a pricey Premium Package ($4,950);  full leather trim ($1,450); 19-inch rims ($600); Storm Gray metallic paint ($1,200); adaptive cruise ($1,000); plus various other doodads. The grand total: $48,645.

But you don’t need most of that stuff to enjoy the inherent goodness, super design, terrific quality and sheer feisty, fun-to-drive character of this very cute ute. 

While the X1 has been around in this guise since 2016, for 2020 it got a nip, tuck and jab of Botox to tighten up its looks. So, new bumpers front and rear, bigger, bolder kidney grilles, LED taillights and new-design wheels.

Underneath, the X1 still rolls on a modified Mini Countryman platform — BMW owns Mini — and still gets its motivation from a punchy turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder cranking out 228 horseys.

As before, the four-banger is mated to an 8-speed automatic, though for 2020 it gets revised ratios for even peppier performance.

And, as before, it still doesn’t get paddle-shifters for DIY shifting — for me, an unthinkable omission for such a sporty sport-ute. If you can get them on a Hyundai Sonata, you should get them on a BMW. End of discussion.

See the X1 in the metal and it’s a design that just seems right. While its low-roofed X2 sibling looks like it’s been in a rollover wreck, The One has a great stance, being not too long, not too tall. 

I know, I know, it’s just a shrunken take on the bigger X3. But in the week I shared with this starter Bimmer, I never failed to look back over my shoulder when I walked away to take in its sweet lines. 

Yet despite its seemingly compact dimensions, it’s actually pretty big on the inside. The packaging is just terrific, with plenty of space not just up front, but also in the second row. Lots of kneeroom, plenty of headroom. 

It’s an impressive load hauler, too. There’s 27 cubic feet of space behind that second row, and a useful 58 cubic feet with the versatile 40/20/40-split second-row pew folded. 

And even with that $36-grand X1, you’re getting high quality and lovely fit and finish. Materials are first rate — even the faux leather looks just like the real stuff — and standard features are generous.

Even the base model comes with an 8.8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, a power tailgate, engine stop-start button, rear-view camera and rain-sensing wipers.

Fire up that turbo 2-liter, stomp on the gas, and the X1 catapults off the line like a clown out of a Ringling Brothers cannon. The stopwatch says 6.3 seconds to hit 60 from standstill, which is plenty lively. 

Select Sport mode and everything gets a nice shot of Red Bull; the steering feels more precise, throttle response livelier, gear shifts quicker. 

Add to this suspension that’s firm and responsive, tires that grip like gum on velvet, plus low levels of body roll. It gives the X1 this lovely, playful character that inspires confidence.   

Pity there’s so much road noise at speed on anything but pool-table-smooth surfaces. No prizes either for the shuddery auto stop-start. 

But this is a BMW I could really live with and love. For me, this little X1 could definitely be The One.

Test drive the 2020 BMW M8 Convertible at Reeves BMW Tampa, Ferman BMW Palm Harbor, Bert Smith BMW St. Petersburg, or Fields BMW Lakeland.

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