Vehicle Type

Compact Luxury Utility

The xDrive35i is a beastly little rocket ute, though it will come with higher fuel and insurance costs, as well as performance that’ll likely prove excessive for many drivers.


Model-year 2016 sees an all-new BMW X1 hitting the marketplace, which marks a move of the original-generation X1 fully into used-vehicle territory. Launched for 2012, the first-generation X1 was available until 2015, taking a place as the brand’s smallest sports ute, and one that put ownership of a BMW utility model within reach of the masses. Look for two seating rows, folding rear seats, and feature content fitting of a BMW – including push-button start, satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, xenon lights, navigation, a premium stereo system and more. Premium goodies included adaptive headlights, a panoramic sunroof, memory seating and dynamic cruise control.

The X1’s size, flexibility and capability, as well as its keen eye for fuel efficiency, made it an ideal choice for small families, active couples and retirees alike, or any shopper looking to upsize from a compact luxury car, or downsize from a larger SUV model.


Look for the original X1 generation with a 2.0L turbo engine, eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive AWD technology, in its xDrive28i trim grade. For added performance and a discreet little rocket of a ute, the X1 was available from 2013 in xDrive35i guise, complete with a 3.0L straight six, turbocharged for 300 hp. The six-cylinder model got a six-speed automatic and the same xDrive AWD system.

Choose accordingly: the xDrive28i should provide adequate power for most shoppers, especially those focused on fuel efficiency. The xDrive35i is a beastly little rocket ute, though it will come with higher fuel and insurance costs, as well as performance that’ll likely prove excessive for many drivers.

What Owners Like

Common owner praise points include the smooth and seamless AWD system, as well as all-season, all-surface traction with no second guessing, good relative fuel mileage from four-cylinder models, and good handling characteristics. Acceleration is above-adequate, as is the styling and pride of ownership. Favourite features include the heated steering wheel, up-level stereo, and steerable projector lights.

What Owners Dislike

Some owners wish for more at-hand storage space for smaller items like their cell-phone, wallet and coffee change, while others wish for a richer and more upscale feel to the cabin. Rear seat space tightens up with full-sized adults on board, and the cargo hold is on par with a hatchback – leaving some owners to wish for more space.

Here’s a look at some owner reviews.

The Test Drive

Ensure all door locks and the trunk release work properly. Ditto the keyfobs. And, as it goes with any used German car, inspect the X1 exhaustively for signs of electronics and wiring problems. Ensure any and every feature and system that runs on electricity within the X1 is working as expected.

On a test-drive, listen for a rare but serious potential issue with the X1’s transfer case, possibly evidenced by a high-pitched whine and some vibration at cruising speeds, as well as some excessive grinding or scrubbing sounds while turning tightly at lower speeds. Several owners have reported issues with this component of the AWD system, as well as success having it replaced under warranty. Have any unwelcome sounds addressed by a BMW technician before agreeing to purchase an X1, and documented by a BMW dealer’s service department should they become apparent after your purchase. If your used X1 still has warranty remaining, having the problem investigated and documented as early as possible may help speed up warranty claims, should they be required.

Also, be sure to drive your used X1 candidate with a close eye on transmission shift quality. The X1 should shift fast, seamlessly, and without any detectable lash through the driveline. Unwelcome sounds and sensations while shifting up or down, or any difficulty switching through the X1’s gear positions, should be investigated. The likely culprit, if issues are detected, is the so-called Mechatronics system, which controls the transmission. Issues may be caused by a leaky adapter sleeve, which is inside of the transmission. It’s unclear how common this issue is in regards to the X1, though again, a mechanic should have a look if any issues are detected. Rough, abrupt or noisy shifting is not normal behavior in a BMW X1.

Move to the iDrive central command system, dialing through the screens, functions and interfaces, and giving the system a bit of a workout. Confirm all buttons and dial inputs respond, and that the controller itself is functioning properly, too. Any issues may be remedied simply by performing a hard reset, which is like rebooting your PC when it’s acting up. Remember the three-finger salute? Same dilly. If that doesn’t solve the problem, updated software (cheap), or new components (pricey), may be required.

Check the condition of the tires on the unit you’re considering – as numerous owners have reported less-than-stellar durability from the factory-equipment rubber. Though this is largely dependent on driving habits and locale, used shoppers should confirm that the seller isn’t trying to pass off the cost of a new set of tires.

If you’re considering a model with the six-cylinder engine, have the coolant level checked, ensuring its full of fresh fluid, and be on the lookout for signs of overheating. Some owners have reported premature failure from this engine’s electric water pump, which is typically replaced under warranty.

Speaking of warranty, here’s a discussion about performance computer modifications to the BMW X1. Since both available engines are turbocharged, both are ideal candidates for having their boost turned up through non-factory software by owners after more horsepower. This type of modification can adversely affect the durability of the X1’s powertrain, and can void any remaining warranty. Some owners install non-factory tuning software to the engine computer under the assumption that resetting the computer to stock before visiting a dealer will hide the non-factory tune, which is not the case. Translation? A BMW X1 modified with non-factory software may have its warranty voided, without the seller even knowing. Talk to a BMW service centre if you have any concerns, and seek out a non-modified X1 wherever possible.

The Verdict

The X1’s most commonly-reported issues seem relatively small in comparison to the number of units sold, and should be easily identified by a BMW technician during a pre-purchase inspection. A healthy four-cylinder unit with a mechanical thumbs-up is likely your safest and most cost-efficient bet.

Some recalls.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS Top Safety Pick (2013)