Luxury compact crossover
The second-generation BMW X1 hit Canadian roads in 2015, bringing shoppers a taste of BMW’s utility vehicle prowess in a compact, capable, and city-friendly package.
The smallest utility vehicle in the automaker’s lineup, the X1 takes up residence beneath the larger X3 – and even-larger X5 – in the product portfolio. As such, BMW fans after a capable, flexible, thrifty, and relatively compact crossover product will find the X1 worth further investigation.
All units offer two rows of seating, and the second-generation X1’s new platform makes the vehicle larger and roomier than its predecessor, with numerous owners noting that the volume increase is easy to appreciate.
Feature content may include a multi-angle parking camera system, automatic climate control, heated and ventilated leather, sunroof, full multimedia connectivity with navigation, push-button start, power tailgate, and plenty more. Premium audio systems, memory seating, a drive-mode selector, and hill-descent control (which helps navigate slippery slopes in an off-road setting) were all on board too, depending on the model and equipment selected.
All models run a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s good for 228 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive get power to the ground.
What Owners Like
Most owners report that the X1 is easy to enter and exit, offers sufficient space for four adults and their things, and delivers a sturdy road feel with good ride comfort, while the all-wheel drive system adds plenty of confidence and control when used in inclement weather – provided appropriate tires are installed, of course. A pleasing blend of performance and fuel economy are also reported by most owners. Check out the video below for our impressions of the second-generation X1 when it launched in 2016.
What Owners Dislike
Gripes include good-not-great performance from the standard headlight system, a dull exhaust note, and a reduction in ride quality on rougher roads, particularly from models running the larger available wheel sizes and the lower-profile tires that come with them.
Pro Tip: Try Smaller Wheels for Smoother Ride
If you’re set on an X1 but find the ride too stiff and sporty, don’t despair. Given the athletic tuning to the X1’s chassis, ride quality may be at the mercy of the installed wheel and tire combination. Opting for a model with smaller wheels – and, by virtue, taller tires – may be advisable where ride comfort is a priority. In any case, be sure to visit the roughest road you can find on a test drive to confirm the ride quality for yourself.
Pro Tip: Pre-purchase Inspection or Certified Pre-owned?
There are two things a shopper can do to increase confidence in buying a used BMW X1.
The first is to have the vehicle treated to a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) by a BMW-trained technician before signing on the dotted line. This will cost a few bucks, and will likely require an appointment set up ahead of time.
The second is to buy a used X1 as part of a BMW’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program through its dealer network. CPO vehicles must meet higher condition standards before being sold than units sold privately or via third-party dealers.
The Test Drive
According to numerous owners, the lifespan of the X1’s factory-installed brake components may be disappointing. Some owners have reported the need to replace various braking system parts at intervals that are earlier than expected. Note that brake system wear is subject to many variables, including driving style, locale, and owner maintenance and care habits.
On your test drive, take any grinding or scraping sounds and sensations, a soft brake pedal, poor braking performance, or any warning lights or indicator messages referencing the braking system as your sign to have the braking system professionally assessed before you buy. This may save you from picking up the repair bill for the seller’s worn-out brakes.
With the vehicle identification number (VIN) in hand, work with a BMW dealer’s service department to determine if any software updates are outstanding for the specific X1 you’re considering. Have any outstanding software updates applied as soon as possible, as these can improve or correct the operation of numerous systems, including the infotainment system. Running a vehicle with all current software is a great way to pre-empt possible headaches. Note that you may require written or in-person consent from the seller for the dealer to release this information to you.
If you have the VIN, you can also check for any outstanding recall work on the vehicle you’re considering.
Skip the Chip
Here’s one of several discussions where X1 owners contemplate adding a “chip” to the engine. This non-factory electronic component reprograms the engine’s computer, typically to exceed factory-set boost levels from the turbocharger and therefore create more engine output and, ultimately, speed. It also voids any remaining warranty coverage, and may damage the engine permanently.
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Such damage is not covered by the warranty. As such, the average shopper is advised to take steps to ensure they aren’t buying a used BMW X1 that’s ever run a non-factory chip or engine programming of any sort. The former presence of such components can also be detected, even if they’re removed before a warranty claim. If the engine in the X1 you’re considering has a chip now or in the past, proceed with the knowledge that the warranty is void or move to another unit.
Numerous owners have reported an unpleasant smell from the X1’s climate control system when activated in certain conditions. This problem is possible on virtually any vehicle, and likely stems from a buildup of dirt, mould, and mildew within the ducting and other parts of the system.
The presence or lack of this odour may change depending on ambient temperatures, how the climate control system is used, the time of year, and more. On your test drive, be sure to note any unpleasant smells that result from cycling the climate control system through its various temperatures and distribution points.
In some cases, dealers may be able to perform a cleaning procedure, which owners say has mixed results at eliminating the smell. A clogged or dirty cabin air filter may also be the culprit – though this part is a relatively easy fix. More reading here.
Haunted Power Tailgate
Some owners have reported problems with the X1’s powered tailgate, with many reports involving the unwanted opening of the tailgate. This can pose a safety and security risk, especially if the tailgate opens on its own when the owner isn’t nearby.
Though reported with relative rarity against total sales volumes, owners are advised to be on the lookout. The fix, reported by many owners who have experienced this problem, is to have a dealership simply disable the power tailgate’s “kick to open” functionality, which opens the tailgate when the driver kicks beneath the bumper. Apparently, the sensor that drives this feature may be too sensitive or prone to false activation. According to several posts, disabling this system requires physical disconnection of a wiring harness, which is best left to a dealer technician.
When test-driving a used X1, be sure to spend a few minutes checking over a few other parts and systems to confirm proper operation. These include the sunroof, all door locks and latches, all remote keyfobs, the power tailgate, and the Bluetooth system. Spending a few minutes of your test drive time confirming proper operation of all systems and features can save you money and headaches down the line.
According to my research, early brake wear and foul odours from the X1’s climate control system are the most commonly reported issues to be on the lookout for – and that’s good news, as both of these issues are easy to detect. A used X1 that doesn’t exhibit signs of these problems – and that has all software updates applied – can be bought with relative confidence, especially after a PPI is performed by a BMW technician.
Crash Test Results
IIHS: Top Safety Pick+ (2016)
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2018)