BMW Shifts Gears With ’16 X1 CUV

The X1 luxury CUV gets a major overhaul for ’16, becoming the first front-drive-based model for the U.S. market wearing a BMW badge. Huge interior improvements and a powerful turbo powertrain highlight the changes.

Bob Gritzinger, Editor-in-Chief

November 13, 2015

5 Min Read
rsquo16 BMW xDrive28i shares brawnier styling with its bigger siblings
’16 BMW xDrive28i shares brawnier styling with its bigger siblings.

CHIHUAHUA, Mexico – If the’16 BMW X1 doesn’t seem significantly different compared to its predecessor, take a second look. Everything from engine design and powertrain layout to exterior and interior design is all new.

Whether that’s an improvement depends on your point of view. If you’re a BMW purist who loves longitudinally mounted inline sixes, stick shifts and rear-wheel-drive, you might not appreciate the German automaker’s move to its front-drive, transverse-engine UKL layout in the ’16 xDrive28i. If you like Minis, you may have found your CUV. More on that later.

The chassis was introduced in the U.S. in the ’14 Mini Hardtop, but the X1 represents the first BMW-badged application and the brand’s first front-drive-based model in North America. Eventually, BMW will offer as many as 12 different models on the UKL platform, including the upcoming ’17 1-Series sedan.

BMW offered the first-generation X1 two trims in North America, the 4-cyl. xDrive28i and the U.S.-exclusive 6-cyl. xDrive35i. But for ’16, the X1 comes with just one powertrain, the 2.0L twin-scroll turbocharged 4-cyl. hooked to an 8-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels in the xDrive28i.

The heart of the powertrain is BMW’s modular 2.0L engine, codenamed B46, which produces 228 hp at 5,000 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque at 1,250-4,500 rpm. The modular design first appeared in the Mini in 1.5L 3-cyl. and 2.0L 4-cyl. configurations. The B46 engine replaces the N20 4-cyl.

BMW says the power output is tops in the X1’s entry-CUV class and is capable of propelling the 3,660-lb. (1,660-kg) 5-seater from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.3 seconds. U.S. EPA mileage figures are 22/32 mpg (10.7-7.4 L/100 km) city/highway.

Sideways Shift Opens Cabin Space

Shifting to UKL front-drive platform from the longitudinal, rear-drive 1- and 3-Series chassis means the modular engine sits sideways in the engine bay, freeing up space in the cabin even though overall length decreases 1.1 ins. (28 mm) to 175.4 ins. (4,455 mm). Width increases 0.9 in. (23 mm) to 71.7 ins. (1,821 mm) while height grows 1.7 ins. (43 mm) to 62.5 ins. (1,588 mm).

Second-row passengers see the greatest benefit, with a 1.5-ins. (38-mm) increase in legroom in base models and 2.5 ins. (63 mm) in models equipped with the optional sliding rear seat that provides up to 5.1 ins. (130 mm) of travel. Cargo room also grows 3.0 cu.-ft. (85 L) to 27.1 cu.-ft. (767 L), which BMW says is the largest in the class and similar to the cargo room in the previous-generation X3. Cargo room with the second row folded flat increases 7.0 cu.-ft. (198 L) to 58.7 cu.-ft. (1,662 L).

Exterior styling doesn’t stray too much from the previous model, but the extra height does give the vehicle a taller SUV-like presence, augmented by a bolder front fascia featuring a larger signature kidney grille and a subtle “X” crisscrossing the fascia from corner to corner.

Standard wheels are 18 in. fitted with run-flat all-season tires; 19-in. run-flat performance tires are optional.

Inside, the X1 grows up considerably, with a commanding driver-centric cockpit accented by a wide center stack canted slightly toward the driver and a center console positioned low in the cockpit to allow the shift handle to fall readily at the driver’s hand. Ambient lighting across the dashboard and in the door panels, along with high-quality wood, leather and plastics, upgrade the environment.

Strong Powertrain, Easy Driver

The xDrive28i’s initial throttle tip-in seems abrupt, but that’s just a sign the small engine is up to the task of powering this vehicle. We found ample power across the rev range. When the powertrain is allowed to operate without manual-shift intervention, it often runs in third gear, providing plenty of pull on uphill grades and in corners without any hunting for the right ratio. While not unusual in a Jaguar V-12 of yore, it’s fairly remarkable for a small-displacement four.

We didn’t notice any lag due to EcoPro, a fuel-saving mode that allows the powertrain to fully disengage and coast at speeds between 30 mph (48 km/h) and 100 mph (161 km/h) whenever the driver lifts off the accelerator.

Though the X1 shares its underpinnings with the lower and lighter Mini, there’s no defeating physics when it comes to managing body roll in a taller and heavier vehicle. But considering the 7.2-in. (183-mm) ground clearance and high seating position, the X1 is a fairly capable handler and rides smooth and steady in the straights.

Steering is a strong point. BMW employs an electric-power steering unit that is speed-sensitive, with more effort required at higher speeds but a lighter steering effort when parking and making tight turns at low speeds.

BMW was early to the compact luxury CUV segment and its sales reflect that. The company has sold nearly 70,000 X1s in the U.S. since its launch in 2012. Early on, the X1 controlled nearly half of the small luxury CUV segment, but that share has dropped to 17% since competitors from Audi and Mercedes-Benz have appeared.

The ’16 xDrive28i is on sale now, starting at $35,795 (including $995 destination charge).

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'16 BMW xDrive28i Specifications

Vehicle type

4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, all-wheel-drive CUV


2.0L twin-scroll turbocharged I-4 with direct injection, all-aluminum

Power (SAE net)

228 hp @ 5,000 rpm


258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) @ 1,250-4,500 rpm

Bore x stroke (mm)

82 x 94.6

Compression ratio



8-speed automatic


105.1 ins. (2,670 mm)

Overall length

175.4 ins. (4,455 mm)

Overall width

71.7 ins. (1,821 mm)

Overall height

62.5 ins. (1,588 mm)

Curb weight

3,660 lbs. (1,660 kg)

Base price


Fuel economy

22/32 mpg (10.7-7.4 L/100 km) city/highway


Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA/GLC/GLK



Front-drive platform saves space

BMW purists dislike front-drivers

Vastly improved interior

Noticeable tire noise

Capable powertrain

Abrupt throttle tip-in


About the Author(s)

Bob Gritzinger

Editor-in-Chief, WardsAuto

Bob Gritzinger is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto and also covers Advanced Propulsion & Technology for Wards Intelligence.

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