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BMW X1: Best Subcompact Luxury SUV

BMW X1: Best Subcompact Luxury SUV

Getting the formula right.

BMW X1: Best Subcompact Luxury SUV

In the same way that Coca-Cola’s secret formula combines sugar, phosphoric acid, carbonated water, and other “natural flavors” into one of the world’s predominant beverages, BMW crafted its special and elusive Ultimate Driving Machine syrup from manual transmissions, inline-six engines, and rear-wheel-drive chassis. But lately, many of BMW’s concoctions aren’t tasting so sweet, and our 2018 10Best Cars list is the first without a BMW since 1991.

So it may be a bit of a surprise that a BMW adhering to none of those old-school virtues, the X1, was such a clear choice for its class trophy for a second year in a row. But BMW has imbued this functional little device with some of the same delicious flavor that first addicted us to the brand’s offerings. This despite using a nearly identical recipe as its closest competitors, down to the 2.0-liter displacement of its turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

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Brilliant packaging acumen gives the X1 a positively airy cabin, with plentiful head- and legroom for front- and rear-seat passengers. The upright body makes for good visibility through large windows. Cargo space with the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats folded flat is more generous than any direct rival and, in our testing, the X1 even accommodated more carry-on suitcases than some one-size-up SUVs, including the Audi Q5. Elevating the experience further are genuinely upscale interior materials that shame the cheap-looking and -feeling plastics in rival Mercedes-Benz’s GLA-class.

But BMW was not satisfied simply to engineer a spacious and practical conveyance and call it a day. The X1 offers genuine driving pleasure thanks to a firm and controlled ride, an eagerness to change direction that’s rare among others of its ilk, and precise steering that is more communicative and satisfying than that found among the competition. In addition, BMW has almost always delivered on the “motor” portion of its name, and the 2.0-liter inline-four in the X1 is no exception, with its nearly lag-free, linear power delivery. A sharp eight-speed automatic transmission shifts responsively and is almost invariably in the correct gear.

While sometimes only the full-figured, sugary indulgence of red-label Coca-Cola will truly satisfy a craving, more practical beverages often will do the trick—witness Coke Zero. This segment is more akin to the latter, and no other carmaker has yet been able to craft a subcompact luxury SUV quite as tasty as the $34,895 X1. —Joseph Capparella

Specifications

VEHICLE TYPE:
front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
BASE PRICE:
$34,895–$36,895
ENGINE:
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 228 hp, 258 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION:
8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
CURB WEIGHT (C/D EST):
3550–3700 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 6.4–6.6 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.9–15.0 sec
Top speed: 130 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY:
Combined/city/highway: 25–26/22–23/31–32 mpg

The Ground Rules

To determine our 2018 10Best Trucks and SUVs, we followed our usual 10Best procedure of inviting the previous year’s winners plus vehicles that are all new or significantly updated within each segment. Competing vehicles must have a base price of less than $80,000 and be on sale by January 31, 2018. Each competing vehicle is driven and fully evaluated by our entire editorial staff during our weeklong test, and winners have been determined via editors’ votes for which entrants best deliver across three key areas: value, driving enjoyment, and overall mission fulfillment.

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