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No rear-drive? No problem. BMW knows what X1 drivers need, and aims to deliver for 2018

What changes will make the 2018 BMW X1 different?

With a midcycle freshening on tap for model-year 2019, changes to the 2018 version of BMW’s smallest crossover should amount to little more than a possible new paint color and perhaps some minor equipment shuffling. The ’19 freshening will likely include updates to styling and features, and perhaps to the powertrain.

The ’18 X1 will soldier on with the look that accompanied its model-year-2016 redesign, when it became the first front-wheel-drive-based BMW offered in the U.S. More on that below, but today’s more spacious second-generation X1 has resonated with buyers. Sales are up more than 30 percent through the first two months of 2017 and it ranks among the top sellers in a premium subcompact crossover class that includes the Lexus NX, the Audi Q3, and the mechanically related Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To see if BMW adjusts the way in which features are offered. We’d advocate, for example, that it make full smartphone integration and the sliding/reclining rear seats standard. On the ’17 model, they were options, at $350 and $300, respectively. Otherwise, expect the 2018 X1 to carryover with no compelling alterations. The front-wheel-drive sDrive28i and the all-wheel-drive (AWD) xDrive28i would return with a turbocharged four-cylinder as their only engine. They will, however, almost certainly cost more than their 2017 counterparts, given normal model-year price inflation. Any increase could be offset by late-model-year clearance sales ahead of the tweaked 2019 X1. But then you’d have to weigh those savings against buying a vehicle whose styling details and feature set are about to be rendered a little dated.

The X1’s general design won’t change, though, and if you like it, there’s a reason to wait for BMW’s model-year 2018 lineup. The automaker is expected to slice this premium-subcompact-crossover niche even finer with introduction of the X2. It would borrow the X1’s architecture and mechanicals but wear a fastback body. Think of it as the coupe-like X4 is to BMW’s compact-class X3 crossover.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

If you have no issues with a front-drive-based BMW, go for it. The essentials won’t change for ’18, and you’ll get a year’s extra life out of the current styling. Despite the engineering change from BMW’s rear-drive tradition, the 2017 X1 has top-notch road manners. And the more efficient front-drive packaging gives it best-in-class passenger and cargo room. A myriad of standalone and packaged options will allow you to customize a model to your taste. Be judicious, though: checking all the boxes can send the sticker price into low orbit.

BMW added the front-drive sDrive28i for the 2017 as a lower-cost alternative to the otherwise identical AWD xDrive28i. It also make a firmer performance suspension part of the optional M Sport Package instead of a standalone extra. At the same time, that package’s sport bucket seats became available a la carte on any X1.

One thing to note is that BMW is scaling back its complimentary scheduled maintenance program on all 2017 and newer vehicles. Instead of 4 years/50,000 miles of no-cost service that even covered wear and tear items, buyers will now get a 3-year/36,000-mile program that still includes fluids and filters but not brake pads and discs, wiper blades, drive belts, and manual-transmission clutches. Full coverage is available for an extra charge.

Will the styling be different?

No. Other than a possible new color choice or two, the ’18 X1 will retain the look that came aboard with its 2016 redesign. More or less a scaled-down version of BMW’s X3 and X5 crossovers, its shape is more mainstream than its sportier, and smaller, rear-drive predecessor. And you’ll likely have few complaints about the interior. For a vehicle this size, passenger and cargo room are outstanding. The seats are comfortable and supportive. The sliding and reclining rear bench is a welcome convenience, though we wish BMW didn’t charge $300 for the privilege.

Instruments and controls follow BMW’s no-nonsense school of design. The large infotainment screen atop the dashboard is crisp and easy to read, while the iDrive control system is more functional and responsive than ever. Connectivity is good, though full smartphone integration really should be standard.

Any mechanical changes?

Not for 2018. The X1 that debuted for ‘16 marked a significant departure from BMW’s traditional design and engineering ethos. Instead of adapting the vehicle from one of its own rear-wheel-drive cars, such as the 3 Series, the company adopted the understructure from the front-wheel-drive-based Mini Clubman from its British-brand offshoot.

Expect ’18 X1s to return a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’ll again be delivered through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a traditional shift lever rather than the fussier electronic “beer tap” wand found in other BMWs. The engine furnishes good power with minimal turbo lag (the delay in throttle response before the turbo boost kicks in). BMW says AWD models will do 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which feels right to us. We haven’t evaluated a front-drive model, but it will likely be a tad slower to 60 because it can rely only the front tires for traction off the line. Torque steer, the tendency for a vehicle to pull to the side during full-throttle acceleration, could be an issue, too.

Yes, the second-gen X1 traded some of the handling prowess and 50/50 front/rear weight balance afforded by a rear-drive design. There’s a bit more body lean in fast turns in the X1 than you might expect, but steering response and grip, are still quite good. Overall, road manners are entirely consistent with what buyers in this class expect and are in fact better than any number of other front-wheel-drive vehicles. You can fine-tune the experience thanks to BMW’s standard Driving Dynamic Control that automatically adjusts the drivetrain among four different settings.

Will fuel economy improve?

Doubtful. Expect the 2018 to carry forward the 2017 X1’ excellent EPA fuel-economy ratings: 23/32/26 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 22/31/25 with AWD. BMW strongly recommends premium-grade 91-octane gasoline, but mid-grade 89-octane can be used if none is available.

All models include an engine idle stop/start function that shuts off the engine and automatically restarts it when the driver releases their foot from the brake pedal. BMW’s implementation is far from the smoothest, as the motor restarts with a noticeable shudder. Thankfully, you can permanently disable it.

Will it have new features?

Not “new” per-se. Think more along the lines of existing features become standard or optional. Further, individual items may be added or pulled from packages, as they were for model-year ’17. What specific items those could be, only BMW product planners know as of this writing. We’ve already mentioned some features we’d like to see become standard.

Standard equipment isn’t what you’d call generous, but this is true of most of X1’s rivals as well. There are some notable inclusions, though, namely a power rear liftgate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and driver-seat memory. These features are balanced by some rather curious omissions. In addition to the aforementioned lack of standard smartphone connectivity, a rearview camera is only offered as part of an option package that also adds front- and rear-obstacle detection. The base upholstery is a leatherette substitute that at least feels reasonably convincing.

How will 2018 prices be different?

Given rising demand, they’ll almost certainly increase. Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which was $995 on the 2017 X1. Expect the 2018 sDrive28i to around $34,600 and the xDrive to begin around $36,600.

Based on a model-year-’17 options roster that’s unlikely to change much, anticipate that any color other than white or black will cost about $700. Upgrading the standard 18-inch wheels and all-season tires to 19s with run-flats will be $600.

Many option packages should return. The $550 Cold Weather Package would include heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The $1,150 Driving Assistance Package includes the aforementioned rearview camera and front- and rear-obstacle detection. Another $700 on top of that adds the Driving Assistance Plus Package of lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert with pedestrian detection, and collision-mitigation braking. Full-speed, radar-based adaptive cruise control is a further $1,000 on top of Driving Assistance Plus. Note that adaptive cruise control precludes the addition of the heated steering wheel. Adding all of these safety aids makes the X1 eligible for Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Other packages include the $1,550 Luxury Package that adds leather upholstery and your choice of genuine wood or aluminum interior trim. The $3,250 Premium Package nets a universal garage door opener with auto-dimming rearview mirror; keyless entry; lumbar support for the front seats; satellite radio; power-folding exterior mirrors; full LED headlights; and a power panoramic moonroof. Ordering the $1,200 standalone navigation system opens up access to the $2,550 Technology Package consisting of a head-up instrument display; real-time traffic data; BMW Online and BMW Apps with Connected App compatibility; a touchpad for the iDrive controller knob; and full smartphone integration. For $2,450, the M Sport Package adds interior and exterior addenda; a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters; sport seats; and performance suspension.

A la carte options include the panoramic moonroof ($1,350); sport seats ($500); smartphone integration ($350); sliding/reclining rear seat ($300); and a harman/karon audio system ($875).

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2018 BMW X1 should be in summer 2017.

Best competitors

Audi Q3, Infiniti QX30, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

What change would make it better?

We’re pleased to see the company offer a front-drive version as a lower-cost alternative, especially since this subcompact crossover can get very pricey with options. We think BMW should make the X1’s optional sliding rear seat, smartphone integration, and rearview camera standard and also make the available driver-assistance features either standard or more affordable than they currently are. Further, we hope the company will reconsider its decision to cut back on its scheduled maintenance program. This was a major selling point for the brand, and now it merely runs with its competitors in this regard. Some rivals have limited or no included maintenance (Audi, Acura, Mercedes-Benz) while others are as good or better than BMW (Cadillac, Jaguar, Volvo).

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]