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The second-generation of BMW’s X1 is based on a front-wheel-drive architecture. (SAE/Visnic)

What we’re driving: 2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i

When going downmarket might be going too far.

The overwhelming first impression of BMW’s restyled-for-2020 X1 compact crossover: “Wow this thing feels a little, ah, ‘plumper’ than I recall.” For this second-generation X1 launched in 2015, BMW scandalously switched the thing to the same front-wheel-drive platform the company uses for the Mini brand; all-wheel-drive is optional to kind of paper over this uncomfortable fact (not that many contemporary buyers would know or care). 

And there is the sideways-sitting 2.0-L turbocharged 4-cyl. (228 hp/258 lb-ft; 170kW/350 Nm on premium fuel) and an 8-speed automatic that’s a little more engine and transmission than you’ll find in, say, the nearly identically-sized and -packaged Honda HR-V. Considering how much throttle is needed to work up real acceleration in the X1, I consulted the spec sheet and found the likely explanation: the AWD X1 weighs 3,713 lb (1,684 kg).

That’s 563 lb (255 kg) more than the heaviest HR-V. Are X1s and HR-Vs market competitors? No, but that’s a lot of weight difference between two AWD compact crossovers. Throw in the X1’s pinched cabin and the middling 23 mpg city/31 highway fuel economy and I’m having trouble – as I usually do with the compact-crossover segment – finding the payoff. And that’s before the almost unspeakable $48,645 price that includes significant charges for mundane equipment; the X1’s comparatively low-value Premium package alone is a ripping $4,950.

The X1 displays hints of its heritage with serene high-speed cruising and pleasing steering feedback and heft. But its central-controller HMI remains weak, as is its general performance and road presence. This is an acceptable (though no less porky) package for Mini, but going this far downmarket does not make for BMW’s best effort.

2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i

Base price:    $37,200
As tested:      $48,645
Highs:            Steering feel; quiet at speed
Lows:             FWD underpinnings; middling engine power and refinement; outer-limits pricing
Takeaway:     Large charge for not much that says “BMW”            

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