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In the world of compact luxury crossovers, the BMW X1 has reigned supreme. It outsells many of its rivals and is seen as a premium choice with a lower price tag.
However, it certainly isn’t the most exciting or charming car, which is the vibe the new Volvo XC40 exudes. Naturally, we had to compare these two, to see which one seems better suited for luxury car buyers.
The BMW is a safe choice though, visually, it looks like a smaller version of the brands X3 and X5 vehicles, although that means it lacks a distinct personality. It’s easy to get it confused for one of those other crossovers too, which is both a good and bad thing, especially when you point out your car in a crowded lot and your friends think you are diving that badass X5 when you really have the entry-level X1…
Sharing the similar front-wheel-drive focused platform as the MINI Countryman, the X1 has solid proportions, looking a bit more rugged than a raised hatchback that many crossovers end up imitating. This platform comes with a number of advantages as the X1 is surprisingly spacious, not to mention it drives like a MINI, which is to say that it feels agile.
Spacious, but unexciting
But the main purchasing reason for something like this is how practical it is, and the X1 can store everything you can imagine. With 27.1 cubic feet (767 liters) in the trunk, you’ll love how deep the cargo area is, with a hidden under-tray area too. Fold down the rear seats and you get an immense 58.7 cubic feet (1,662 liters) to throw stuff into. It also has a more spacious rear seat than the Volvo we brought out too. It’s a wonderful car if all you care about is space, but the materials and design aren’t the most impressive.
For starters, the design is so similar to what we’ve seen before in other BMWs that it’s lost its charm. The layout is familiar and easy to get used to, but it feels a bit drab and boring. There’s no clever design touches or fun elements to delight or welcome you in the car. In fact, if the X1 is a stablemate to the MINI Countryman, it seems like it’s been stripped of all the bits of uniqueness that the MINI has.
The Ultimate Driving Machines or a spruced up MINI
At least the X1 feels like the MINI on the road, which is to say, all the driving dynamics are tight and entertaining. The X1 feels plenty responsive, especially in terms of agility. It feels small and energetic, just like a small BMW should. The chassis is excellent in terms of engagement, but the car is a bit stiff, sometimes crashing harshly over potholes, highway expansion joints or small sidewalk access ramps. It can feel extremely uncomfortable when just pulling into a driveway sounds like you’ve broken something.
The plus side is that the powertrain is wonderfully refined and powerful as the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo puts out 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s much more linear feeling than the Volvo’s powertrain, which can feel a bit peaky and laggy at times. The BMW motor is mated to a solid eight-speed automatic, which works well, despite the very different looking shifter. It’s slightly less fuel efficient than the Volvo, with our all-wheel-drive model earning 25 MPG combined (9.3 L/100km).
2018 BMW X1
2019 Volvo XC40