If the 1 Series was the aspirational BMW when it launched, the BMW X1 E84 is not only the aspirational BMW SUV but is one of the aspirational SUVs period. And yet, what’s the deal with this 3 Series on stilts?

And yes, it’s a 3 Series E90 on stilts. The BMW X1 E84 was just another niche car that BMW launched down the pipeline because it’s 2009 and everyone is launching cars for niches that didn’t exist  and which you didn’t even know you needed. We have the Mercedes CLS for example, a coupe version of a 4 door saloon, and then Audi quickly followed by launching the Audi A5 Sportback. Same with the BMW X1 E84, they saw the niche of crossover cars and said they want to launch a premium crossover that’s even more affordable than the X3. Back then it was the Nissan Qashqai that started the crossover craze, and in 2009 the premium car offensive begins – Audi comes out with the instant hit called the Q5 which was bought for the simple fact that a Q7 was too big, the X3 was bought for pretty much the same reason, Mercedes launches the GLK and the Japanese come out with the Lexus NX to kneecap of the competition. So the BMW X1 E84 had its work cut out for it.


And yet, why did the BMW X1 win and why is so popular?

Mainly because the BMW X1 E84 understood that people don’t necessarily want an SUV but rather want a car that looks like an SUV and gives them that high seating position. And they understood that there are people willing to shell out 40-50-60 thousand euros for a premium saloon on stilts, if it’s got the right badge. And so the BMW X1 was the first BMW X to come with standard rear-wheel drive and was one of the first, if not the first, premium crossover that didn’t have standard 4×4 and came with standard manual transmission. And that way you had an almost SUV from BMW for a price well below what they were charging for an X3. And it had technology largely taken from the E90 so it was decent on the maintainance costs.

And just like that, you’ve ticked the needs of multiple categories of buyers. In the first category, you have those with the 3-Series wagon who want something taller. In the second category, you have those who want a family car but will never leave the tarmac and have found a good deal on an X1. And the last category is people who want a BMW SUV but don’t necessarily want to take the plunge to the X3 or X5 or don’t have the guts to take on a behemoth on wheels, money or whatever reason (usually money). So the BMW X1 is kind of the middle ground for the kind of person who knows that he wants a car, but doesn’t know exactly what car he wants. He just knows that it must be a premium car. 


BMW X1 Engines


  • 1.6 Turbo of 143 horsepower  – Yes, it’s the same N20 like on the rest of the models. Sadly however in the 2010-2015 period when this engine was sold, people were running away from turbocharged petrols.
  • 2.0 N/A of 148 horsepower  – BMW’s last of the naturally aspirated mohicans also comes on the BMW X1 sDrive18i, in case you’re afraid of new technology such as turbocharged petrols. Rest assured, this engine is no tribute to reliability either.
  • 2.0 Turbo of 181, 248 and 300 horsepower – You’re more likely to find these engines in the US, but it’s good to know you can get them in Europe too, in theory at least.
  • 3.0 of 215, 255 and 300 horsepower – The reality is that the first X3 was a torpedo on the streets, with it’s 3.0-litre petrol engine. It’s just that most people when they look at the BMW X1 don’t think “mmm, yeah, I’m going to do burnouts on the track with that” so this engine makes less sense than Velocipastor.


2.0d of 114, 141, 161, 174 and 181 horsepower  – The same miserable N47 that wreaked havoc everywhere it went, but here at least X1 owners are supposed to be able to afford the maintenance and they’re not even driving hard enough to wreck it as fast as a regular E90 driver is flooring his 2 litre diesel.

2.0d of twin-turbo 201 and 215 horsepower  – You know that joke about what’s worse than a baby in a dumpster? A baby in two dumpsters. That’s how it is with this engine. What’s sadder for your wallet than an N47 with a turbo? An N47 with two turbos!


BMW X1 E84 General Issues

  • We’re in the zoster zone of BMW engines to avoid, from 2008 – 2015. The point is that all engines have timing chains at the back of the engine because BMW engineers went on the premise that timing chain is lifetime and should never need replacing. This is true in their logic because the timing on the chain lasts 150-200,000 km and BMW owners supposedly won’t keep their brand new cars for that much. Which is true in Germany, but not with the readers of this joke of a website. So get your finances and buttocks ready for the timing change, which requires taking out the engine.
  • The same discussion goes for the ZF 800-speed automatic transmissions. These automatic gearboxes were marketed as “lifetime” and “maintenance-free” in the sense that they run about 150,000 kms with the original oil, which means they last long enough that you as the first buyer will never have to change the oil. But if you buy it used, then do well and change the oil regularly and don’t fall for the lies that oil is lifetime.
  • All engines need an oil change every 5,000 miles and you need to be very careful about the maintenance otherwise you will be another less-than-satisfied customer of the scrapyards that turn in engines and whole cars from all over the UK.
  • Being an E90 on automatic on stilts, you don’t get a spare tyre or a repair kit, but you have the famous run-flat tyres. But if you decide to throw them away and put on normal tyres because the run-flat ones are too expensive, then in case of a flat you’re stuck. And that repair kit is as useful as a modern motivational speaker.
  • The room in the back isn’t the most generous but it’s not an issue for you as you’ll only have kids in the back anyway and not adults because you don’t have friends because you have BMW X1 E84.
  • The engine seals are made of chewing gum and so it’ll constantly leak oil everywhere. It’s not quite as dramatic as Audi, but you won’t be deeply impressed either.
  • The infotainment system doesn’t get along well with mobile phones. But it does share an issue with the Ford Mondeo IV. If you don’t disable the Bluetooth when you turn off the engine, the car will automatically search for phones to connect to Bluetooth until its battery runs out.


BMW X1 E84 Verdict

The biggest issue with the BMW X1 E84 is that it suffers from modern BMW syndrome. It can be an absolutely reliable and decent car, or it can be the worst trash. Do you want to take the risk and take the plunge into BMW’s first aspirational SUV? Honestly, if you’re an above-average income family man who knows nothing about cars and needs a family car to take you on holidays, then it’s probably worth a look. Otherwise, I’d personally pass.

What engines do you recommend? For petrol, I recommend the naturally aspirated 2.0 and 148 horsepower and for diesel everyone is flocking to the the 2.0 diesel, usually in 141 horsepower flavor.