Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one - or the required options - that earns a passing grade.
While you'd be hard pressed to tell without clicking around the BMW build-and-price site, there is a base model of the X1; it's called the Essential and represents a $2400 savings when compared to the standard version, slipping in under the $40,000 limbo bar by just ten bucks.
So, what does one give up while pocketing that cash? Nothing in the engine bay, that's for sure. The less expensive model is powered by the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder mill, making 231 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Alert readers will have noted the 'xDrive' badge by now, indicating the presence of all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Driving aids pop up in the form of lane departure and collision warnings, in-city braking, and dynamic cruise control.
There are a few outward facing clues to give away your penny-pinching decisions and selecting the Essential trim bars customers from selecting any interesting extra-charge paint colours from BMW's impressive palette. We are left with Jet Black or Alpine White, colours which are both offered on the more expensive variant, but if you spy a new X1 in any shade other than those two, you know you're not
looking at a base model in Essential trim. Keen eyes will notice the absence of LED fog lamps and matte chrome trim around the windows, plus a blacked-out grille and basic headlamps.
Better news awaits inside. Black leatherette seats are the same as in the more expensive model, and the Essential's brushed aluminum interior trim with chrome highlight looks better than the wood options in this author's jaundiced eyes. Heated front seats are standard, as is automatic climate control and leather surfaces on the steering wheel. Infotainment packs Apple CarPlay capability, satellite radio, and navigation.
What We'd Choose
The X1 was freshly refurbished for the 2020 model year with exterior styling updates and new infotainment goodies. This year's car carries over those improvements, and the existence of this entry-level Essential trim keeps pricing at bay. However, anyone with even a passing knowledge of BMW vehicles will spy the vacant fog lamp buckets and basic headlamps, not no mention the denuded chrome trim. It would be cynical to suggest BMW has done this on purpose to encourage customers to shell out $2,400 extra for the more expensive variant.
But if you don't care about putting on airs, the Essential is worth your consideration. Its interior is broadly similar to the more expensive trim and performance will be identical. The price difference isn't exactly chump change, plus the presence of frivolous but tempting option packages further up the food chain might have you spending more than intended (it is possible to opt an X1 to a mystifying $56,000). The Essential is a $39,990 take-it-or-leave-it type of trim, permitting the chance to keep a lid on cost while still gaining access to the BMW club.