BMW X1 vs X3

BMW X1 vs X3

The Lowdown

The BMW X1 is a subcompact luxury SUV, whereas the BMW X3 is a compact luxury SUV. The X3 is bigger in size and houses a more powerful engine under the hood. This makes it more expensive, but it does come with more standard features than the X1, such as sports seats and LED fog lights.

2021 BMW X1 sDrive28i

2021 BMW X1 sDrive28i

MSRP
$35,400
Body Type
SUV
Horsepower
228
Weight
3,554 lbs
Seating
5
MPG (City/Hwy)
24 / 33
2021 BMW X3 sDrive30i

2021 BMW X3 sDrive30i

MSRP
$43,000
Body Type
SUV
Horsepower
248
Weight
3,931 lbs
Seating
5
MPG (City/Hwy)
25 / 29

Note: Images shown may not represent trims

The X-line is BMW’s range of crossover SUVs, or as BMW likes to call them, Sports Activity Vehicles (SAVs). Whereas the X2 is simply a sportier X1 that draws inspiration from a coupe (see the full X1 vs X2 comparison), the X3 is the true step up from the X1.

Price and Trim Levels

In the US, the X1 is available in two models: sDrive28i and xDrive28i. The front-wheel drive sDrive28i starts at $35,400, while the all-wheel drive xDrive28i starts at $37,400.

Meanwhile, the X3 is available in four trims: sDrive30i, xDrive30i, xDrive35e and M40i. The petrol rear-wheel drive sDrive30i and all-wheel drive xDrive30i start at $43,000 and $45,000 respectively. Those looking for a hybrid car can look to the ‘electrified’ xDrive35e, which costs north of $49,600.

The range-topping X3 M40i, which starts at $56,600, is an ‘M Performance’ model with a more capable six-cylinder engine.

BMW X1 side view
X1
Photo: BMW
BMW X3 side view
X3
Photo: BMW

Exterior Dimensions

Being a compact luxury SUV, as opposed to the subcompact X1, the X3 has a longer wheelbase and bigger exterior dimensions all around. It’s taller, longer, wider, and has a 0.8 inch higher ground clearance.

An additional ~10 inches in length and ~3 inches in width and height gives the X3 more road presence. Of course, it’s smaller than midsize SUVs like the X5 and X7, but feels like a proper SUV whereas the X1 is easily mistaken for a station wagon.

Design

Recently facelifted, the 2021 X1 shares a very similar design to the X3.

BMW X1 rear view
X1
Photo: BMW
BMW X3 rear view
X3
Photo: BMW

Both vehicles feature BMW’s signature dual kidney front-grilles. The headlights and tail lights have subtle differences in design, but not enough to make one look objectively better than the other. Car enthusiasts can rest easy knowing that BMW has given both models real exhaust tips as opposed to the fake ones that are commonplace these days.

BMW don’t really offer any options that change the look of either model, so visual changes are limited to the paintjob, wheel choice and whether or not you go for the optional adaptive LED lights.

Ultimately, for most onlookers it’ll be the size difference and badge at the back that give away which vehicle they’re looking at.

Interior

BMW keeps interior styling consistent across their entire vehicle selection. The interiors in their SUVs, sedans and coupes are all fundamentally very similar.

Fortunately, BMW interiors are very good and just what you’d expect from a luxury car. Upscale upholstery with soft-touch materials, sturdy paneling and a nice instrument cluster that tastefully mixes digital with analogue components.

BMW X1 interior
X1
Photo: BMW
BMW X3 interior
X3
Photo: BMW

The X1 and X3 come with a 8.8” touch screen infotainment with BMW OS 6 pre-installed. This can be upgraded to an even larger 10.25” display, among other upgrades such as a panoramic sunroof and heads up display.

For 2021, both the X1 and X3 get SiriusXM satellite radio as standard, while the X3 gets compatibility for Android Auto in addition to the existing Apple CarPlay support. Prospective X1 buyers with Android phones will have to explore other options.

Cabin Space

Despite being SUVs in different size segments, the X3 doesn’t have a big passenger room advantage over the X1. Legroom is almost the same and headroom is in fact less than the X1. The wider body does mean passengers get more shoulder room, but the difference is slight.

Why? It turns out that a lot of the X3’s extra length comes from the hood. To make room for the 6-cylinder engines in the X3 M40i and X3 M models, BMW gave the X3 some extra wiggle room under the hood. This does have the unfortunate consequence that those going with the regular 4-cylinder X3s end up with a cabin that isn’t much bigger than the X1.

BMW X3 split folding rear seats
Photo: BMW
Both SUVs have 40/20/40 split folding seats for cargo loading flexibility

Practicality

While the X3 might not offer much more in the way of passenger space, it’s definitely bigger in the trunk.

With rear row seats upright you get 28.7 cu.ft. of cargo capacity, 1.6 cu.ft. more than you’d get in the X1. That cargo volume difference increases to 4 cu.ft. when the rear 40/20/40 split folding seats are all folded down. This means you can potentially fit in another medium sized suitcase in the back of the X3.

Powertrain

For the American market, the X1 is only offered with a 2.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder engine. This is capable of producing 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

The sDrive and xDrive X3s also feature a 2.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder engine, which has the same torque but a bit more horsepower (248hp).

The X3 is however also available as the M40i which houses a monstrous 382hp 3.0-liter BMW M Performance TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine. This bigger engine will take you from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.

Regardless of which X1 or X3 you choose, the engine will be matched with an 8-speed STEPTRONIC Automatic transmission with Sport and Manual shift modes.

Note: If you’re going for the two-wheel drive sDrive models, the X1 is front-wheel drive whereas the X3 is rear-wheel drive.

Fuel Economy

Here are the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mpg estimates for the 2020 X1 and X3 models.

BMW X1 fuel economy numbers
BMW X1 fuel economy figures
BMW X3 fuel economy numbers
BMW X3 fuel economy figures

As you can see, the regular X1 and X3 cars have similar fuel efficiencies, with the sDrive models achieving the highest mpg. Only the high-performance X3 M40i has a significantly worse gas mileage than other models.

Drive Experience

BMW has a reputation for playing to the needs of those who want to experience something special behind the wheel. Their cars guarantee a certain level of grunt, responsiveness and fun factor that other manufacturers often overlook.

The X1 and X3 both provide the BMW ultimate driving experience™ that BMW buyers seek. Because the base engines are almost equivalent, the X1 doesn’t feel like it lacks power compared to the X3.

However, the X3 is slightly more pleasant to drive thanks to its higher driving position and superior weight distribution. The X3 has an almost perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution whereas the 56.7/43.3 weight distribution in the X1 makes it a little front-heavy.

Ride comfort is also good thanks to a soft base suspension. Those interested in the X3 M40i will want to option adaptive suspension because the sports suspension is a bit too stiff for day-to-day driving.

Safety

Both SUVs offer the driver and passengers an excellent level of safety, but crash safety testing concluded that the X3 is the safer car.

In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), both the X1 and X3 were given the highest possible 5-star overall safety rating. However, whereas the X3 got a 5-star frontal overall rating, the X1 only received a 4-star rating.

Test results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) agreed with NHTSA results, with the X3 getting a better score in the Structure and safety cage category.

As for safety features, both SUVs get a good amount of tech as standard, including ABS, traction control, a rear view camera, Lane Departure Warning and Frontal Collision Warning. However, the X3 offers blind spot monitoring as an option, whereas the X1 does not.

Verdict: BMW X3

If you managed to read everything up to now, you’ve probably realized the X1 and X3 are more alike than you’d have thought. The X3 is definitely bigger on the outside, but things on the inside and under the hood are much more similar.

Overall, however, we’re going to give our nod to the X3.

The price gap isn’t huge, and it becomes even smaller when you consider you get LED fog lights and sports seats as standard. A higher driving position that makes it more enjoyable on the road, a slightly bigger trunk and better safety all make it worth the extra money, in our opinion.

Full Comparison Table

2021 BMW X1 sDrive28i2021 BMW X3 sDrive30i
Performance
Engine2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Horsepower228 hp @ 5000 rpm248 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque258 lb-ft @ 1450 rpm258 lb-ft @ 1450 rpm
Transmission8-Speed Automatic8-Speed Automatic
DrivetrainFront-Wheel DriveRear-Wheel Drive
Handling
Steering TypeRack-PinionRack-Pinion
Turning Diameter (ft.)37.439.4
Front SuspensionStrutStrut
Rear SuspensionMulti-LinkMulti-Link
Front Wheel Size18" x 7.5"18" x 7"
Rear Wheel Size18" x 7.5"18" x 7"
Front TireP225/50VR18P225/60HR18
Rear TireP225/50VR18P225/60HR18
Fuel Economy
MPG - Combined2727
MPG - City2425
MPG - Hwy3329
Gas Tank Size (gallons)16.117.2
Cruising Range - City (miles)386.4430
Cruising Range - Hwy (miles)531.3498.8
CO2 Emissions, 15K mi/year (tons)6.66.6
Exterior Dimensions
Length (in.)175.5185.9
Height (in.)62.966
Max Width (in.)71.774.4
Front Width (in.)61.563.8
Rear Width (in.)61.664.4
Wheelbase (in.)105.1112.8
Weight (lbs.)35543931
Interior Dimensions
Passenger Capacity55
Legroom - front (in.)40.440.3
Headroom - front (in.)41.941.1
Shoulder Room - front (in.)55.657.6
Legroom - rear (in.)3736.4
Headroom - rear (in.)39.439.1
Shoulder Room - rear (in.)55.256
Infotainment
BluetoothStandardStandard
Hard Disk DriveNot AvailableOptional
HD RadioStandardStandard
Satellite RadioStandardStandard
MP 3 PlayerStandardStandard
Premium Sound SystemOptionalOptional
Wifi HotspotNot AvailableStandard
Aux Audio InStandardStandard
Entertainment SystemNot AvailableNot Available
Comfort
Head Up DisplayOptionalOptional
Navigation SystemStandardStandard
Steering Wheel Audio ControlsStandardStandard
Power LiftgateStandardStandard
Power Mirror SStandardStandard
A CStandardStandard
Adaptive Cruise ControlOptionalOptional
Automatic ParkingOptionalOptional
Climate ControlStandardStandard
Cooled Front Seat SNot AvailableOptional
Cooled Rear Seat SNot AvailableNot Available
Cruise ControlStandardStandard
Hands Free LiftgateOptionalOptional
Heated Front Seat SOptionalOptional
Heated Rear Seat SNot AvailableOptional
Heated Steering WheelOptionalOptional
Keyless EntryStandardStandard
Multi Zone A CStandardStandard
Power Driver SeatStandardStandard
Power Passenger SeatStandardStandard
Remote Engine StartNot AvailableNot Available
Remote Trunk ReleaseStandardStandard
Seat MemoryStandardStandard
Universal Garage Door OpenerOptionalStandard
Seat MassageNot AvailableNot Available
Rear A CNot AvailableStandard
Keyless StartStandardStandard
Navigation From TelematicsNot AvailableNot Available
TelematicsStandardStandard
Interior Trim
Bucket SeatsStandardStandard
Cloth SeatsStandardStandard
Leather SeatsStandardStandard
Leather Steering WheelStandardStandard
Premium Synthetic SeatsStandardStandard
Vinyl SeatsStandardStandard
Woodgrain Interior TrimOptionalStandard
Sun MoonroofOptionalOptional
Safety
Back Up CameraStandardStandard
Cross Traffic AlertNot AvailableStandard
Rear Parking AidStandardStandard
Blind Spot MonitorNot AvailableStandard
Lane Departure WarningStandardStandard
Lane Keeping AssistNot AvailableOptional
ABSStandardStandard
Night VisionNot AvailableNot Available
Tire Pressure MonitorStandardStandard
Brake AssistStandardStandard
Stability ControlStandardStandard
Traction ControlStandardStandard
Airbags
Driver Air BagStandardStandard
Front Head Air BagStandardStandard
Front Side Air BagStandardStandard
Knee Air BagStandardStandard
Passenger Air BagStandardStandard
Rear Head Air BagStandardStandard
Rear Side Air BagNot AvailableNot Available
Seatbelt Air BagNot AvailableNot Available
Warranty
Basic4 Years / 50,000 Miles4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Corrosion12 Years / Unlimited Miles12 Years / Unlimited Miles
Drivetrain4 Years / 50,000 Miles4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Maintenance3 Years / 36,000 Miles3 Years / 36,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance4 Years / Unlimited Miles4 Years / Unlimited Miles