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2015 BMW X1 vs. 2015 BMW X3: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2015

If you're searching for a new BMW SUV, you might be surprised to learn that the brand now has five different models, ranging from the small X1 to the sporty midsize X6. Some of these SUVs can be surprisingly hard to distinguish from one another, especially the 2015 BMW X1 and the 2015 BMW X3, which are the brand's smallest crossovers. We've taken a closer look at the differences between the X1 and X3 to help you understand exactly what separates the two popular models.

Exterior

On the outside, the X1 and X3 look a lot alike, and you'd be forgiven for not being able to tell them apart. In fact, they offer roughly the same exterior lines, overall styling, front ends and general profile. We think they're so similar that you wouldn't be faulted for calling the X1 a scaled-down X3, with the only real difference being height, since the X3 is notably taller than the X1. In many cases, even that detail isn't apparent unless the two crossovers are parked right next to one another.

Interior

Although it might be hard to believe, the X3 and X1 are even more similar on the inside than they are on the outside. Seating, controls, gauges, steering wheels and shift levers are all shared between both vehicles, giving them a practically identical interior look. Overall, there are only a few key differences between the two SUVs, including a wider center console in the X3 and slightly smaller interior dimensions in the X1.

Mechanicals

The X1 and X3 boast the same two gasoline engines, which won't surprise anyone who's seen how similar the two vehicles look inside and out. Base models use a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, while drivers looking for more power can upgrade to a 300-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder.

One big difference is gas mileage. The X1 continually scores higher than the X3 when it comes to fuel economy, with base-level X1 models returning up to 23 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway compared to the X3's 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

There's one other key powertrain difference between the X1 and the X3: a diesel engine. Namely, the X3 has it in the form of a 180-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel, while the X1 does not. Drivers who choose an X3 equipped with the diesel can get up to 27 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the standard automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Features & Technology

Although the X1 and X3 offer largely the same equipment, the pricier X3 holds several unique items over the X1. For example, only the X3 offers a top-down camera system for parking, a forward-collision mitigation system, a lane-departure warning system and adaptive cruise control. Likewise, the X3 offers a 16-speaker sound system compared to the X1's available 11-speaker unit. The X3 also boasts available LED headlights, optional adaptive suspension and a more comprehensive M Sport option package than its X1 sibling.

Still, the two crossovers share a wide range of equipment, including a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel and BMW's iPhone app integration feature, which boasts Pandora and Stitcher Internet radio. Both SUVs also offer such features as keyless ignition and entry and auto-dimming mirrors. Still, shoppers interested in all the latest gadgets may want to pick the X3 over the smaller, entry-level X1.

Driving Experience

Despite similar styling, similar interiors and similar powertrains, the X1 and X3 actually offer surprisingly different driving experiences. The biggest difference that you'll notice immediately upon sitting in both cars is ride height. While the X3 feels like a traditional SUV, the X1's lower seating position gives it more of a hatchback driving feel. We suspect shoppers looking to sit up high for better visibility won't be interested in the X1.

Beyond that, we find the X1 to be a little nimbler than its larger X3 stablemate and a little quicker, too. In fact, we think that the X1 comes as close as possible to replicating the BMW 3 Series' driving experience in SUV form, which is no surprise given their similarities in sizing, drivetrain and engineering. Still, the X3 is no slouch on the road, and we think shoppers interested in a sporty small crossover will probably find both models highly appealing.

Safety

Unfortunately, neither the BMW X1 nor the X3 has been rated in crash tests carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but both models have been tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and they earned high marks overall.

With that said, we think that the X3 is a little safer than its smaller counterpart. The main reason for this is equipment: While the X1 includes only the basics (side-curtain airbags, stability control and a backup camera), the X3 offers a top-down camera, a lane-departure warning system, a forward-collision mitigation system and a blind spot monitoring system, none of which are available in the X1. In other words, while both SUVs offer a high level of crash protection, the X3 touts more equipment to help ensure that you won't get into a crash in the first place.

Conclusions

From a quick glance, you might expect the 2015 BMW X1 to simply be a scaled-down version of the 2015 BMW X3. After all, the two crossovers boast similar styling, nearly identical interiors and the same gasoline-engine powertrain lineup, but there are more differences separating the X1 and X3 than you might think. Not only does the X3 offer more equipment, more options and a unique diesel engine, but it also offers a surprisingly different driving experience from the X1. These differences help justify the X3's base price, which is several thousand dollars higher than the X1's.

If you're wondering which model you should get, we suspect that your choice will be based on preference. For those looking to save some money or for drivers who want a more carlike driving experience, the X1 is likely the right choice. If you want a more traditional SUV feel and more gadgets, the X3 could be the SUV for you.

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Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Certified 2015 BMW X1 xDrive28i
Certified 2015 BMW X1
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Used 2015 BMW X1 xDrive28i
Used 2015 BMW X1
$20,225
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2015 BMW X1 xDrive28i
Used 2015 BMW X1
$21,500
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2015 BMW X1 xDrive28i
Used 2015 BMW X1
$18,998
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 BMW X1 vs. 2015 BMW X3: What's the Difference? - Autotrader