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Popular in Europe after going on sale four years ago, the BMW X1 subcompact SUV arrived in the U.S. as a 2013 model. Based on the BMW 1 Series hatchback (which is not sold in the U.S.), the X1 is BMW's tiniest SUV, smaller than the X3.
The 2014 BMW X1 lineup offers Harman Kardon Surround Sound as a standalone option. Otherwise, except for a new upholstery color that's available, nothing has changed for the 2014 model year.
From a certain perspective, the BMW X1 makes fiscal sense, because it makes the X Series available to buyers who lust for a BMW crossover but don't feel they can step up to the price of an X3 or X5. The base price gap between X1 and X3 is about $9,000, but the X3 comes standard with all-wheel drive, whereas the base X1 sDrive28i is rear-wheel drive. This isn't as vast an economic chasm as the numbers suggest, however. Adding just a couple of option groups to an X1 can put you well into X3 territory.
Based on the solid architecture that supports the 1 Series sedan (derived from the last-generation 3 Series), the X1 offers about the same interior volume as that 3 Series wagon, even though it's 2.1 inches shorter overall.
BMW X1 dimensions are substantially tidier than those of the X3, making the X1 handier in urban operating conditions; and of course, lighter than its bigger cousin, which pays off at the gas station. Even with all-wheel drive, the BMW X1 xDrive28i weighs about 300 pounds less, and delivers a decisive 5 mpg edge in EPA-estimated highway fuel economy.
Commonality with the 1 Series continues under the X1's hood, with two engine options, both turbocharged. The standard engine employed by the BMW X1 sDrive28i and X1 xDrive28i is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, rated for 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 23/34 mpg City/Highway (22/33 with xDrive). BMW says it can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds.
The upgrade is the smooth and potent 3.0-liter twin turbo six-cylinder, used by the BMW X1 xDrive35i and rated at 300 horsepower at 5800 rpm, with 300 pound-feet of torque at 1300-5000 rpm. It's EPA-rated at 18/27 mpg City/Highway. BMW says it can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds.
The four-cylinder is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, which includes manual shifting, eco, and auto stop/start modes; the 3.0-liter transmits its power through the older 6-speed automatic.
All-wheel drive uses BMW's thoroughly developed xDrive system, used on the BMW X1 xDrive 28i and BMW X1 xDrive35i. The BMW sDrive28i is rear-wheel drive.
Like the other BMW SUVs, the X1 has no off-road pretensions whatsoever; ground clearance is a sedan-like 7.0 inches. All-wheel drive is conceived here as a traction and stability enhancer for driving on low adhesion surfaces, in inclement weather conditions, or both.
The other element of ongoing BMW appeal is a blend of ride and handling that's become a dynamic benchmark for the rest of the industry. Sharing the 1 Series sedan foundations, the BMW X1 hews true to this ethic. Inevitably, it's not quite as agile as the 3 Series sedan or wagon. Heftier curb weights and a high profile dilute the athletic index slightly. Nevertheless, the X1 has the feel and steering response that distinguish all BMWs, and feels a little more nimble than the X3, as well as small crossovers such as the Acura RDX, Land Rover LR2, and Mercedes GLK.
Like the rest of the package, the inner X1 is well conceived to satisfy BMW intenders, both first-timers and veterans. The seating is sporty and supportive, inner appointments are consistent with the entry luxury category (subdued but high quality), and the array of telematics is competitive.