2013 BMW X1
by John Davis
Automakers are leaving no stone unturned in the search for better fuel economy. But, while there is solid evidence that, even at premium brands, many buyers will trade down in car size to increase miles per gallon, it is unclear if the same will hold true for luxury SUVs and crossover utilities. Still, various manufacturers, both foreign and domestic, are rushing to test the waters with subcompact 5-door utilities that maintain flexibility while using less gas. MINI was the first to enter this emerging market with the Countryman. Now, sport sedan favorite BMW is coming to play with the latest version of their X1.
The 2013 BMW X1 Sports Activity Vehicle on sale here is not actually an all-new vehicle. It has been sold in Europe for a couple of years. Built with a mix of both 1 and 3 Series components, the X1 is designed to not only satisfy the perceived need for a very small luxury crossover, but to put more sportiness into the utility ranks than any vehicle before it.
In size, the X1 is about a half foot shorter than the BMW X3, which makes it about the same size as the 3 Series Sport Sedan of a decade ago. It is also much lower than typical for a crossover, leaving many to categorize it as more of a hatchback sport sedan than a utility. That impression is bolstered by the fact that it is the first BMW utility available in rear-drive as well as all-wheel drive.
Our initial outing in the X1 certainly confirms that it has all the driving characteristics of a classic 3 Series, with extremely nimble handling and impressive acceleration. We recorded 0-60 mph times of less than six-and-a-half seconds.
Engines are familiar BMW fare, with our test all-wheel drive xDrive28i packing the 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 rated at a healthy 240-horsepower. It’s connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission that includes fuel saving automatic stop/start.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings on the xDrive are 22 MPG-City, 33 MPG-Highway, and 26 MPG-Combined. For BMW purists, a 300-horsepower I6 is available.
BMW fans will feel right at home in the X1’s cabin which is surprisingly roomy, at least in the front seat, with the brand’s usual high standards of materials, and fit and finish. If there is one place the downsizing shows it is in the rear seat where legroom is at a premium. Luggage capacity with all seats in use is about the same as a compact car.
It remains to be seen if there is an American market for a really small crossover, even one as much fun to drive as the BMW X1. Still, the X1 is a great effort, a small utility with all the flavor of a top notch sport sedan. That’s a desirable combination that no rival is likely to match.
For our exclusive road test of the 2013 BMW X1, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3219. That program begins airing on January 19, 2013. For a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek click here. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable channel.