BMW’s approach to sport utility vehicles, or sports activity vehicles as they like to call them, has been pretty consistent. And that’s to give buyers the room of a utility, but with much of the performance that you expect in a BMW. Well, now they’ve taken that formula even farther… or should we say, smaller, with the all-new X1.
The 2013 BMW X1 Sports Activity Vehicle is not actually an all-new vehicle; at least not in Europe where it has been on sale for a couple of years. But, this sub-compact crossover is fresh for us in the U.S. Built with a mix of both 1 and 3 Series parts, you might think it is directly aimed at luxury crossover buyers looking for everyday utility in an ever smaller package. But, there’s more to the X1 than that.
At 176.5 inches, the X1’s length is about 6½ inches shorter than an X3. But, it’s also about the same as the 3-Series Sport Sedan of a decade ago. At 60.8 inches it is also more car-like in height; taking some 9 inches off the X3. Plus, it’s the first BMW SAV available in rear-drive as well as all-wheel.
So, one might consider the X1 more of a compact 5-door hatchback, or sport wagon, than crossover, and even a plausible alternative to the ever growing 3-Series.
Except for one thing. The X1 is very un-sporty car looking. It’s an awkward two box shape with a long hood leading to a rather bulbous greenhouse. So, BMW’s Sports Activity Vehicle moniker still fits best.
The X1 is all BMW though; with kidney grilles, 17-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires, rising character lines, and sporty flared wheel arches, all portraying brand heritage.
For the full BMW effect, opt for the M Sport package and get upgraded suspension bits behind 18 or 19-inch double spoke wheels.
Engines are familiar BMW fare, with our xDrive28i packing the 2.0-liter TwinPower turbo I4. It provides more than adequate motivation with 240-horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. But, its “rough around the edges feel” again befits a crossover more than a 3 Series.
It’s connected to an 8-speed automatic that includes both Sport and Eco-Pro modes, as well as automatic stop/start.
All aimed at better Government Fuel Economy Ratings fuel of course which with xDrive are 22-City, 33-Highway, and 26-Combined which is a decent boost over the X3.
Still, it makes for a better than average Energy Impact Score, inhaling 12.7-barrels of oil a year while exhaling 5.3 tons of CO2.
For more power, upgrade to the xDrive35i with the X3’s 300-horsepower inline-6.
If one does go the xDrive all-wheel-drive route, they’ll find its multi-plate clutch just as eager to help out with dry road handling as it does winter traction. Particularly when you add Performance Control from the M Sport Package.
We used all available traction in our xDrive28i to depart the starting line on our way to 60 in 6.4-seconds. Down the strip power felt strong and shifts brisk, helping us eclipse the quarter mile in 14.9-seconds and 91 miles-per-hour, accompanied by a very inspiring, and yes, sporty exhaust note.
Handling was plenty inspirational as well; our xDrive’s hydraulic steering delivered tidy turn-ins, obedient exits, and much more feel than the electric steering fitted to the rear driver.
On braking, stops were smooth and consistent, averaging a decent 120-feet, but there was a lot of pedal vibration that gave us an uneasy feeling.
So, overall performance is about what you expect from any BMW, though if you’ve spent much time in an older 3-Series, it still comes up a little short.
Also consistent with other BMWs is the peaceful feel inside the X1’s cabin. We’re fans of the overall layout and fit and finish is excellent. Up front you’ll find plenty of room; but in the rear, not so much.
Seat up cargo capacity is again more sedan-like than crossover at 14.8 cubic-ft.; an adequate 47.7 cubic-ft. with seat backs folded.
The X1’s ride quality is classic BMW, feeling both more lively and quicker to respond than the slightly larger X3. It’s also much easier to maneuver in tight spaces.
For even more help, an optional Driver Assistance Package comes with both Park Distance Control and Rear-view Camera.
Pricing starts at $31,545 for the rear-drive sDrive28i, while the all-wheel drive xDrive28i starts at $33,245. But, adding options can quickly send you into the mid-40’s.
We very much enjoyed our time in the 2013 BMW X1. It is a well done effort, bringing back much of the driving joy of smaller 3 Series of yore, while still being elastic enough when it comes to daily needs. That’s a niche that no other near-term subcompact ute is likely to hit.
But, does a really small luxury crossover make sense in America? The X1 is indeed a risk for BMW and other prestige brands entering the same arena. But, as they say, you gotta to play to win.
Engine: 2.0-liter TwinPower turbo I4
Torque: 260 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.9-seconds @ 91 mph
60-0 mph: 120 ft
EPA: 22 mpg city / 33 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.3 tons/yr