Even though it’s only been in the lineup for two years, the BMW X1 fits in well with BMW’s current lineup of crossover vehicles. The smallest of the lot, the X1 is sized ideally for urban dwellers that want a higher seating position and all-weather traction to go with the prestigious badge, but don’t need the off-road pretensions and don’t mind the sticky sticker price.
The 2014 BMW X1 appeals to rugged instincts, or perhaps more appropriately, adds confidence to those with snowy driveways. It has a tall ride height, decent amount of ground clearance, and a “go get ’em” look, yet with its shorter wheelbase and small back seat, it’s a full step smaller than the X3 crossover, which should still be your choice if you’re planning to have adults ride in the back seat.
The X1 resides somewhere the fading hatchback world and the booming crossover business–and at first glance you might think of a 3-Series wagon, mashed a little shorter and lifted a few inches in height. It has BMW’s corporate look for crossovers down pat, yet it’s not all that convincing that this isn’t a car; there’s little in the way of design cues to suggest the the X1 can handle any more than a steep drive-thru. The X1 sports softer curves, except in the tall glass and high nose, which is accented by lipped wheel arches. The controls are right where existing BMW drivers expect them and a 3-Series driver will feel right at home behind the wheel. For the rest of us, the very anatomical look is good, but the smattering of dissimilar controls isn’t.
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Unless you need a vehicle that’s almost quick enough to deserve the M badge, you’ll be perfectly happy with either of the four-cylinder X1 models. It’s rare to classify any crossover as eager, but that’s exactly what we’d call the X1. All-wheel-drive X1 xDrive28i and rear-wheel-drive sDrive28i models move plenty quick with BMW’s natty 2.0-liter turbo four under the hood. The engine makes 240 hp and it’s mated to an 8-speed automatic as standard. The sDrive28i instead gets electric power steering, while the xDrive models we’ve been in have excellent, well-weighted hydraulic power steering, as well as excellent vehicle dynamics. A potent turbo-6 can be found underhood the X1 xDrive35is that makes 300 hp and scoots this sled to 60 mph in about 5.3 seconds, but drops the EPA combined figure to 21 mpg.
The driving position is one of the lower and more carlike among these kinds of vehicles. Front-seat accommodations are fine for even tall adults; although a tight center console limits the storage bin, and only permits one front-seat cupholder on the console; instead of folding out, a second one hangs aside to knock passengers’ knees. In back, the X1 is missing only a little legroom compared to the X3, but you’re not going to fit three adults across. Cargo space is what’s missing compared to its larger sibling; but those back seats recline and fold nearly flat.
Refinement is one step down than the X3; there’s a little more engine exhaust resonance than we’d like, a little road noise as well, and more body roll than you’ll find in other vehicles with the sport package, but the X1 handles really well, even over terrible pavement surfaces.
The 2014 BMW X1 is respectable for safety, but its roster of safety options is nowhere near as impressive as that of BMW’s larger vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the X1 top ‘good’ tests for frontal, side, and rear impact, as well as a ‘good’ score for roof strength—albeit with a potentially worrisome ‘marginal’ score in the new, more rigorous small overlap frontal test. The X1 is also missing a standard rearview camera.
The X1 comes standard with power windows, doors, and locks; automatic climate control; a USB power plug; and an HD radio. Opitions include satellite radio, a cold-weather bundle, premium Hardon Kardon audio, panoramic glass roof, and mobile app suite. Just watch out, as a well-optioned X1 can easily total more than $40,000.
Among just a few minor option changes, the Powder Ride Edition from this past year doesn’t carry over to 2014.