Americans will get their first taste of BMW's compact crossover, the 2013 BMW X1, when it arrives this fall. New to the US market, the X1 lineup has already proven so popular in Europe and throughout much of the rest of the world that demand has outpaced early supply. Recently updated with a host of content improvements, the X1 is finally ready to land stateside.
BMW is counting on buyers falling in love with premium compact crossovers, and the X1 is set for battle against natural rivals like the upcoming Audi Q3 and Porsche Macan, not to mention such existing models as the newly redesigned Acura RDX and the fresh Range Rover Evoque. Slotted well below the X3, X5 and X6 in BMW's lineup, the X1 is decidedly more crossover than sport utility, sharing many of its major chassis and drivetrain components with the previous version of BMW's own 3-series sedan. A first for BMW X models, it will be offered in standard form with rear-wheel drive, though all-wheel-drive versions are expected to lead sales.
The X1 is immediately identifiable as a BMW, and that's probably a good thing considering the younger, more aspiring buyer it's aimed at. From silhouette to details, there's no denying its lineage. What's surprising when you first see the X1 up close is just how compact its exterior dimensions are, particularly its height. At 60.8 inches tall, it's a very garageable vehicle. Easy access to rooftop storage also makes it attractive to the active-lifestyle crowd, which will find it convenient for loading bikes, snowboards and other equipment to racks.
The low roofline takes nothing away from the interior, which accommodates four full-size adults easily, and should manage a fifth with few complaints. Versatility is one of the X1's strengths, with standard 40:20:40 split folding rear seats that also offer 30 degrees of adjustable incline to optimize either passenger comfort or cargo capacity. The one-piece rear hatch opens to a low, flat floor for easy loading.
The interior is exactly what you'd expect from a BMW, with large, clear instruments in plain view of the driver and secondary functions, such as ventilation and entertainment, arranged in a center stack tilted slightly toward the driver. The front seats, likewise, offer excellent support and a wide range of adjustability, including seat-bottom angle adjustment for the driver's side. Tough-wearing and remarkably leather-like vinyl upholstery is standard, with leather seating available as a stand-alone option or as part of a premium package.
Most of the mid-cycle upgrades BMW deemed necessary for the X1's arrival in the States centered around interior finishes, particularly the need for softer, more natural materials. Soft-touch plastics appear on most upper surfaces, such as door rails and the dashboard, as well as on parts that come in regular contact with your hands. Only a hint of the cheaper, harder stuff remains down below, as on the center console and lower door panels. Genuine wood trim adds visual warmth to the interior as well, though aluminum trim can also be had for a more technical ambience.
Interior storage is a mixed bag. The glove compartment and center console are both fairly modest, but each door panel features enough space to hold a large 1-liter water bottle. Front cup holders may be the X1's true weakness. One is situated far back in the center console, behind the parking brake, and another is located inside the center console storage bin, requiring the lid to be open (and the lid doesn't fold flat when open). A third one can be snapped on to the right side of the center console near the front, right where the passenger's leg rests.
Plenty of Power
Buyers of the 2013 BMW X1 will have a choice of two turbocharged gasoline engines and either rear- or all-wheel drive. The standard model uses a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes a respectable 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission offered with this engine, though it can be had with either rear-drive (sDrive28i, formally) or permanent all-wheel drive (xDrive28i). The torquey engine pairs well with the automatic, which shifts smoothly and quickly through the gears for efficiency.
The optional engine is BMW's 3.0-liter 6-cylinder, making 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, linked exclusively to a 6-speed automatic driving all four wheels in the X1 xDrive35i. This combination should appeal to performance enthusiasts as well as individualists, since it is available only to North American customers.
An ECOpro mode on either engine recalibrates the power management at the push of a button, maximizing fuel efficiency while coaching the driver in real-time to further extend economy.
BMWs have long been renowned for their smooth engines and exceptional driving dynamics, and the X1 upholds the tradition, feeling both refined and spry on the road. Steering, braking and throttle all deliver quick responses and reliable feedback to the driver, regardless of configuration. The X1 truly drives more like a conventional sedan, with a lower seating position and good outward visibility allowing for a more compact feel in traffic than most crossovers.
Premium Features Abound
Competing in the premium segment, the X1 is loaded with standard features--particularly safety equipment--and offers a long list of options, many of which are included with the xDrive35i model. Automatic climate control; heated outside mirrors; rain-sensing wipers; cruise control; fog lights; satellite and HD radio; roof rails; and an on-board trip computer are standard across the lineup. Xenon headlights; a panoramic glass sunroof; heated seats and steering wheel; GPS navigation; and Harmon-Kardon audio system are among the most desirable extras.
Drivers who need to be connected may opt for the technology package, which allows full integration for the Apple iPhone, including Bluetooth connection and apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Mog and Pandora, as well as BMW's own ConnectedDrive app.
BMW has developed several appearance packages for the X1, which combine preselected interior and exterior design elements to create a cohesive aesthetic. These include the earthy xLine, the self-explanatory SportLine and the performance-oriented M Sport package with bigger wheels and unique aerodynamic bodywork.
Despite the extensive equipment list and impressive power train choices, the X1 will be BMW's least expensive offering when it arrives in dealers starting in September 2012, starting at $31,545 including destination for the sDrive28i. And that's exactly the position it needs to take, as Audi and Porsche move in with their small crossovers.