BMW X1: Putting the Sport in SUV

by

The Car Family

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The term sports utility vehicle has been overused and abused to label everything from ponderous, freight-car sized vehicles to big wheeled subcompacts The reality is that there are very few sports utility vehicles that live up to that title combining exciting driving characteristics with the utility of off-roading. Fortunately, that definition personifies the BMW X1 and into that mix throw in good fuel mileage and a handy interior layout and you have a vehicle for all seasons. Indeed, BMW has coined a new term for the Xi calling is a SAV for Sports Activity Vehicle and it is a fitting description.

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The angular looks of the X1fits is sporty ride and rugged individualism purpose. Although the interior has room for five, it is better suited to four adults as fitting its subcompact ratings. Despite this there is about 50 feet of cargo room with the second-row’s 40/20/40 seats folded and nearly 13 with them upright. The visibility is excellent and the seats are comfortable. All told, this is an adventuresome SAV with an adaptability that should make it suitable for one vehicle households as well as those who need a commuter car that won’t be worrisome during inclement weather. If you want to add options the list is lengthy with leather, navigation, an upgraded sound system, and panoramic roof available as well as an app to help access Internet sites such as Twitter. Extra safety features such as a distance control with a rearview camera and a collision-warning system are also options. The suspension is supportive enough, but there is an optional handling option for those wanting to test their G Force limits.

Mom’s view: We tested the 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder version and it returned a very unlike SUV fuel mileage of 27 mpg in mixed driving thanks to a variety of gas saving features such as an automatic start/stop engine management system  that automatically shuts off the engine when the BMW is stopped. To restart the engine you simply step on the accelerator to rekindle the motor.  It isn’t as smooth as some manufacturer’s versions, but you quickly get used to the slight shutter. This isn’t an overly expensive vehicle unless you decide to pile on the options. I personally liked the no frills version, especially for those who use it to carry dogs, kids, and yard sale finds. We are not talking a luxury car feel or look as  it is very business like inside. The talking points for the X1 are its handling, gas mileage and ease of driving. If you want luxury add a dozen thousand dollars more and get a Lexus, but you would sacrifice the driving feel and quick reactions of the BMW. 

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Dad’s view:  You have your choice between the base turbocharged four-cylinder and a six-cylinder unit with the former providing an adequate 240 horsepower and the larger engine 300 horsepower. If you order all wheel drive, get the stronger engine, but be prepared to take a nick when refueling with premium as the more potent powerplant gets nearly seven miles per gallon less in mixed driving. The eight-speed automatic transmission makes the standard engine a good choice with quicker reactions. Driving the X1 is a pleasure with excellent brakes and handling, a BMW forte. Yes, the BMW looks awkward and it is essentially a tall station wagon, but its superior suspension, economy, and the manner in which it goes about its job are strong endorsements for those seeking fun and frugality.

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Young working male’s view: If you think a Mazda 3 is small, you are going to be blown away at the X1’s dimensions that are just 176.5 inches long, 70.8 inches wide and 60.8 inches tall. That won’t mean much until you realize that this makes it smaller than the Mazda 3 and about as tall as Ford Taurus. It make the 3 series seem gigantic and the reality is that although there is a limited amount of cargo space, it is very well laid out and useful. The X1’s iDrive infotainment system offers audio, smartphone and navigation functions. The standard features also include Bluetooth, a USB port, and an eight-speaker audio system. Notable options are an 11-speaker Harman/Kardon surround-sound system, a rearview camera and GPS.

Young married woman’s view: Roomy isn’t in the cards with the X1, but that does not mean the front seats are not comfortable. Those riding in the back might feel a bit tight, but there is enough space to easily accommodate two adults. You can get an optional sporty seating, but they really aren’t needed.  The cargo space is limited, but the plus side is that the X1 is extremely easy to park and is a marvel to maneuver in tight places. The liftover is fairly low and so getting in and out when wearing a dress is not a risk when the paparazzi are stalking you. An interesting, fairly affordable, and useful BMW where the beauty is in its utility.

Family conference: For a BMW, this is a bargain. You get the positive driving experience plus a more utilitarian vehicle that is economical to operate and fun to take most anywhere. The X1 truly lives up the SUV branding, or, as BMW calls it, a sports activity vehicle.

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