- Gutsy turbo four
- Smooth, responsive eight-speed automatic
- Steering feel (AWD models)
- Tight cargo space with back seats up
- Boomy powertrains
- Confusing secondary controls
The 2014 BMW X1 has plenty of style and enthusiasm, although it's a little short on some of the versatility and utility you might expect.
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.With all-wheel drive and a moderate amount of ground clearance, the 2014 BMW X1 appeals to rugged instincts, or perhaps more appropriately, adds confidence to those with snowy driveways. 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 between hot hatchbacks and curt crossovers--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 "Sport-Activity Vehicle" profile 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 a pavement-free adventure could happen at any moment. Softly curved sheetmetal reads more like a sport shoe, except where the tall glass areas and the high nose give away the jacked-up stance, accented by lipped wheel arches. The controls are right where existing BMW drivers expect them; but Any 3-Series driver will take command at the X1's wheel in an instant: the controls are just where BMW drivers expect them. For the rest of us, the very anatomical look is good, but the smattering of dissimilar controls isn't.
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. Otherwise, we wouldn't describe many crossovers as eager, but the X1 really seems to earn it. 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. It's direct-injected, with 240 hp, and teamed with a paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic. 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. The potent 300-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six that's found in the X1 xDrive35iscoots 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 does offer a standard USB port; power features; automatic climate control; and HD radio. The options list shows a panoramic glass roof; mobile-app connectivity; satellite radio; a cold-weather package; and Harmon Kardon audio. Just watch out, as a well-optioned X1 can easily total more than $40k.
Among just a few minor option changes, the Powder Ride Edition from this past year doesn't carry over to 2014.