In the world of utility-vehicle styling, it seems that there are two schools of thought: You either go softer, more carlike, and understated (crossovers), or you go the assertive, aggressive, rugged route. The 2014 BMW X1 clearly congresses with the crossovers.
The X1 is a tall wagon, with the barest minimum of references to the SUV world. There's a bulge at the grille, some roof rails, and a little more ground clearance than you'd get in a sport wagon. The sides are curved and glassy, with its only straight edge at its sills.
Altogether, that extra height forces some visual tricks, yet through skillful management of proportions the X1 ends up looking much like a hatchback from most angles, despite large glass areas, a stubby rear end, and a high nose.
From a few feet away, the X1 interior looks suave and composed. If you've seen other recent BMW interiors--especially in the brand's smaller models--you'll find this one familiar; there's a muscular bulge swelling at the middle of the dash, effectively dividing the driver zone from the passenger zone. Contrasting trim and upholstery do help here, but some of the best-looking picks come at a premium.
BMW lets X1 buyers upgrade to xLine and Sport Line trim packages. The former is more rugged, with matte-metallic trim for the front and rear, as well as some interior leather and trim, plus satin roof rails and glossy Dark Copper trim. The Sport Line blacks out those exterior trim pieces and wears unique alloy wheels, and gets red and aluminum trim inside. An M Sport Line pushes that further, with an Anthracite headliner, Shadowline exterior trim, high-gloss roof rails, dark-crosshatch aluminum trim, and a special leather steering wheel and shift knob.
Step right into the X1 from another vehicle, and you might need a tutorial. In the most complex of cases, there's an iDrive controller, pushbutton start, steering-wheel audio and phone controls, and dual climate controls--all black in finish, all competing for attention against a black-gloss background.