The BMW X1 compact crossover is, at 175.4 inches, a good 4.5 inches shorter than the BMW X3, currently the smallest sport-utility BMW sells in the U.S. Small, upmarket vehicles appear to be catching on, and BMW hopes the X1 will ride that wave.
Americans have traditionally measured their cars by the pound and inch, nowhere more so than in the luxury segment, where behemoths like the Cadillac Escalade SUV and BMW 7 Series sedan define the upper reaches of desirability.
That's been shifting in recent years, credit going to makers like Mini. Executives at the mainstream luxury brands now think many people are looking to downsize but not because they're short of cash. Whether it's a search for better fuel economy, more nimble handling, easier maneuverability on city streets or a variety of other factors, many customers want a small car or crossover that offers big-vehicle features. Enter the new X1 that will be reaching U.S. showrooms shortly.
Don't be surprised if when you see an X1 or X3 you can't tell which is which. While the basic shape of the original X1 carries over for 2013 there are subtle refinements to pick up familial BMW SAV cues. The version we get will have a more aggressive front fascia and bumpers than the current European-market model.
There are more obvious changes inside, the X1 getting a more upscale look with improved use of chrome and leatherette, with real leather an option.
The latest iDrive infotainment system is expected to be available along with a variety of advanced active safety devices.
Power for the BMW X1 sDrive28i and all-wheel-drive BMW xDrive28i will come from a new turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 240 horsepower. This same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is currently found in the 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i and 2012 BMW 328i. The X1 xDrive35i, meanwhile, will be driven by the more familiar 300-horsepower, turbocharged 3.5-liter inline-6. An 8-speed automatic is standard across the range.
The BMW X1 launched in Europe in 2009 and has even been offered in Canada for several years. BMW insists there was too much demand elsewhere to justify bringing it to the U.S., but BMW planners were also clearly unsure whether there would be a market here. Fast-rising fuel prices and a steady demand for other downsized products, including several competitive compact crossovers, apparently convinced them otherwise.
You'll be able to get into a 2013 BMW X1 sDrive28i, assuming you can remember all that, for $31,545 manufacturer's suggested retail price. The four-wheel-powered xDrive28i will set you back $33,245, and the top-performing X1 xDrive35i will start at $39,345, including the $895 destination charge.