By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – Some of the labels put on vehicles these days are interesting. In the case of the BMW X1, they call it a sports activity vehicle, or SAV. That can mean almost anything; the reality is that the X1 was a sub-compact sport utility and a very good one.
It has been on sale in the U.S. since the fall of 2012 and it has done very well. One of the reasons is it styling. The 2014 BMW X1 had a sweeping hood, a long wheel base and it sat low to the ground. The vehicle had an aerodynamic look that said speed.
From the front, BMW’s iconic kidney grille was prominent, along with the twin round headlights, another BMW trademark. The side featured skirts that are characteristic of all BMW X models, of which there now are three. Horizontal lines in the rear and the LED taillights made the X1 look wider with more substance. It was a good looking vehicle.
Our test vehicle featured the Sport Line package. It had 18-inch alloy wheels, side view mirror caps in black, sport seats and high gloss black trim. Its Valencia orange paint job was a standout and it contrasted nicely with the black leatherette interior with red French stitching.
Despite its good looks, BMWs have always been renowned for their drivability and it was no different with the 2014 BMW X1. We had the BMW X1 xDrive28i. And that is not a typo; there are no spaces in the alphanumeric of the model line.
The test vehicle had a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that made 240 horsepower and a very healthy 260 pound-feet of torque from 1,250 rpm to 4,800 rpm. The horsepower translated into quickness and the torque enabled our X1 to accelerate with authority from just about any speed.
Coupled with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission (BMW’s language for manual shift and sport shift capability), the X1 had responsiveness similar to a sports car, it could accelerate and generate a bit of G-force and it could get from a standstill to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
The X1 cornered well and though low to the ground it was never overwhelmed by traffic. The suspension had BMW’s balance of smoothness with just enough stiffness to let the driver know what the vehicle was doing and it could get off the dime as they say. It was really a fun drive.
What’s more, no doubt with the aid of its eight-speed automatic transmission, the BMW X1 x28i had an EPA rating of 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Its combined fuel consumption of 26 mpg was respectable, especially given its athletic performance attributes.
In BMW-speak, the small x meant all-wheel-drive. The system had an electronic multi-plate clutch that allowed it to transfer power between the front and rear wheels. In normal operation it was rear-wheel biased, sending 80 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear and 20 percent to the front wheels.
The X1 also had what BMW called ECO PRO. It optimized accelerator mapping and shift characteristics of the transmission. It also would regulate seat heating, climate controls and side mirror heating. However, given the summer climate that equipment was not needed. Coupled with the stop/start function meant we drove nearly 150 miles in an urban setting and still had more than one half tank of fuel.
We had a test vehicle that was pretty much devoid of options except the sport package. There were no powered seats, neither were they heated. No satellite radio, no navigation system either. Still, the X1 was an awfully lot of fun and it was free of a lot of distracting technology. Yet it had enough.
For instance, we could use the USB jack to plug in our iPhone and play Pandora; it was like our personalized satellite radio which was better. Using the stalk, the small TFT screen between the odometer and speedometer would readout mileage, oil data, etc. Though manual, the seats, long a BMW strong suit, were highly adjustable, thus they were comfortable.
With the $1,900 sport package, the $550 paint job and the $925 freight charge, the sticker on our 2014 BMW xDrive28i came to $36,125.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.