It is a compact sport-utility vehicle, easily mistaken for a high-riding sedan. In any case, it is a motorized delight — big enough to carry a family of five and a week’s worth of their groceries, small enough to fit into urban street parking spots, fast and smooth enough to turn a long highway trip into a pleasure.
I wanted to drive it all year, but that is not the way this business works. At the end of an allotted week, I had to return this star of an increasingly crowded field, the BMW X1 xDrive28i compact SUV.
I wish it came with a lower purchase price. It doesn’t. As equipped, complete with driver assistance and a “premium” package that includes lumbar support and power-folding mirrors, the purchase price is $46,320. That is steep. But it is easy to understand why its buyers are willing to pay it.
The X1 all-wheel-drive SUV actually feels as if it is worth it. It is a tight, snug vehicle — largely based on the platform of the Mini Cooper, which is owned by BMW.
Maybe that is why I like it so much. I owned a Mini and loved it, too, until years (four) and miles (approximately 150,000) began to deteriorate its body.
The X1 is a Mini on steroids — equipped with all-wheel drive, with hill-descent control; an array of advanced electronic safety items; and a 2.0-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder gasoline engine that delivers 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
Note: You’ve got to be careful in ordering the driver assistance package. There are two: Driver Assistance One, which includes items such as a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors, and Driver Assistance Plus, which includes the very useful forward-collision mitigation system.
You’ll pay more for Driver Assistance Plus. But it could turn out to be money you and your family will save in hospital bills.
There are certain things about a motor vehicle that let you know its makers cared about what they were doing. Those signals are all over the BMW X1, introduced in 2016 and practically unchanged for the 2017 model year. Fit and finish are excellent — no unfinished plastic parts with sharp edges, no sun visors with loosely fitting roof attachments, no errors anywhere.
The way the X1 is made makes you believe in the vehicle, makes you trust it, frees you from potential buyer’s remorse.
You don’t buy this one for illusory prestige. You buy it because you want a good, solid little SUV that makes sense — expensive, albeit the least costly in BMW’s line of SUVs.
It is like driving a perpetually sharpened pencil — smooth, precise, goes exactly where you point it.
There are three driving modes: Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. Eco Pro will deliver 31 miles per gallon on the highway. Comfort will do about the same thing. Sport consumes more fuel but offers more speed and sharper handling — and increases your prospects of getting a traffic ticket.
Bottom line: The BMW X1 is one of the best compact SUVs you can buy. It also is available in front-wheel drive, sold as the X1 sDrive28i.
Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets excellent marks in all categories.
Head-turning quotient: It is cute, turns heads — has “Hey, what’s that?” appeal.
Engine/transmission: It comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged (forced air) in-line four-cylinder, 16-valve gasoline engine with variable-valve timing. The engine is linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 27.1 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 16.1 gallons of gasoline. Premium grade is required.
Real-world mileage: I averaged 31 miles per gallon driving on the highway, mostly in Comfort mode.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock braking protection; emergency braking assistance; emergency braking preparation; automatic brake drying; traction and stability control; post-collision safety system; side and head air bags.
Pricing: The base price of the 2017 BMW x1 xDrive28i is $35,100. Price as tested is $46,320 including $10,225 in options (lumbar support, parking assistance, advanced safety items and adjustable rear seats) and a $900 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. You can save money by buying a practically identical 2016 model. You can bargain.