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2013 BMW X1 makes a big impression

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2013 BMW X1 makes a big impression

The X1 carves through corners like a true BMW.

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POSTED March 20, 2013 6:00 p.m.

Higher gasoline prices and urban congestion with smaller parking spaces have brought opportunity and dilemma for American motorists.

A new wave of subcompact vehicles is gaining traction in the U.S. The surge is being filled by imports from all corners of the world. And while small vehicles were once known as "cheap and cheerful," the trend now is toward premium with class.

BMW's subcompact X1 crossover is pricey but accommodating. This small five-seater is based on the 1-Series (coupe and convertible) platform. The crossover has been on sale for a few years in other parts of the world and will be built and sold in China.

The 2013 X1 is sold in turbocharged six-cylinder and four-cylinder models. The 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder is available in rear- or all-wheel drive with the model designations of sDrive28i and xDrive28i. The 300-horsepower, xDrive35i has standard AWD.

These are the same engines offered in the larger BMW X3 crossover or what BMW calls a Sports Activity Vehicle.

All X1s have Brake Energy Regeneration. And the four-cylinder models have Auto Start/Stop at idle and ECO PRO mode to stretch fuel economy.

The S28i test vehicle has a starting price of $31,545, including the $895 freight charge from Leipzig, Germany. With a couple of option packages, the tester was almost $38,000; and I would not have objected to the Technology package, $2,500, and Driver Assistance, $950, which adds a rearview camera and park distance control. The total then would be around $41,500. There's also an iPad holder for $179.

The X1 has a fun streak in its range of paint colors. The test car was a lively Valencia Orange and there are Le Mans Blue, Midnight Blue metallic (which to me looks like a shade of teal) and Deep Sea Blue metallic, all of which are $550. And there is the usual silver, gray and brown. Non-metallic black and white are no-cost choices.

The engine seems to have plenty of pulling power -- but between the turbo spooling and BMW's start-off-assistant to prevent wheelslip, it takes a firm push on the accelerator to get a good launch.

As soon as it's rolling, the 258 foot-pounds of torque kick in at and run to 4,800 rpm. That covers most city and highway performance.

The eight-speed Steptronic rolls deftly through the gears, upshifting for fuel economy as soon as possible. Engaging Sport mode noticeably sharpens the pull and shift points.

Curb weights range from 3,527 to 3,891 pounds, which adds up to a 364-pound difference from base to top-line. And that's before adding a driver, so consider that when calculating your own fuel economy.

BMW says to expect mileage of 24 mpg city, 33 mpg and 27 combined. Premium fuel will ensure the best performance. The 16.6-gallon tank gives good range between fueling visits.

Though space is at a premium, front headroom is tall at 41.3 inches and even the base model has eight-way adjustable front seats. The taller ride height is a bonus to the already good sightlines.

Cargo capacity is generous at 25 cubic feet behind the second row and 56 cubic feet with the seatback folded.

The 37.1-foot turning circle is wide for a small vehicle, but blame the long wheelbase, 103.7 inches, which gives a steady Interstate ride. The suspension is BMW tight and not overly jarring.

$41,000 is a lot in this country for any subcompact -- so it is good that the X1 has a convincing and encouraging attitude. For sure, it is small, but it drives tight and corners like a true BMW. There's nothing discount or small in its demeanor.

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