Recent studies suggest that American car buyers are just fine with giving up their larger vehicles for smaller ones -- so long as they don't have to give up any of their precious big-vehicle features and gadgetry. Few automakers are more acutely aware of that philosophy than BMW. Sure, BMW still produces large luxury cars as a sizeable percentage of its business, but Mini -- its runaway-hit of a sub-brand -- has captured a vast share of the subcompact market. More recently, the Bavarian automaker brought its entry-level 1 Series to the U.S. market, slotting the two-door coupe just below its ever-growing, bread-and-butter 3 Series. It's also the much-lauded 1 Series that provides the underpinnings for the newest -- and smallest -- member of BMW's Sports Activity Vehicle lineup -- the all-new 2011 BMW X1, which is on its way to the U.S.
First shown in concept form at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, the primary BMW X1 package remains remarkably similar in production trim. Based strongly on BMW's current X Series styling, all the trademark visuals of the X1's big brothers are present and accounted for. Jutting, blunt-nosed front end? Check. Prominent arching side character line? Check. Signature "Hoffmeister Kink" at the D-pillar? Check. Double kidney-shaped grille? Double check.
At roughly 14.5 feet long, 5.8 feet wide, and 5 feet tall, the X1 measures several inches shorter, skinnier, and narrower than the X3 -- the smallest SAV the automaker currently produces. In fact, the X1 is just over 1 inch wider, 3 inches longer and 4 inches taller than the 128i, with a wheelbase exactly 4 inches longer than the compact sports coupe. Needless to say, this is not a large vehicle.
The X1's interior layout also stays true to current BMW design theory, with well-placed controls and high-quality materials. Seats, steering wheel, gear lever, and dashboard all remain largely identical to that of most of BMW's products -- certainly any 1 Series, or 3 Series driver would be instantly familiar. Of course, small exterior dimensions translate to less interior space and subsequently, less cargo volume - a defining point for the segment. BMW says the X1 has 14.7 cubic-feet of usable cargo area with the adjustable rear seatbacks upright -- for comparison's sake, that's the exact same amount as the four-door Volkswagen GTI. Rear seats folded flat, that figure increases to a more useable 47.3 cubic-feet.