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The New BMW X1 is Tiny, But All BMW

While I was driving the new BMW X1, the Russian nesting dolls called matryoshka came to mind.

Like several purveyors of sport utilities and crossovers, BMW has offered models that initially seemed to be sized just right, at least until Americans decided, like antsy homeowners, that they needed more room. BMW duly expanded its smallest S.U.V., the X3, after customers complained that it wasn’t spacious enough for family duty.

There was only one problem: the redesigned X3 was suddenly as spacious inside as the X5, which had been the bigger — and more expensive — of the pair. So BMW gave the X5 a significant stretch, too.

All this one-size-upmanship, with a continuing microscopic experiment — how many American guinea pigs will squeeze into tinier, fuel-efficient cars? — has opened up a wholly unexpected niche within the crossover niche.

Hence, the concept of Russian nesting dolls: the X1 is the baby, slotting neatly inside the X3 and X5 — a smaller space than you might have imagined possible for a quasi-S.U.V. BMW’s new baby is no mistake, so long as Americans are eager to pay $32,000 to $52,000 for a crossover with no more interior space than a compact station wagon.

I wouldn’t bet against it. The X1 is based on the solid 1 Series, and it may easily outstrip the popularity of that small but pricey coupe. The X1 is much more practical, and it offers the raised ride height and all-wheel drive that Americans have voted for time and again.

The X1 travels fast, handles dynamically and is surprisingly luxurious for a junior crossover. If that’s not enough, it delivers fairly spectacular mileage, at least when drivers act as if they’re in a Prius, not an M3.

A weeklong spin in the 240-horsepower X1 xDrive 28i delivered what seems to be a harbinger of success for utility vehicles: the women that I encountered fell hard for it. One actually said, “When you told me you were bringing a BMW, I didn’t picture anything like this.”

Read more: Lawrence Ulrich, NY Times

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