2012 BMW X1 xDrive28i
2012 BMW X1 xDrive28i. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2012 BMW X1

BMW is well-known for its six-cylinder engines, smooth, powerful machines that regularly win awards and praise from auto journalists and enthusiasts. In North America, it’s been a long time since the company has built a vehicle with anything less than six cylinders under the hood; the last, if you don’t count the Mini brand, was the 318i of 1998. But fuel-efficiency is the big deal right now, and the company felt something thriftier than a six was necessary for its newest model, the X1 Sport Activity Vehicle (or SAV, as BMW prefers to call its crossovers).

The new engine in question is a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder that makes 240 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, numbers that stack up favourably against the 3.0-litre six-cylinder (240 hp/221 lb.-ft.) that serves current base 3 Series, X3 and Z4 roadster models. BMW Canada wouldn’t confirm it, but it looks like this engine is set to replace that non-turbo 3.0-litre six-cylinder. The tip-off was the four-cylinder Z4 roadster shown at the New York auto show in April, and while this is just speculation, this engine could be the future for entry-level versions of the 1- and 3 Series, as well as the X3.

2012 BMW X1 xDrive28i
2012 BMW X1 xDrive28i
2012 BMW X1 xDrive28i. Click image to enlarge

In photos, the X1 is hard to distinguish from the X3, but up close, and especially from the rear, the X1 is smaller, giving up more than four inches in height to the X3. As a result, it looks more like a hatchback than a crossover, and suggests that this car is as close as North America is likely to get to the fun 1 Series hatchback sold elsewhere. The X1 will likely also take the place of the 3 Series Touring (wagon), a model likely to be phased out for the 3 Series Gran Turismo, which could arrive later this year or early in 2012.

The move to a four-cylinder may sound like a step backward for a company that has won awards and a litany of praise for its sixes, but if BMW’s reasoning is correct, that the future must be more fuel-efficient than today (and I reckon they’re right), this engine is here to stay. The new four-cylinder’s fuel consumption ratings are 10.2 and 6.5 L/100 km in Natural Resources Canada’s city and highway drive cycle tests, respectively, notable improvements over the 11 and 7.8 L/100 ratings the non-turbo six-cylinder manages in the larger X3. My X1 tester averaged 10.2 L/100 km in city driving, a solid result that puts the X1 in the same company as non-luxury compact and midsize crossovers: a Subaru Forester and Chevrolet Equinox (both with less-powerful, non-turbo four-cylinders) I tested last summer averaged 11 and 10.5 L/100 km in city driving, respectively.

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