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2014 BMW X1 xDrive28i: Sport sedan substitute for the adventurous

by: BMW NORTH AMERICA - Compact size means good performance and nimble handling.For a moment, I thought my luck had changed.

I've always gotten test vehicles at the wrong time. I get muscle cars in the winter when the roads are always slick. I get all-wheel-drives in the summer when they're dry. I once got a gas-guzzling full-size pickup truck when I had to drive across the state. And I got a subcompact when my neighborhood association was hosting their annual household trash and recycling depot.

But then I got a Volkswagen Beetle Convertible during a week of sunny summer weather. The top went up or down at the touch of button in 10 seconds It was great fun while it lasted.

But when I went to turn it in, I got a 2014 BMW X1 xDrive28i with a winter ski package. Called the Edition Powder Ride, it included a bulbous plastic roof box for skis, a bag for ski boots in the cargo bay, all-weather floor mats, and big gaudy decals down both sides meant to convey the thrill of skiing, I think.

Did I mention I don't ski? If I was driving the car around in the winter, at least some people might think I do. In the summer, they probably think I'm showing off — like those people who still have Obama 08 bumper stickers on their cars.

Well, at least the X1 was fun to drive. One of the smallest crossovers on the market, it's a true compact but is still loaded with tons of goodies. Mine came with a twin-turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four cylinder engine that pumped out 240 horsepower, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and BMW's excellent all-wheel-drive system. Because the X1 is so small, the result is a nimble performer with tenacious road grip. A turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six that produces 300 horsepower is available as the xDrive35i, but that's bordering on overkill.

Regardless of which engine you choose (and the base 2.0T comes with rear-wheel-drive), the interior is everything you expect from a BMW. The materials are top-notch, the leather sport bucket seats are deeply sculpted, the gauges are big and readable, and there's just enough over-engineering (the shift lever is electronic) to remind you how sophisticated it all is.

In day-to-day driving, our test X1 was quiet and felt remarkably solid for such a small vehicle. The twin turbochargers eliminated all remnants of turbo lag. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifted with such authority that it felt like an automated manual unit. A manual shift mode allowed for greater control, as if any more was really needed.

To save fuel, the engine is program to shut down when the car stops and to start up again when the gas pedal is touched. The so-called auto-stop function is not a smooth one, however, especially on the restarts. Fortunately, it can be turned off with a press of the button. Unfortunately, it has to be turned off each time after it X1 is parked.

The exterior styling is relatively subdued. Except for the distinctive twin oval grill and tail lights, the X1 looks similar to a number of other smallish crossovers, including the Nissan Rogue and Subaru Outback. Or, at least, those not equipped with the Edition Powder Ride package. Mine looked it was supposed to be advertising something.

But at least the roof mounted ski box prevented it from getting lost in parking lots.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2014 X1 xDrive28i.

• Manufacturer: BMW.

• Class: Compact crossover.

• Layout: Front engine, rear and all-wheel-drive.

• Styles: Four-door car lift back.

• Engine: twin-turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 (240 hp, 260 ft-lbs); turbocharged 3.0 inline 6 (300 hp, 300 ft-lbs)

• Transmission: 6-speed automatic; 8-speed automatic.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 23/34/27 (2.0T/RWD/8-speed auto); 22/33/36 (2.0/AWD/8-speed auto); 18/27/21 (3.0T/AWD/6-speed auto).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $30,800 ($42,795 as tested).