‘Tis the season to be jolly — and to scope out holiday deals on all-weather haulers. Below are a few top picks that are both naughty and nice.
BMW X1 XDRIVE28i
Mpg: 22 city/32 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
If X marks the spot, then the BMW X1 xDrive28i is in the sweet spot. Redesigned last year, this all-wheel-drive compact crossover is taller, wider and lighter than ever. There’s more legroom, headroom and cargo capacity — the most stowage in its class — with gobs of storage bins, including one under the front seat and a huge space under the cargo floor.
And the list of standard features is long, with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, hill-descent control, automatic stop/start, regenerative braking and more. Plus, the power liftgate can be opened by swinging your foot under the rear bumper. The quiet cabin is elegant, with choice of aluminum or wood trim. And those finely sculpted seats are a chiropractor’s dream.
A 6.5-inch info display comes standard, but splurge for the optional 8.8-inch monitor. Ditto the double-panel sunroof and M Sport package with its oh-so-taut handling. But other common luxury items are missing, such as cooled seats, power-adjustable steering wheel and rear-seat entertainment. And various safety features; including forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning and pedestrian detection; are optional, not standard. Still, it’s hard to resist all the goodies this baby BMW has to offer.
Mpg: 27 city/32 highway
0-to-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
Mazda prides itself on being a niche player, offering sporty yet economical rides. The CX-3 crossover fits the bill with a wide-mouthed grille and sharp-edged styling just like a Lexus NX. The well-bolstered seats and sweeping dash also look like they came from the NX playbook, yet the CX-3 price tag is about half as much.
While it’s a subcompact with limited space for rear-seat passengers and cargo, the size is perfect for urban commuters, helping them nestle the CX-3 into Matchbox-sized parking spaces. The 146-hp four-cylinder engine is tops in fuel economy for tiny haulers, but acceleration isn’t as peppy as the racy exterior would suggest.
For 2018, the cabin gets thicker window glass, better door seals and more sound insulation to help reduce noise. Along with choice of front- or all-wheel drive, there are plenty of standard features in each of the three trim levels, including rearview camera, 7-inch touchscreen and automated emergency braking. The top-of-the-line Grand Touring adds a sunroof, head-up display, steering-wheel paddle shifters and more high-end safety gear.
VW GOLF ALLTRACK
Mpg: 22 city/32 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.4 seconds
Despite all the hoopla over crossovers, VW is making noise with the all-new Golf Alltrack station wagon. Styling and handling are more athletic than the basic Golf SportWagen (and many boxy crossovers, for that matter). The result is a ruggedly chic yet comfortable car, with minimal body roll, standard all-wheel drive and good acceleration from the 170-hp four-cylinder turbo.
Plenty of room for cargo and front-seat passengers, but backseat legroom is tight. The well-built cabin is clean and functional, if not a bit spartan. Three trim levels, which all come with heated side mirrors, dual-exhaust pipes, LED daytime running lights, all-wheel drive, rearview camera and smartphone integration. Yet it’s easy to see the allure of the higher-tiered models, which add keyless entry, push-button start, tire-pressure monitoring system, panoramic sunroof and rain-sensing wipers with heated nozzles.
One quibble with VWs has been the lackluster infotainment system, with a teeny 6.5-inch screen and low placement on the dash. But for 2018 models, a more dynamic 8-inch monitor is now available.