2023 BMW X1 review, first drive - grown up in a good way
A small SUV will probably be your first step into luxury car ownership. As it happens, you've been spoiled for choice so far with the likes of the new Audi Q3, the Mercedes GLA and the still-relevant Volvo XC40. The BMW X1 may have dropped off your radar with how long it had been around, but as has now become the norm with new BMWs, it's back but not quite in the same way as before.
2023 BMW X1 styling, dimensions
You know things are different with the new third-gen BMW X1 quickly enough, that flat stance is now replaced with something a bit more like a traditional SUV. It's 53mm longer, 24mm wider and 32mm taller than the one it replaces but the effect is greater than these numbers suggest.
The X1's face now follows the theme set by its larger siblings more closely, that large silver-trimmed grille being the direct link. The shape of the swept-back headlamps is more recognizably X1 but again you now have a more minimalistic inverted-L light signature. We say this every time we drive a new BMW, but these contrasting elements seem to work together better than you would think. You see this with the significant bulge on the bonnet and the quite angular bumpers in this M Sport version, with the large central air dam and L-shaped intakes.
The link to larger BMW SUVs also caeeies through in profile. This new X1 is now only marginally smaller than the first-gen X3 and the glasshouse will remind you of this. It's large and unfussy but with a noticeably large rear-quarter glass that shows its benefits later. The bodywork is similarly simple but crisp, with a sharp line running across the doors for relief. The flip-up door handles aren't the best to use but are meant to aid efficiency, especially in the case of the electric iX1 that'll follow soon. A smart touch is the contrasting black skirts that seem to visually tone down the X1's size.
The rear of the X1 is probably its most recognizable end. There's quite a bit of sporting character here with the large spoiler and the raked windscreen, but most eye-catching are the taillamps. The 3D treatment of these bulge out of the bodywork, and seem to widen the X1 further. They're also quite unlike any other BMW SUV with their hollow shape, although the L motifs remain. The contrasting black has been used to good effect here again, offsetting the quite large bumper.
2023 BMW X1 interiors, features, space
The styling of the new X1 may be more sedate than other new BMWs, but the interiors will give you quite a bit to think of. The curved iDrive 8 display is now common fare but is seen here in a slightly condensed form with a 10.7-inch touchscreen and a 10.25-inch instrument cluster. The touchscreen's smaller screen size and lack of physical redundancies make it a touch more difficult to navigate than in say a 3 Series but otherwise the smartphone-like layout is easy to get used to. The instrument cluster too offers up a fair bit of information but the vertical dials could have been easier to read.
The general look of the new BMW X1's dash is the big talking point though. The driver-focused tilt is carried over from the last car but the asymmetric design is quite a departure from anything else in the line-up. It ties in well with the simple curved top panel but the vents accentuate the dashboard's asymmetrical theme with the single large central one and the two facing the passenger. The slim seamless look is great but may not be the most effective at helping cool the second row on a hot day.
The centre stack departs from convention with its floating, EV-like effect. The vertical stand for the wireless charging is a thoughtful touch, there's a clip to hold the phone in place and within sight. The two-layer centre console is somewhat of a mixed bag though. The floating toggle gear shifter and panels of tactile buttons are useful, and while the open shelf below is quite large there's not much there to hold things in place securely. The covered armrest is also too shallow for anything larger than keys or papers.
But you do get the sense of having spent your money well with the sheer quality of materials and textures, enough to put the new X1 closer to the top of its class. The soft covering for the dash, the textures on the various surfaces and especially the grating on the steel speaker covers all feel expensive to touch. Yes, you don't have physical climate knobs but the buttons that are there are tactile and substantial. The discreet ambient lighting accentuates this, effectively placed around the wireless charger and vents. You even get various ambience modes to play with, aside from the drive modes, that change the ambient lighting and screen displays.
There are massaging seats in the front, but the features list is otherwise par-for-the-course. You get powered front seats, a panoramic sunroof, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio, leather upholstery and connected features. We would have liked cooled seats to have been added to this.
The BMW X1's generous sense of space is fully realized in the back seats. The sunroof and large windows help, as do those big quarter glasses which also work well for the driver's rear visibility. The new SUV's wheelbase has grown to 2,692mm, a 22mm increase, but one that's again more effective in the metal. The seats themselves are especially comfortable with their soft upholstery but well-judged cushioning, and there's enough head and foot room for all but the tallest among us. You can also recline the seatback to a fairly comfortable angle and the rear outboard seats also slide by 130mm to manage boot and cabin space. There could have been a touch more thigh support but the positive is that the third passenger will have a comfortable space to sit, although as is usual for these SUVs, be impeded by a substantial central tunnel. As with the rest of the car, the boot is generous too at 476 litres, with a fairly low and flat load lip.
2023 BMW X1 driving impressions
Things don't look great for the new BMW X1 on paper on the drivetrain front. This sDrive 18d variant makes 150PS and 360 Nm from its 2.0-litre diesel, that's less than rivals and less than some mainstream SUVs too. The motor pairs with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox but without AWD, also available with some of the competition.
But start driving the new X1 and it seems up to the task it's meant for. Yes, you won't breeze past traffic completely effortlessly but the X1 still feels sprightly. Like with any other BMW diesel, the engine's character helps with this. It's smooth, both in its refinement and power delivery. You have a wide powerband to play with, it's got a nice thrum to it and revs with about as much energy as you can expect from a diesel. The gearbox is well-matched to this, it doesn't stutter too much at low speeds and largely keeps the engine on the boil, at least during a regular cruise. You do notice it a more in heavier driving, where it also tends to hold on to a higher gear for a touch longer than ideal.
While most of you will be okay with this for the sake of efficiency, this is also where the slightly deficient outputs show up. On a twisty section of road, we found the X1 to be best in its Sport setting. The drivetrain doesn't feel too peaky here and for the more spirited among you, this might be a good default mode to drive the X1 in. A fun addition is that of the Boost mode. Geared more towards EVs possibly, here a tug of the left paddle holds the engine revs at maximum outputs for 10s to give you some added shove. It seems to work well enough to not feel like a gimmick.
More spirited driving will also tell you that the new X1 is still a small luxury SUV for the driver. You sit relatively low for an SUV, and the new angled steering wheel falls to hand easily. There's a nice heft and directness to it in the Sport mode, but also enough lightness in Comfort to be both precise and easy depending on the situation.
The lack of AWD only really shows up when you jab on the throttle hard with some torque steer, but once past this it's usual BMW territory. The X1 feels light on its feet and while there is roll, the SUV's motions are predictable and deft. You do miss that rear-driven sense of balance but the X1 still feels engaging without this, with quite a bit more connection to what's going on around than some other SUVs. There's some electronic trickery behind this with the performance control system that instead of letting the car run wide uses the traction control to manage torque.
The ride helps too. It's got that slightly firm edge to it at low speeds as with most other SUVs in this segment, but to a lesser extent. So on a smooth road like say a highway, it's got that sense of poise and control covered, which also helps on a twisty bit of road where the suspension seems to manage undulations well. It also does well over the rough stuff, you hear quite a bit of it but the X1 remains flat and composed.
2023 BMW X1 safety
In terms of safety, you get front, side and curtain airbags, TPMS, the reversing assistant and a rear camera. There is some degree of ADAS functions like auto high-bean, lane departure warning, emergency braking and auto high beam.
2023 BMW X1 verdict, price
The slightly underwhelming outputs and lack of AWD do stand out with the new BMW, but you realize quickly that the third-gen BMW X1 still feels like a complete SUV despite this. It's got the presence and drama inside and out along with a convincing sense of luxury. There's also enough here to appease you if you want a comfortable family SUV and like being driven around, or something a touch more engaging to drive around in. Most bases covered then.
This diesel BMW X1 sDrive 18d is priced at Rs 47.90 lakh.
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