BMW X1 is one of the biggest success stories to emerge from Munich. Now in its third generation, the compact, entry-level SUV can proudly claim that it has found 2.7 million homes since its inception in 2009. The X1 may not look like the X3 or of the X5 in many markets, but it has always been a reliable workhorse for the Bavarians. And as with each new generation, this one should surpass its predecessor.
Flexible front-wheel drive architecture
Still built on the FAAR platform – short for Front-Wheel Drive Architecture – the BMW X1 U11 is more complex and advanced than ever. It has one of the largest powertrain offerings in BMW’s lineup, with a mix of petrol and diesel engines, plus a range of plug-in hybrids and, for now, an all-electric model. We’ve already shared our impressions of the BMW iX1 xDrive30, but now it’s time to test the 2023 BMW X1 xDrive23i.
Four-cylinder, 218 hp
This particular model is sold in Europe, but the US equivalent would be the X1 xDrive28i with more power from the same B48 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. In xDrive23i-spec, it develops 218 horsepower and 360 Nm of torque, and is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but this model is obviously equipped with xDrive all-wheel drive. It’s actually the same powertrain used in the US-spec X1 xDrive28i, except the US car gets 228 horsepower. BMW claims that 90% of the parts in this B48 unit are new or improved.
The engine is backed by the second-generation 48-volt mild-hybrid electric system. The new unit is integrated into the case of the 7-speed DCT generating an additional 14 kW or 19 horsepower. Other benefits of 48V include better energy recovery, higher fuel efficiency and smoother operation of the motor start-stop function. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (0-62 mph) would be 7.1 seconds.
I’ve already shared my thoughts on the exterior and interior design of the new BMW X1 family here. But here’s a little recap. The new BMW X1 U11 is bigger than its predecessor in every way – length, width and height. It also features a stunning exterior design, with clean creases and an aggressive M Sport package. There’s even a cool aerodynamic blood (aka roof spoiler) that’s one of the best in the business. The kidneys are normal, and we are grateful for that.
Finally a Premium cabin
Inside, this new 2023 BMW X1 is exactly what all previous models should have been: high-tech and premium. You get BMW’s latest and greatest infotainment system, along with high-quality leathers and trim, and a plethora of driver-assist features. There’s even a great implementation of the wireless charging tray that sits in the only position that makes sense inside a car: vertically.
Speaking of advanced driver assistance systems in the BMW X1 U11. Standard safety equipment includes forward collision warning with brake intervention, cruise control with brake function, speed limit information with no overtaking indicator, speed limit assist and escape assistance, among other features. Lane departure warning with lane return is also standard. Active Park Distance Control with rear view camera and assistant is also standard equipment.
If you pay extra, you can get the Driving Assistant Plus safety package. The system uses cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to provide Level 2 driver assistance functions. Customers now benefit from radar-based steering and lane control assistant, cruise control active speed control with stop/start at speeds of up to 112 mph, automatic speed limit assist, route and junction assist, and more. There’s even a Trailer Assist package, similar to the one we sampled in the new BMW X7 Facelift.
iDrive 8 and curved screen
Of course, there are also disadvantages inside. First, the lack of physical buttons to control the AC system. Just like other new BMWs with iDrive 8, functions are now digitally integrated into the large curved display. Not ideal, but that seems to be the direction BMW is heading. Second, BMW decided to drop the iDrive button. Again, this is a questionable decision from a user experience perspective, especially since I found myself reaching for this controller many times.
Cargo and interior space are great though. I’m rather tall – 6″2 or 1.89m – but I found the riding position spacious. Even with the driver’s seat adjusted to my height, there was still decent legroom in the back. Shoulder room is also improved over the outgoing model, as is headroom. To achieve this, BMW has designed the rear seat at an angle, while sculpting the ceiling above you outward. Congratulations for that.
The growth in size is also reflected in the trunk volume, which has increased by 50 liters to 540. Of course, the luggage compartment can be extended to 1600 liters, thanks to the 40:20:40 configuration of the rear seats. Cleverly, BMW has also implemented a rear seat that can be individually moved forward by 13 centimeters.
The driving experience
With specs and features aside, let me tell you about the driving experience. This particular 2023 BMW X1 xDrive23i featured the Adaptive M Sport suspension which, compared to that of the BMW iX1, lowers the car by 15mm. Like all adaptive BMW setups, this allows you to alter ride comfort, thanks to the adjustable-frequency selective dampers. Of course, you’ll also get more precise steering with a more direct rack ratio for precise steering. So there are no surprises here, nor in the different driving modes available.
Usually, I like to see my BMWs in Sport or Sport+, but this time, I’m putting myself in the shoes of a normal customer. Something I always try to do in every one of my reviews, but now more than ever. Why might you ask? Because the new BMW X1 is not meant to be a road warrior. It is more than ever a practical crossover that wants to focus on passenger comfort, space and interior fittings.
That’s why I rode mostly in COMFORT mode, getting a taste of the various driving assistant features and normal city driving. Of course, I pushed the car a bit on the highway because… American. Remember when I said this X1 really looked more like a smaller X3? This also translates into the driving experience. The car rides higher than the outgoing X1 model, giving the driver a good view of the road and a sense of control over their driving behavior.
The engine is quite powerful for a car of this size, but of course I’m eager to see what the future BMW X1 M35i can offer. The 7-speed DCT is extremely smooth and precise, and its shifts are almost undetectable. Cabin noise is also excellent, so I can say that BMW spent some time isolating the driver and passengers from the outside world. The M Sport seats are superb, as is the beefy steering wheel.
Cornering is what you’d expect from a 218-horsepower 2.0-liter engine—a bit slow before starting, but fun enough for most people. Body roll is okay, but I honestly don’t think anyone cares about it in the X1.
BMW also wants you to know that there are plenty of accessories for the new X1. So they had in the window a model decked out with a roof box, a clever organizer with Velcro in the trunk, a smartphone holder, a folding table with an integrated cup holder, and much more. Oh, let’s not forget an optional 21-inch wheel that looks massive on the X1.
Should I buy one?
In conclusion, this new BMW X1 (U11) 2023 is a very convincing product that will give a hard time to its competitors (Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA). The only question you need to ask yourself is which engine to choose. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this new crossover. It ticks all the boxes.
- Elegant design
- Premium interior
- Driver assistant features
- No physical AC buttons
- No iDrive button