Despite a name shared with a rocket-powered aircraft, there’s little chance of mistaking BMW’s X1 for Bell’s. We’re sure Chuck Yeager would have appreciated luxuries like interior mood lighting and the option of a blaring Harmon/Kardon 12-speaker stereo. Unlike its radical experimental plane counterpart, the BMW X1 is a pleasant little SUV that offers an attractive entry point to German brand motoring. And it doesn’t break barriers or speed records—unless, perhaps, it’s dropped from the belly of a B-29.
BMW’s skunkworks recently experimented with dramatic design elements inside and out. The X1 is a more traditional offering with a sleek exterior and a small, almost square kidney grille—understated next to the flared nostrils of most of the current BMW lineup. Still BMW’s smallest SUV, the X1 has grown for this, its third iteration since its 2009 launch. For 2023, the Beard is 1.7 inches longer and taller, and it’s almost an inch wider than last year’s all-wheel-drive equivalent. The wheelbase is 0.9 inches longer, and the track width is 0.8 inches wider. The result is more interior space and a hint of bulldog attitude.
A revised engine and a new gearbox
Under the hood is a good old gas burner, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a few extra horses squeezed in. (An electric version, the iX1, is available in other markets but won’t be coming here.) Changes to the combustion chamber geometry and dual injection bump the powerplant to 241 horsepower (up from 228) and 295 pound-feet of torque, and BMW says the X1 will hit 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. In place of the previous eight-speed automatic, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission has a larger ratio and freewheels. If you want it on high alert to grab gears, Sport mode shifts with more force, and the M Sport package ($2300) offers paddle shifters that put the decision-making in the driver’s hands.
We found the drive to be quiet and smooth in traffic and freeway cruising, but a little sluggish when asked to make high-speed passes or accelerate uphill. There’s some turbo lag, and putting the X1 in Sport mode couldn’t mask the lag. EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 mpg combined, 25 mpg city, and 34 mpg highway, which is about 2 to 3 mpg better than the 2022 all-wheel drive model.
One big change to the X1 for 2023 is that all-wheel drive is now standard. During easy motoring, the front wheels handle most of the driving duties, but any loss of traction sends power to the rear. Dynamically, the X1 is fun to drive, it corners happily, and its small size makes it well-suited to narrow roads—and, when you’re done, now parking spaces. Neither the steering wheel nor the brake pedal provide much feedback, but there is enough communication to feel confident that the car will stop when and where directed.
Interior Style and Technology
BMW is on it with interior design in its new models. The X1’s cabin makes good use of texture and color to add interest to chunks of plastic. The door panels in particular are attractive, pretty enough that you might leave the door open for a few extra minutes so your neighbors can admire the tweedy-patterned speaker grilles and the Gateway Arch of a door handle. The console offers lower shelf space, although it’s not easy to reach with a larger handbag. Cup holders sit low and out of the way, and the optional wireless charging pad leans back against the corner of a grandpa in a Barcalounger – a nod to those of us who look at the screen at stopovers.
Speaking of screens, the X1’s single-curved display panel runs from behind the steering wheel to the center of the dash. Modes offer different instrumentation designs, and the right side displays navigation, music and phone interfaces. Unfortunately, the screen is also the only way to control the climate and the seat heaters, and it’s a long stretch for the driver, even for those of us sitting far forward. The audio system can be adjusted from the steering wheel, but turning off the heated steering wheel or adjusting the air conditioning fan requires you to look around the screen—never an ideal action while driving.
The seats in our sample car were the optional Sport seats. For a commuter SUV, they are deeply reinforced. While the seating position was good and highly adjustable, the cushioning was too firm for a long ride, a scenario in which the bones in one’s posterior will quickly make themselves known. The rear seats are also tight, and passengers may find the backrest angle too angled, although the retracted shape makes installing a child seat easier. Cargo space is generous, with a side net to pull in small items, a total of 26 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 57 with them folded.
X1 Prices and Equipment
Shopping for an X1 should be relatively easy, as there are no alternative engine or transmission choices, and the standard model comes with plenty of features you’ll want, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, LED headlights with turn signals, ‘ a power gate, and roof rails. The xLine package adds larger wheels and more interesting interior trim, and a sunroof is available with either the Convenience package ($1,950) or the Premium package ($4,200). Raising the price from the $39,595 starting point is pretty easy, and our $48,195 example still packs a lot into a small SUV. It may not be Chuck Yeager’s Glamorous Glennis, but even an experimental test pilot can use a practical rambler when it’s time to hang up the flight suit and head home.
2023 BMW X1 xDrive28i
Vehicle type: front engine, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve Miller cycle inline-4, aluminum block and head, port and direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 inches31998 cm3
Power: 241 hp @ 4500 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
7-speed dual clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 106.0 inches
Length: 177.2 inches
Width: 72.6 inches
Height: 64.6 inches
Passenger volume: 102 feet3
Cargo volume: 26 feet3
Combat weight (C/D east): 3800 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (C/D IS)
60 mph: 6.0 sec
1/4-mile: 14.2 sec
Top speed: 125 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 28/25/34 mpg
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