Small luxury SUVs are a hot part of the market, and the competition is fierce. But for BMW, its smallest SUV, the compact X1, remains its third most-popular trucklet behind the larger X3 and X5.
Part of its lack of popularity may come from the second generation, which traded the first generation’s rear-wheel-drive 3 Series platform for the Mini Countryman’s front-wheel-drive architecture. That and a reduction in power did little to help the cause. But for 2023, things change remarkably for the X1.
Whereas previous X1s were offered with two- or four-wheel drive, the 2023 model gets a sole trim level with standard all-wheel drive. Dubbed the xDrive 28i, it lacks an M model — at least for now — but it is offered with a $2,300 M Sport Package, which adds 18-inch M V-spoke bi-color wheels with all-season non-runflat tires, an aerodynamic kit, Shadowline exterior trim, steering wheel shift paddles, adaptive M suspension, roof rails, sport seats, and an M Steering wheel. The package can be augmented with 19- or 20-inch wheels wearing performance tires.
For the new model year, the X1 sees its track increase by 0.8 inches, and its overall width grow by 0.9 inch. AT 106 inches, its wheelbase is 0.9 inch longer than before, while length and height grow by 1.7 inches. Ground clearance is far better than before at 8.1 inches. In fact, the redesigned 2023 X1 is close in size to the 2003 X3.
As for its wardrobe, it wears a subtler variation of the angular sheetmetal worn by its larger siblings. Its look is modern day BMW, but without the more extreme designs employed elsewhere. A squared-off twin nostril grille sits bolt upright, lending a bulldog-like stance to its demeanor, lending it somewhat of a personality. Yet despite its appearance, it has a drag co-efficient of just 0.27; excellent for what looks like it has the aerodynamics of a bread box.
Given its larger exterior dimensions, it’s no surprise that the X1’s interior is noticeably larger as well, with generous head and legroom and enough space for even the tallest folks. And the cargo hold Is big at more than 25 cubic feet, with a 40/20/40 split folding seat that expands schlepping space to an accommodating 57.2 cubic feet.
But more than the additional square footage, it’s the enhanced ambience that makes a real difference. In fact, this might be the finest trimmed X1 ever built, with a luxuriously contemporary cabin accented with a herringbone patterned audio system speakers, ambient lighting and aluminum trim.
As you’d expect, the seats are comfortable and supportive with abundant headroom and more than sufficient legroom, making the four-hour drive to the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, where BMW ran its M Hybrid V-8 race car for the first time in an endurance race, a very pleasant experience. The center console has been redesigned with a large open area for handbags. But it robs the center console bin’s depth, making it too shallow to hold anything useful.
There’s only one powertrain, a newly-designed 2.0-liter turbocharged Miller Cycle 4-cylinder engine mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. It produces 241 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, enough to merit a 0-to-60 mph time of 6.2 seconds, although it feels faster. Fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 28 mpg in combined driving. Our test drive returned an impressive 30 mpg.
Our test car was fitted with the M Sport Package, which adds a Sport Boost function. Activated by pulling the left shift paddle for more than one second, Sport Boost maximizes the powertrain and chassis settings to their sportiest and quickest response.
Safety and Technology
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have crash tested the 2023 BMW X1. Advanced driver assistance systems include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, rear automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and safe exit warning.
The instrument panel of the 2023 X1 is entirely digital, with a 10.25-inch instrument cluster and a central 10.7-inch infotainment touchscreen that houses all of the climate controls as well. It’s easy to learn and operate, and lacks the familiar console-mounted controller knob used in other BMWs.
A Bluetooth interface, four USB-C ports as well as a 12V power outlet are standard. A horizontal wireless phone charger holds your smart upright so you can view I while it’s charging.
Uniquely, the 2023 BMW X1’s camera’s not only offer a 360-degree overhead view while parking, they can record video when the vehicle is parked and be accessed remotely.
The second-generation BMW X1 failed to live up to BMW’s own marketing slogan as an ultimate driving machine. Thankfully, the third generation comes a lot closer. While still based on a front-wheel-drive platform, its all-wheel drive provides a far better driving experience.
Certainly it’s more powerful, offering a level of performance it had when introduced in the U.S. for 2012. The BMW X1’s engine feels larger than it is, just like the interior. With the steering wheel-mounted shift panels engaged, the dual clutch gearbox responds fast in manual mode and stays in the gear you choose. However, despite the engine’s responsiveness, you should prepare for turbo lag, which was apparent on our test car.
The X1 handles just like a great BMW should. It feels nimble and lacks understeer although there’s little feedback. Body lean is minimal, road noise is kept to a minimum and the ride is smooth with good impact absorption. It offers a level of refinement unseen in earlier X1 models, despite being a compact crossover, and makes for fun, tossable and sophisticated piece of transportation.
2023 BMW X1 xDrive28i Specifications
|L: 177.2 inches/W: 72.6 inches/H: 64.6 inches/Wheelbase: 106 inches
|2.0-liter 4-cylinder Miller Cycle engine, 7-speed dual clutch transmission and all-wheel drive
|25 mpg city/34 mpg highway/28 mpg combined
|241 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $38,600; As tested: $48,195 including $995 destination charge
Given its newfound size, ample power, good fuel economy, modern décor, solid tech package and refined demeanor, the X1 should be your first stop if looking for a new compact premium SUV.
2023 BMW X1 xDrive28i — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the 2023 BMW X1 reliable?
Consumer Reports expects the 2023 X1 to have about average to average reliability, while British consumer magazine WhatCar concurs.
What competes with BMW X1 2023?
The Alfa Romeo Tonale, Audi Q3, Cadillac XT4, Lexus UX, Lincoln Corsair, Mercedes-Benz GLA/GLB, Mini Countryman and the Volvo XC40.
Does BMW X1 need premium gas?
Yes. BMW recommends using a fuel with at least 91 octane.