The X1 may be the smallest BMW, but it’s a big deal for the marque.
It was BMW’s second best-seller in Europe in 2022 behind the 3 Series, and the ageing previous-generation model was a consistent seller in Australia even up until last year, placing fourth behind the larger X3, X5 and the 3 Series.
Now there’s an all-new one, and some of us would argue this generational overhaul was long overdue. Riding on the latest BMW-Mini front-drive architecture, which allows for all forms of electrification, the X1 has effectively jumped two generations when it comes to design and technology.
Here we’re testing the ‘entry-level’ 2023 BMW X1 sDrive, which runs a three-cylinder petrol engine and front-wheel drive, compared to most rivals that have four-cylinder power from the base level.
That’s not to say this ‘base’ model feels underdone – far from it, in fact. While positioned as the entry point, the X1 sDrive18i is packaged like a mid-spec offering, which we’ll go through in this review.
So is this the one to get? Let’s find out.
How much does the BMW X1 sDrive18i cost?
On test we have the most affordable X1 variant in the sDrive18i, which is priced from $53,900 before on-road costs.
That makes the new BMW more than $3000 dearer than the entry-level Audi Q3 35 TFSI ($50,600), but well under the Mercedes-Benz GLA200’s starting price of $63,200 before on-roads.
Other premium small SUV alternatives include the Lexus UX250h (from $53,820), Mini Countryman (from $46,405) and Volvo XC40 (from $53,490).
You could also logically cross-shop the base X1 with high-spec versions of mid-size SUVs such as the Cupra Formentor VZ ($59,490 drive-away), Mazda CX-5 G35 Akera ($54,000), Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T AWD ($49,720), the Peugeot 3008 GT 1.6T ($53,414) and Skoda Karoq Sportline 4×4 ($50,990 drive-away).
I’d throw in the Volkswagen Tiguan too, given it’s usually a rival for the X1 overseas, but right now you’ll struggle to get your hands on the five-seat model as production winds down ahead of an all-new model.
2023 BMW X1 pricing:
- BMW X1 sDrive18i xLine: $53,900
- BMW X1 xDrive20i xLine: $65,900
- BMW X1 xDrive20i M Sport: $68,900
Prices exclude on-road costs
What is the BMW X1 sDrive18i like on the inside?
Wow, what an improvement over its predecessor.
Less than 12 months ago I reviewed the previous-generation X1 that was still being sold as a new car, and this new model’s interior feels about two or three generations fresher.
No longer lagging behind the wider line-up, the X1 comes standard with BMW’s eighth-generation iDrive infotainment and displays. It features the BMW Curved Display, incorporating a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster as well as a 10.7-inch central touchscreen.
Our test car was fitted with the optional Enhancement Package ($4615), which adds electric front seats with memory, a very nice 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, as well as a powered panoramic sunroof – all great additions making this option package a must-have.
The tall, boxy proportions and optional panoramic roof make for a very spacious and airy feel up front, bolstered by excellent perceived quality thanks to the high ratio of soft, padded surfaces and accent stitching.
It also has a very minimalist, open plan cabin with a floating centre console packing plenty of storage space, including a fun wireless charging pad design that has a retractable harness which looks like you’re locking your phone in on a rollercoaster – cute!
It’s worth noting features like heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are available as subscription-based options – you can do a one-off payment for a lifetime inclusion. Available through the ConnectedDrive Store, heated front seats are available for $29 a month, while a heated steering wheel is $19 a month.
Ahead of the driver you have the latest BMW steering wheel design, which adopts a smaller hub and thinner rim than we’re used to from the Bavarian marque, but it’s beautiful to hold and looks very smart.
Then there’s the new 10.25-inch digital cluster, which is a world away from the old car’s dated analogue dials. While the digitised setup brings the X1 into the modern age, the eighth-generation iDrive’s skin isn’t my favourite. There’s more layout options, but they’re more variations of the same line-graph look.
I would have loved to see BMW do a digital take on classic dials, much like Audi does in various ways. Given how BMW has typically been quite enthusiast focused, a more conventional option would have been welcome.
Sitting atop the dashboard and alongside the digital cluster is a new 10.7-inch touchscreen, which again is a good couple of generations ahead of the old model’s venerable iDrive 6 interface.
Featuring high resolution, snappy responses, and the latest features we’ve seen elsewhere in the BMW range, the X1’s infotainment is thoroughly more modern than before, and more than a match for the best in this segment.
While the glossy look and quick load times are great, iDrive 8’s move to touch-based controls for an array of cabin and vehicle functions feels like a step back in everyday usability.
My biggest annoyance is the removal of the distance control button on the steering wheel for the adaptive cruise. It’s now embedded in the driver assist menus within the touchscreen – WHY BMW?!
Other than those annoyances, wireless Apple CarPlay worked flawlessly during our time with the car, and BMW’s latest interface is fairly easy to navigate even if the new layout seems a little condensed, with a few more taps required to find what you need compared to OS7.0.
Despite being classified as ‘small’, the X1 is pretty big in the second row.
Two adults will fit comfortably behind two adults, with excellent head, knee and legroom for the segment. That’s even with the optional panoramic roof.
As expected for the class, the middle seat is best left for occasional use or small children. Bolstering the child-friendly amenities are ISOFIX anchors on the outboard seats as well as top-tether points across the three rear pews.
Other second-row features include directional air vents behind the centre console, two USB-C charge ports, netted pockets behind the front seats, bottle holders in the doors, as well as a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders.
Unlike many small and mid-sized SUVs these days, material quality and ambience in the second row doesn’t feel like a step down from the front.
Like the rear seats, the boot is pretty darn large for something considered ‘small’.
Behind the 40:20:40 split folding rear bench is a 540L cargo area in five-seat configuration, which expands to a handy 1600 litres with the second row folded – and it folds pretty flat.
You won’t find a spare wheel of any kind under the boot floor, with BMW only supplying a tyre repair kit.
What’s under the bonnet?
Power in the X1 sDrive18i comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine making 115kW (6500rpm) and 230Nm (1500-4600rpm).
The Australian market misses out on the 48V mild-hybrid system fitted to overseas versions, but picks up an extra 15kW.
Driving the front wheels exclusively via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the entry-level X1 accelerates to 100km/h in a claimed 9.0 seconds.
Fuel consumption is rated at 6.5L per 100km on the combined cycle, with the 45L fuel tank requiring 95 RON premium unleaded at a minimum.
How does the BMW X1 sDrive18i drive?
While the old X1 felt like an overgrown Mini trying to be posh, this new one is far more cohesive on the road.
The sDrive18i hardly feels like a base model from behind the wheel. It’s a smooth, refined and comfortable operator with a dash of sportiness in keeping with BMW’s Ultimate Driving Machine mantra.
In town – where 99 per cent of these things will spend their time – the X1 offers a fun-to-drive factor that makes threading inner-city streets a doddle, with all the driver controls proving responsive and accurate compared to the more assisted feel of some competitors.
Despite being a dual-clutch automatic, the X1 is rarely, if ever, caught napping off the line or slow to react. It’s one of the smoothest examples of this transmission type, which is high praise.
If the steering wheel already felt good to hold, the way it operates and communicates back to the driver is good too. It’s nice and quick which really allows you to point and shoot, even if it’s not super heavy.
Performance from the three-cylinder turbo is more than adequate in town, with effortless shove from down low. It also translates to a good experience on the freeway, with Australia’s 100-110km/h limits well within the engine’s limits.
Under acceleration the muted, thrummy three-cylinder engine note is characterful and quite pleasing to the ear, and even when you’re really pushing it’s far from coarse or unrefined. At 100km/h in seventh it’s humming away in the background faintly, hardly feeling laboured.
It will run out of puff at the very top end, which is expected though given its modest outputs and entry-level positioning. BMW’s 9.0-second 0-100 claim feels accurate through the seat of the pants.
BMW seems to have ironed out some of the kinks in the idle stop-start system too, even without the 48V mild-hybrid system available overseas. It doesn’t shunt to a halt like the old one does, and feels far more polished when setting off.
It rides pretty well too, though it errs on the firmer side if that matters to you. Our car was also wearing optional 18s which are standard higher up in the range, though the lack of M Sport suspension is probably a plus.
Insulation from road and wind noise is also a notable improvement over the old one, and more than a match for its rivals. You’ll get a bit more tyre roar through the cabin at highway speeds, but it’s acceptable for the class.
As for assistance systems, our optioned-up tester featured BMW’s excellent Steering and Lane Control Assistant, which I tend to rate as one of the best semi-autonomous highway systems out there. It accurately keeps the X1 centred in its lane with the adaptive cruise control being more human-like in response.
Even with good outward visibility from its expansive glasshouse, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert come in handy; while the adaptive LED headlights offer good illumination of the road ahead.
What do you get?
X1 sDrive18i highlights:
- Adaptive LED headlights
- 18-inch alloys in Silver
- Aluminium satinated roof rails
- Pearl Chrome exterior accents
- Sensatec upholstery (leatherette)
- Dual-zone climate control
- Automatic tailgate operation
- Comfort access
- Floor mats in velour
- 40:20:40 split rear seats
- M headliner, anthracite
- Sports seats
- Sport leather steering wheel
- Storage compartment package
- 12V sockets in rear centre console, cargo area
- BMW Live Cockpit Professional
- 10.25-inch instrument display
- 10.7-inch HD curved touchscreen
- Satellite navigation with augmented view**
- Wireless Apple CarPlay
- Wireless Android Auto
- Personal Profile
- DAB+ radio
- 6-speaker audio system, 100W
- 2 x USB-C ports (front), 2 x USB-C ports (rear)
- Wireless smartphone charger
- Connected Package Professional*
- Remote Services
- Real Time Traffic Information
- Concierge Services
- Intelligent Emergency Call
- BMW TeleServices
- Vehicle apps (e.g. News, Weather)*
- BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant*
- Remote Software Update*
**3-year subscription to map updates
- BMW Drive Recorder: $429
- Heated front seats: $589
- Heated steering wheel: $349
Enhancement Package: $4615
- Metallic paint
- Panorama glass sunroof
- Harman Kardon 12-speaker HiFi premium audio
- Seat adjustment, rear seats
- Choice of interior trims incl. fine wood trim
- Electric front seats incl. memory (sDrive18i)
- Driving Assistant Professional
BMW ConnectedDrive subscriptions:
- BMW Drive Recorder (1 month): $19
- BMW Drive Recorder (1 year): $79
- Heated steering wheel (1 month): $19
- Heated steering wheel (1 year): $169
- Heated front seats (1 month): $29
- Heated front seats (1 year): $289
- BMW Drive Recorder (3 years): $189
- Heated steering wheel (3 years): $259
- Heated front seats (3 years): $419
- Mineral White
- Black Sapphire
- Phytonic Blue
- Cape York Green
- San Remo Green
- Utah Orange (as tested)
BMW Individual Metallic ($1923)
Is the BMW X1 sDrive18i safe?
The new X1 wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP tests carried out in 2022.
It scored 86 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 76 per cent for vulnerable road users, and an impressive 94 per cent for safety assist.
While ANCAP noted ‘respectable’ performance in all four key areas of assessment, the crash tester noted the BMW noted Weak performance for protection of the driver’s chest in the frontal offset test, and Marginal protection of the rear passenger’s test in the full-width test.
AEB performance was rated Good, though ANCAP noted the X1’s system doesn’t detect pedestrians in reverse.
The rating applies to all petrol X1 variants, with the all-electric iX1 (due April) currently unrated.
Standard safety features include:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- City, Interurban speeds
- Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Junction assist
- AEB reverse
- Adaptive cruise control incl. stop/go
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Forward collision warning
- High-Beam Assist
- Lane change warning (blind-spot)
- Lane departure warning
- Parking sensors front, rear
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Reversing Assistant
- Surround View (360 cameras)
X1 xDrive20i adds:
- Steering and Lane Control Assistant
- Adaptive cruise + lane centring
How much does the BMW X1 sDrive18i cost to run?
All new BMW models are covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty as of October 1, 2022.
You also get three years of 24/7 complimentary roadside assistance thrown in.
In terms of maintenance, BMW offers Service Inclusive pre-paid packages to cover your costs for the first five years or 80,000km – whichever comes first.
For the X1, the five-year service package costs $2150, which averages out to $430 per annum. That’s almost $1000 cheaper than an Audi Q3 over the same time period ($2970), and well under the five-year plan for a Mercedes-Benz GLA ($4500).
As for real-world fuel economy, the X1 sDrive18i returned an indicated figure of 7.6L per 100km over just under a week’s worth of driving, which included more than 370km across mixed conditions. Not bad, considering I spent a lot of time in peak-hour traffic and managed to stay within 1L of the brand’s claim.
I do wonder, however, if the EU-spec model with its 48V mild-hybrid system would have brought that figure down a considerable amount with its beefier energy storage and extended stop-start functionality…
CarExpert’s Take on the BMW X1 sDrive18i
The latest BMW X1 is a revelation compared to its predecessor.
Bavaria’s premium small SUV has gone from being one of the class laggards to a new leader, with a blend of tech, practicality, and driving finesse even from the entry level grade.
With a couple of choice options you can have yourself a very premium-feeling crossover for around the $60,000 mark, which is where a lot of high-spec mid-size mainstream competition are playing these days. If you’re tempted by the BMW badge, there’s more substance than ever.
I’d probably go as far to say you’re better off with a well-optioned sDrive18i rather than spending up for the xDrive20i, unless perhaps you can wait for the all-electric iX1 that’s due to lob in the coming months.
However that’s not to say it’s perfect. The sDrive18i offers decent performance but is outgunned by numerous rivals in this price bracket, and the iDrive Operating System 8.0 seems like a step back from OS7.0 in usability, largely due to its more touch-focused cabin controls and more complicated menu structure.
All told, however, this is a very impressive effort that should no doubt see the X1 return to top-seller status in its segment in Australia – supply allowing.
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