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2023 BMW X1 First Drive Review

BMW’s entry-level crossover gets refined styling and tech from the bigger more expensive models.

By Dan Heyman Wheels.ca

Nov 7, 2022 5 min. read

Article was updated a month ago

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Rancho Mirage, CA -- The BMW X1 is getting updated for 2023, bringing more style, more space inside, and more tech to bring it up to speed with the latest and greatest in BMW’s line-up.

Indeed, it was time. I’ve always liked the X1 – I liked how it brought the styling of a sporty wagon with the elevated ride height and practicality of a crossover in a way that the ultra hot-selling X3 never could. I liked how I could get a practical, affordable BMW without the stigma of driving a vehicle that everyone else had.

Not to mention the X1’s base MSRP of $48,725 will save you in and around 10 grand over the base price of an X3 but makes almost as much power and for 2023, actually makes more torque than the 2022 X3 xDrive28i. That model won’t be available for 2023 – only the six-cylinder X3M Competition, xDrive30e and xDrive30i models will be available – and the X2 is also gone from Canada, so if you want some peppy and fuel-efficient four-cylinder turbo power from your compact BMW crossover, then the X1 will be your only choice.

For 2023, the X1 makes 241 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque and my-oh-my, does it ever look good while doing so.

2023 BMW X1

The headlights get a new design, the kidney grille is even more pronounced than previous and the black trim that runs along the rocker panels, over the wheels and down on to the lower splitter coupled with the silver wing mirrors and other inserts elevate the X1’s appearance. Add the optional two-tone 19-inch wheels on my tester (18s are standard and for the first time, you can spec 20s for the X1) and the Utah Orange paint and the X1 is full value for its redesign.

Inside, the change from 2023 is perhaps even more evident thanks to the proceedings being dominated by a curved twin display for your gauge cluster and infotainment. Not only is it curved, it’s also frameless, meaning it appears to float above the dash and provides a more airy feeling to the cockpit as a whole.

2023 BMW X1

One thing you won’t find anywhere in the cockpit on any X1 model is a gear lever or an iDrive wheel. The former has been replaced by a small switch while the latter is no longer needed because everything it used to do is now controlled either via touchscreen or “Hey, BMW” voice interaction, which comes courtesy of BMW’s new iDrive 8 infotainment system.

It’s a tiled interface, meaning you can swipe the various widgets around the display to ensure that you have your most used apps front and centre.

2023 BMW X1

It’s also here where you get to experience the optional augmented reality (AR) navigation system. Essentially what you get with AR navi is a camera that looks at the road ahead of you and displays an image on your screen. Then, as instructions come up, arrows appear on the display telling you where to turn and guiding you through once you arrive. The X1 may be a little late to the party with this tech, but that doesn’t make me appreciate it any less.

Space wise, the lack of a shift lever has opened up the front seat area, while the tall roof means rear seat headroom is way more generous than you’d think. Those with longer legs, however, will have to deal with canting their knees out for the most comfortable seating position as the second row does not slide back and forth.

Losing the shift lever does have its caveats, however; for some, those don’t extend past having somewhere to rest your hand. My guess is that more folks will bemoan the fact no shift lever also means no manual mode – sort of.

You see, on my base tester, that is the case. There are no buttons, no paddles, no nothing that allows you to swap cogs on your own, though there is an “L” slot that allows you to cycle through gears. If you spec the M Sport package, however, you do get a pair of paddles sprouting out from behind the wheel. Seems BMW figures that X1 buyers are split into two distinct groups: those that are more into the driving dynamics, and those that are more into interior space and tech and don’t give a hoot about swapping cogs themselves.

I consider myself to sit firmly in the former category – I want my German-bred crossover to drive like the Germans have always known how, and that means a responsive powertrain, precise steering and handling that sits just on this side of aggressive.

2023 BMW X1

When it comes to the powertrain, the seven-speed dual-clutch is actually quite the cracker, whether you have paddles or not. BMW says that there are actually two “sub-transmissions” within the same housing, meaning the next gear is pre-selected so changes happen that much more quickly and smoothly.

The result is a crossover that feels faster than the on-paper figures suggest. There’s precious little delay from tip-in to axle response, as the tires hook up lickety-split and have you zipping down the road in short order. Then, once you get going that fast-acting transmission takes over, doing its business with hardly any power interruption. It has the turbo engine feeling decidedly un-turbo like in all the right ways; a nice, flat torque delivery with little turbo lag.

The X1 rides higher than the 3 Series station wagon we don’t get and you do get a bit of squishiness as the body rolls through turns. It’s not something that will have rear seat passengers jammed against the belts as they slide to and fro, but you do feel it.

Part of that has to do with the fact that the steering is just so darn responsive that smaller twists of the wheel lead to more reaction from the front wheels. That means more rotation from lock, which can lead to some unexpected roll.

Learn to reign all that in, however – it doesn’t take long – and you have a cute ‘ute whose on-road reactions are anything but. This is a good-looking crossover-wagon thingy that provides both a fun drive and space enough to suit 2-3 person families – four at a push – just fine.

2023 BMW X1 xDrive28i

BODY STYLE: four-door compact luxury SUV

DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, all-wheel drive
ENGINE: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, 241 hp, 295 lb-ft of torque

FUEL ECONOMY CITY/HIGHWAY/COMBINED: 10.3/7.7/9.1 L/100 km
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

Base MSRP: $48,725

WEBSITE: BMW.ca

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