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First drive: 2023 BMW X1. Image by BMW.

First drive: 2023 BMW X1
The new-look BMW X1 heads straight to the top of the premium compact SUV tree.


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2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport

5 5 5 5 5

The BMW X1 has already made its name as one of the front-runners at the premium end of the compact SUV market. But the Bavarian brand's rival to the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Volvo XC40 has been replaced with this new model. Offering a fresh new design and more cabin technology, it's aiming to pick up where its predecessor left off, but can it beat its established rivals?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport
Price: X1 from £33,775 (23i xDrive M Sport from £41,470)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 218hp
Torque: 320Nm
Emissions: 153-155g/km
Economy/Range: 41.5mpg
0-62mph: 7.1 seconds
Top speed: 145mph
Boot space: 500 litres


The new X1 looks significantly different to its predecessor, thanks to a fresh, modern and clean new design. Detractors might call it boxy, but we quite like the chunkier look, with its sharp edges, clean faces and (inevitably) swollen grille. However, the car's looks vary slightly depending on which version you choose. This M Sport model has sportier styling and suspension, while the xLine versions have a more rugged design with bold bumpers and skid plates.


The new X1 takes its dashboard design straight from the 2 Series Active Tourer, which means you get a clean cabin dominated by the so-called 'Curved Display'. That combines the touchscreen and digital instrument cluster in one housing that stretches across the dash, while most of the buttons (including the gear selector) can be found on the centre console. It's a modern design that matches the exterior, and build quality is as exemplary as you'd expect, but the big talking point is the touchscreen. Using BMW's latest technology, it's clear, modern and slick. But then it has to be, because it has taken on extra responsibilities. With fewer buttons on the dash, it's tasked with housing the climate control and driver assistance functions, which it does with surprising aplomb. Normally we'd be set against such an arrangement, but the BMW touchscreen is almost good enough to make it work. Almost.


To a certain extent, the X1's usefulness is determined by which version you choose. Basic, front-drive models have a 540-litre boot that's enormous by class standards, while the all-wheel-drive, mild-hybrid versions such as this have around 500 litres of cargo capacity. The electric iX1s have just 490 litres of space. That said, all will have ample room for passengers, with bags of rear cabin space, while even a 490-litre boot will be big enough for most customers.


The X1 is available with a wide range of powertrains, with a choice of petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and electric propulsion. Every one has its advantages, but it’s the most powerful 2.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol engine we’re testing here. Dubbed 23i xDrive, it teams the turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive to offer a 0-62mph time of 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 145mph. That’s ample performance in anyone’s book, and it comes with a healthy dose of refinement. The engine makes a bit of fuss at high revolutions – four-pot engines often do – but it isn’t too raucous. It isn’t too thirsty, either, managing more than 40mpg on the official economy test.

Ride & Handling

Among all the X1’s selling points, this is the most impressive. The X1 handles fabulously in any guise, but all-wheel-drive petrol options are surely the best. They feel light on their feet and inherently stable, with none of the wheelspin you get from front-drive diesels. Of course there’s a bit of body roll – what do you expect from a tall SUV? – but the sublime steering and well weighted pedals make it feel instinctive and easy to drive. Of course, the trade-off is a slightly rough ride, but that’s a minor issue because it never feels too uncomfortable or harsh – it just tells you what the wheels are doing.


X1 prices start at just under £34,000, which pays for the entry-level Sport model. That makes the BMW about £2,500 more expensive than the cheapest Audi Q3 and around £4,000 cheaper than the entry-level Mercedes-Benz GLA. In short, it’s competitively priced, given standard equipment includes two-zone climate control, a reversing camera and satellite navigation, as well as an automatic tailgate. Those who want the iX1 will get more standard kit – it’s only available in more upmarket xLine and M Sport trims – but prices start at £52,255.


Despite competing with such esteemed rivals, the X1 stands head and shoulders above its rivals. Nothing else in the segment can mix the technology, luxury, quality and driving experience so ably, and few other cars on the market – let alone in the class – are such good all-rounders. Add in the huge choice of powertrains and it makes perfect sense for almost any customer.

James Fossdyke - 31 Jan 2023

      - BMW X1 road tests
- X1 images

2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.

2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X1 23i xDrive M Sport. Image by BMW.


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