2023 BMW X1 first drive review
Imagine approaching a BMW and not being shocked by its grilles — what a time to be alive! The BMW X1 is back with a whole generational upgrade, with significant changes to the engine, platform, styling and interiors. Thankfully though, the X1’s design team don’t seem to drink the same water as the rest of them in Munich and we’ve ended up with a BMW that looks palatable. Good, in fact. Yes, the grilles are bigger, no surprise there, but their primary function is cooling, and not shock value. The rest of the X1 picks up elements from more ostentatious BMWs including the surfacing and straight lines, but manages to look handsome and well proportioned. There’s nice detailing in the taillamp and in profile you actually see the proportions of the X5. The M Sport kit that this car has delivers sportier bumpers and a smattering of M badges — who doesn’t love those? Flip up the flush door handles, step inside and....
You’ll be blown away. The interior has taken a little more than just inspiration from the likes of the iX. Which, I promise you, is no bad thing. You’ve got plenty of high end digital real estate, a floating centre console that just screams ‘I’m from the future’, expensive materials and impressive levels of equipment. I mean, massaging seats on an X1? Take my money! But seriously, it really is best-in-class when it comes to the interior. It’s not that the competition is lacking — both the GLA and the Q3 have very inviting interiors, but the X1 nails the luxury car brief better than both. It feels opulent and special. Every time you get inside, it is an occasion. It is sensible too — the seats hold you well although these aren’t proper massagers but just inflate-deflate the lumbar cushions; there are plenty of storage areas including a massive tray under the floating centre console; the Harman Kardon sound system is banging; and there’s loads of adjustability in the second row with it being fit on rails. Space at the back is impressive as well, and this is a car that you can be chauffeured around in too, if that’s more your style.
The X1 gets two engine options — a petrol and a diesel, and we’re driving the latter with the M Sport kit. The diesel should be the pick for the enthusiast because the petrol is a puny 1.5-litre three-cylinder that, at least on paper, doesn’t seem very impressive. The diesel on
the other hand is a 2-litre unit that puts out 146bhp and 360Nm. In the same breath, I also must mention that the X1 doesn’t get AWD no matter which drivetrain you pick. Mind you, both its rivals do — the Q3 gets it as standard, the GLA as an option with the diesel and AMG Sport kit. In terms of performance, it is adequately quick but you could feel the lack of AWD at
the wet hills we were driving it on — TC cut in occasionally when I was greedy with the throttle on corner exits and you’ll feel the occasional tug at the steering due to torque steer. Very un-BMW-like. Three-digit speeds are easy to reach, Sport mode certainly helps in that regard, but it doesn’t feel as quick as the competition. That said, for a diesel, it is exceptionally refined in the low to mid range. The Boost paddle (the left-hand-drive paddle when pulled for a second) is a neat touch, and puts the engine in its sportiest setting for 10 seconds, in case you need a burst of acceleration.
Dynamically, you can feel the BMW underpinnings. It felt a bit disconnected but once I put it into Sport mode and the steering weighed up, things felt a lot better. There is willingness in the chassis to be driven hard. It doesn’t mind being taken by the scruff of the neck and wrestled around – but this is all by front-wheel-drive standards. Heck, it will even cock a wheel up through tighter bends. Truth be told, it doesn’t feel as composed as we’re accustomed to with BMWs. Despite the weight, the steering feels a bit disconnected and the ride quality, on the other hand, is firm. You do feel smaller undulations in the road, potholes and bumps do travel into the cabin, and it doesn’t feel as cushy as, say, an Audi Q3. That said, the X1 feels grown up. This is something I’ve said of pretty much every SUV in this class — GLA, Q3 and now this. No longer do these feel like plus-sized hatchbacks; instead they feel like bigger, more mature SUVs. Which is, I promise you, a good thing. As for the price, at Rs 50.9 lakh, it is one of the most expensive SUVs in its class. The GLA does have a variant that costs more, but that is the diesel AWD variant — spec to spec, FWD to FWD, the X1 is pricier. But at that price, you’re getting an SUV that nails the luxury car experience. Fundamental to that experience is making you feel special, and it does that by the bucketloads.