Despite the name shared with the rocket plane, there is little chance of confusion BMW X1 with Bell. We’re sure Chuck Yeager would appreciate luxuries like interior mood lighting and the optional 12-speaker Harmon/Kardon stereo system. In contrast to its radical experimental aircraft counterpart, the BMW X1 is a pleasant little SUV that offers an attractive entry point into the German marque’s cars. And it’s not breaking barriers or speed records – unless it falls out of the belly of a B-29.

BMW has recently been experimenting with dramatic design elements inside and out. The X1 is a more traditional offering, with sleek exteriors and a small, almost square grille – discreet next to the flared nostrils of most of BMW’s current lineup. Still BMW’s smallest SUV, the X1 has grown for this, its third iteration since its introduction in 2009. For 2023, the ute is 1.7 inches longer and taller and nearly an inch wider than last year’s all-wheel-drive equivalent. The wheelbase is 0.9 inches longer and the track width is 0.8 inches. As a result, more space in the cabin and a hint of a bulldog position.


Revamped engine and new transmission

Under the hood is a good old gas burner, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a few extra horses. (The electric version of the iX1, available in other markets but not coming here.) Changes to the combustion chamber geometry and dual injection boost the powerplant to 241 horsepower (up from 228) and 295 lb-ft of torque, and BMW says the X1 will reach 60 mph an hour in 6.2 seconds. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which replaces the previous eight-speed automatic, has a wider gear spread and allows for coasting. When you want it to be alert for gear changes, Sport mode shifts gears with more energy, and the M Sport package ($2,300) provides paddle shifters that put decision-making in the driver’s hands.

We found the transmission to be quiet and smooth in traffic and on the highway, but a little sluggish when asked to make a high-speed pass or accelerate up a hill. There is some turbo lag, and putting the X1 into sport mode can’t mask the lag. EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 mpg combined, 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, which is about 2-3 mpg better than the 2022 all-wheel drive model.

One big change for the 2023 X1 is that all-wheel drive is now standard. During light driving, the front wheels handle most of the driving duties, but any loss of traction sends power to the rear. The dynamic X1 is fun to drive, it’s happy to run through corners, and its small size makes it suitable for tight roads – and, when you’re done, tight parking spaces. Neither the steering wheel nor the brake pedal offer much feedback, but there’s enough to be sure the car will go and stop when and where it tells you to.

Style and technology of the interior

BMW addresses this in the interior design of its new models. The X1’s cockpit makes good use of texture and color to add interest to the plastic plastics. The door panels are particularly eye-catching, so pretty you might want to leave the door open for a few extra minutes so your neighbors can admire the tweed-patterned speaker grills and arched door handle. The console offers less shelf space, although it’s not easy to reach with a larger purse. The cup holders sit low and to the side, and the optional wireless charging pad folds back at a grandpa-in-a-lounger angle — a nod to those of us sneaking glances at the screen at traffic lights.

BMW X1 2023


Speaking of screens, the X1’s single curved display panel runs from the steering wheel to the center of the dashboard. The modes offer different instrument designs, while the navigation, music and phone interfaces are displayed on the right. Unfortunately, the screen is also the only way to control the climate and heated seats, and it’s a pain for the driver, even for those of us sitting far up front. The sound system can be adjusted from the steering wheel, but to turn off the heated steering wheel or adjust the air conditioning fan requires a bit of searching on the screen – never an ideal action while driving.

The seats in our sample car were optional sport seats. For a suburban SUV, they are heavily fortified. While the seating position was good and highly adjustable, the suspension was too firm for a long ride, a scenario where the bones in the back will quickly make themselves known. The rear seats are also hard, and passengers may feel that the angle of the backrest is too reclined, although the folded shape makes it easier to install a child seat. Cargo space is generous, with a side net for small items, totaling 26 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 57 when folded.

Pricing and Equipment X1

Buying the X1 should be relatively easy, as there are no alternative engine or transmission options, and the standard model comes with many of the features you’d want, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, LED cornering lights, power doors, and roof rails. The xLine package adds larger wheels and more interesting interior trim, and the sunroof is available with either the Convenience package ($1,950) or the Premium package ($4,200). Pushing the price up from the $39,595 starting point is pretty easy, and our $48,195 example still packs a lot into a small SUV. It may not be Chuck Yeager’s Glamorous Glenys, but even an experimental test pilot can use a practical speed walk when it’s time to hang up the flight suit and head home.

Technical characteristics

Technical characteristics

2023 BMW X1 xDrive28i
Vehicle type: front engine, four-wheel drive, 5-seater, 4-door station wagon

Base: $39,595

turbocharged intercooled DOHC 16-valve Miller inline-4, aluminum block and head, port and direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 inches31998 cm3
Power: 241 horsepower at 4500 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft at 1,500 rpm

7-speed dual-clutch automatic

Wheelbase: 106.0 inches
Length: 177.2 inches
Width: 72.6 inches
Height: 64.6 inches
Passenger volume: 102 feet3
Cargo volume: 26 feet3
Curb weight (C/D estimate): 3800 lbs

60 mph: 6.0 sec
1/4 mile: 14.2 sec
Top speed: 125 mph

Combined/city/highway: 28/25/34 mpg

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