2023 BMW X1

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BMW used to offer the X1, the company’s smallest (and most affordable) crossover in two versions, one front-wheel-drive and the other all-wheel-drive (which BMW markets as xDrive). 

For 2023, the X1 comes in just one version – with AWD standard. 

It also comes standard with more power and slightly better gas mileage. 

Of course, it comes with something else for just those reasons. That being a higher base price. However, its price is still lower than that of its main rival, the Mercedes GLB250 – which doesn’t come standard with AWD but does come standard with less power.

Another possible cross-shop, the Audi A3, comes standard with a lower base price – and standard AWD. But it also comes standard with about 60 less horsepower.

What It Is

The X1 is, per the above, BMW’s smallest crossover as well as its entry-level crossover. 

BMW used to offer it in front-wheel-drive (which was marketed as sDrive) and well as xDrive (all-wheel-drive) but has changed that up for the new model year.

The 2023 X1 now comes on just one version, the $38,600 xDrive28i. 

Its main rival, the Benz GLB250 – stickers for $39,800 to start, without AWD (which Benz markets as 4Matic). Equipped with the optional 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, the Mercedes stickers for $41,800.

What’s New for 2023

In addition to standard AWD – and more standard power – the 2023 X1 otself has been updated with a new exterior and exterior and offers new features and amenities that include an updated iDrive interface, which is now operated by touchscreen rather than the previous rotary knob controller. A full-width digital/flatscreen instrument cluster is also standard, as well as configurable ambient interior lighting that can be made to shift colors in time with whatever music you’re listening to. 

What’s Good

Lower price buys you more power and better performance – relative to Benz GLB.

Though compact in size, the X1 is roomy inside. 

Quick and agile.

What’s Not So Good

If you don’t want AWD you still pay extra for it.

GLB is available with third row seating.

Heated seats are optional.

Under The Hood

The X1’s standard – and only – engine is a 2.0 liter turbo’d four – as before. But there are some differences this year.

The first is more power. For 2023, the engine has been up-rated to 241 horsepower (vs. 228 last year). This is good because it compensates for the ’23’s being about 200 pounds heavier than the ’22 – almost all of that being due to the other difference, that being the ’23 comes standard with AWD while the ’22 offered it.

The AWD-equipped ’23’s curb weight is 3,750 lbs. vs. 3,554 for the Sdrive (i.e., front-wheel-drive) ’22 X1.

Also new is the ’23’s standard – and only available – transmission. The previous eight speed automatic has been retired in favor of seven speed automatic, which has one less gear but shifts faster, being a dual-clutch automatic.

The net result is about the same – zero to 60 in 5.4 seconds and 25 city, 34 highway (vs. 24 city, 33 highway for the ’22 X1).

One other thing that’s different is the X1’s standard ground clearance, which rises to 8.1 inches (last year it was 7.2 inches).

The X1’s main rival – the Benz GLB – also comes standard with a 2.0 liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine, but it only makes 221 horsepower. Also, the Benz weighs 3,638 lbs. without its optional 4Matic AWD system. With AWD, the curb weight of this small Mercedes rises to 3,759 lbs. – making it slightly heavier than the AWD-equipped BMW but shy the 20 extra horsepower the BMW has to make . . . light of it.

No surprises, it’s not as quick as the X1. The Benz takes a bit more than six seconds to get to 60, which is a difference you can feel (as opposed to a tenth or two’s difference, which you need a stopwatch to know).

The GLB is also noticeably thirstier than its more powerful, better-performing rival. The 4Matic (AWD) model carries an EPA rating of 22 city, 30 highway.

Speaking of gas mileage . . .

There is another small, luxury-brand crossover that you might want to check out if you’d like to get gas mileage that’s not just noticeably better but a lot better than either of these two.

The Lexus UX250h – the same sounds like the moniker for Elon Musk’s AI Fembot, but never mind that – can travel 43 miles per gallon in the city and 41 on the highway. It can do that because it’s a hybrid. The price you pay for that is not having 241 (or even 221) horsepower. Instead, there’s all of 181 horsepower – and it won’t get you to 60 in just over five or six seconds.

But it will take you farther on less.

On The Road

It is said that it is hard to tell one crossover from another. This is true, if all you’re doing is looking.

This little BMW may not look much different from other small crossovers – indeed, many non-luxury-brand small crossovers seem to be trying hard to look like it – but when you drive it you will feel the difference. Most small crossovers take 7-8 seconds to get to 60. What you’re paying for here is the ability to get there a lot more quickly.

This isn’t just about that, either.

It’s about having the surplus scoot on tap to deal easily with traffic scenarios that are not as easy to deal with when you’re driving something that lacks it. For example, pulling into and merging with fast-moving traffic from a side road. Or taking advantage of an opening in traffic, as to get around someone in the left lane who won’t move over to the right lane. You can exploit more opportunities, more easily, in this BMW than you can in small crossovers with less scoot on tap.

The X1’s responsiveness is also noticeably sharper, which is surely due to the very quick gear-changing action of the new seven speed dual clutch automatic. These transmissions reduce the overlap in between gear changes vs. a traditional automatic which serves almost like a shift kit did, back in the day – for those who remember those days. The difference between then and now being these extremely quick shifts are not accompanied by the neck-jerking snap that you got when installed a shift kit back in the day.

It also corners very crisply, especially for a crossover with 8.1 inches of ground clearance. The tires begin to squeal before the body begins to roll – and you need to be really rolling for the tires to squeal.

A not-well-publicized secret about new cars, generally – and new crossovers, too – is that their cornering stability is as good or better than that of sports cars from back in the days when a zero to 60 time in the 5 second range qualified a V8 performance car as “quick.” If you can drive, you will be able to out-drive almost anyone in almost anything else in something like this – because so few people do know how to drive. They can go fast in a straight line, which is as easy to do as fart in your sleep. But when the road curves most almost invariably slow down. Not because the car they’re driving isn’t capable of going fast in the curves – but because they aren’t.

This little BMW would be a lot more  fun, however, if it offered a manual transmission. Not for any objective reason – but that’s just the point about fun. It isn’t objective. But you know it when you’ve had it.

At The Curb

The X1 is small but it just got a little bigger. Well, a little longer. It is now 177.2 inches end-to-end, vs.175.5 last year.

It’s still small, though.  Well, short.

To give you a sense of  that, the X1 is about half a foot shorter, end-to-end, than a Honda Civic sedan, which is 184 inches long.

And the Civic is a compact-sized sedan.

But there is much more space inside the BMW, which has 57.2 cubic feet of potential room available for cargo with its back seats folded down and still has 25.7 cubic feet of it with them in place – as opposed to 14.8 (and that’s all you get) in the Civic’s trunk. The point being that a small crossover – even one smaller than a compact-sized car – can serve as a family’s main car, by dint of having space for a family’s stuff. The Civic is a fine car. But it is a commuter car or a single/childless person’s car. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it is the reason why cars, as a class, are giving way to crossovers, as a class.

You literally get more for your money.

In this regard, the GLB gives – or offers – one thing the BMW does not. That being an available third row. The catch is it eats up almost all the space for cargo and it’s barely usable for small kids. But it is available, which is very hard to find in this class.

Styling-wise, the X1 is generically handsome. The exterior cosmetic changes are many but minor, with the overall shape now a little more angular looking than before. But you have to park the ’23 side-by-side the ’22 for the differences to really stand out.

The big drama is inside.

The analog gauges of last year are gone and a new full-panel LCD touchscreen is in. It is basically two displays on the same sheet. To the left, a configurable instrument cluster (you can change the appearance and readouts according to three different themes, Personal, Sport and Efficient) and to the right, another that displays the menus for the numerous apps/vehicle systems. There is still a thumbwheel controller for the audio system’s volume, which is wonderful because you can operate it by feel rather than sight. But pretty much everything else – including tuning, the heater/AC/fan controls – has to be operated by tapping the touchscreen.

There is a very large storage area underneath the floating center center console/armrest; however, it’s not covered. There is a flip-open storage compartment built into the top of the floating armrest, but it’s very shallow.

Even though this is BMW’s entry-level crossover, it is still a BMW – and so it’s available with features not yet available in non-luxury-badged small crossovers, such as a Drive Recorder that works kind of like a built-in Go-Pro; it could prove super-handy to have if the guy ahead of you brake-checks you and causes an accident and claims you caused it.

There isn’t – yet an X1 M – with a hopped-up drivetrain (Benz does offer an AMG version of the GLB) but you can get the X1 with an M Sport Package that includes an adaptive suspension, sport seats and flat-bottomed sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, plus a choice of M- specific wheel/tire combos, too.

The Rest

One thing this BMW lacks may surprise you – given this is a BMW.  It is that heated seats aren’t standard. They are a $500 option. This is pretty unusual in that most new cars that cost even $25,000 generally come standard with seat heaters now. And this BMW is an almost $40,000 car – before you pay the $500 for the seat heaters.

On the other hand, some people don’t want seat heaters – or having to pay for them (when their price is folded into the cost of the vehicle with them included as standard equipment). So, here you don’t – which saves you $500.

And that brings up what is probably the X1’s strongest suit – relative to its chief rival, the Benz GLB, which is that you’ll save $3,200 by choosing the BMW over the Mercedes. That’s AWD- vs.-AWD, of course. But even if you compare the cost of the less expensive, FWD version of the Benz – the GLB250 – you’ll still save $1,200 and you’ll get 20 more horsepower on top of it.

The Bottom Line

It’s not easy to make a crossover look like it stands out from the crowd – but a more attractive price for more standard equipment and power can serve the same purpose.

. . .

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3 COMMENTS

  1. What is with these SUVs being 7 (and now 8+) inches off the ground?! Looks stupid and rarely makes handling any better. That was always my beef with the Audi Allroad (A4 or A6) versus the Avant — well that and the hideous “ruggedized” trim. Same thing now with the last couple/few years of Benz E-wagons.

    I think you meant that the X1 is comparable to the Audi Q3. Though I’m through with Audi, I will say that’s the only Q that I didn’t hate. I was given Q3, Q5 and even Q7 as loaner cars and absolutely hated them all except the Q3 which, although VERY small inside, is pretty fun to drive. TBF, I never drove the Q8 or any of the SQ or RSQ but I doubt that I would like those either. Other than Q3 all the Q’s are lumbering boats best suited for moms to drive kids to soccer practice or get groceries, etc.

    I think BMW *anything* is a better drive than the equivalent Audi — based on my limited exposure to them via friends that have owned them.

    Off topic, but slightly related, today in Audi spam email, they’re offering “a savings of at least $19,000” and in some cases more than $20,000 “combined savings” on a e-tron lease.

    That reeks of desperation IMO. For years, they’ve sent me offers of “here’s an AMAZING $500 off when you upgrade your A8 to a new A8!” Sometimes, but rarely, they had a special loyalty deal where they offered around $1000 (maybe $2K).

    I half expected this X1 review to be talking about “mild hybrid” or full EV. Glad that’s not the case and I have a feeling Audi’s desperation has something to do with “mobility leadership”. Good to see BMW not completely folding.

    I wish they never stopped selling their 500-series wagons. If I could afford it, that’d be way cooler than an Avant.

    • Also, I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the Benz GLA. TBH, I can’t figure out the real differences (that matter) between the GLA vs GLB other than exterior styling. If I wanted a small super nice SUV, with every feature imaginable (e.g., self-parking, and every feature you’ve ever heard of), the GLA would be high up on my list.

      GLA/GLB, X1 or Q3 is way too small (cargo wise) to be practical for me. I’d need something at least GLC size and preferably GLE. I’m not sure of the BMW equivalents but I’ve seen them around.

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