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Road tests

New BMW X1 xDrive23i M Sport 2022 review

In terms of tech, handling and space, this new BMW X1 has certainly hit the mark

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The new BMW X1 feels like the most contemporary compact premium SUVs from the driver’s seat, and in xDrive23i trim, it mixes strong performance with impressive economy. However, this M Sport version on the largest wheels available might be too uncomfortable for some. That aside, it’s yet another strong showing from BMW.

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This is the all-new BMW X1, the latest generation of a compact SUV that has already proven itself to be one of the key models in the German brand’s lineup. Since the first-gen version launched back in 2009, over 119,000 X1s have been bought in the UK alone, so the Mk3 - known internally and by BMW buffs by its U11 model code - has a tough act to follow. 

But with the outgoing car proving to be so popular, BMW had to strike a tricky balance between introducing something new and not completely chucking away the formula of the old model. 

The front end gets the enlarged kidney grilles that are becoming a staple of every new BMW, and they’re flanked by a pair of sharper, slimmer headlights. The flanks have been tidied up thanks to much crisper body creases and fared-in door handles, and the back gets an injection of modernism thanks to the three-dimensional effect of the LED tail lights. Wheels measure up to 20 inches in diameter. There’s certainly a familiarity to the styling, yet at the same time this X1 looks more substantial than the old car.

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That’s because it is; at 4,500mm long, it’s 53mm longer than its predecessor, while it’s also 24mm wider and 44mm taller. Track widths are up 31mm front and rear with the aim of both improving cornering stability and also giving a more imposing stance. Viewed in profile, that bluff front end suggests that this won’t be the most aerodynamic of vehicles, but BMW is claiming class leading efficiently; in all-electric iX1 trim, it boasts a slippery coefficient of drag of just 0.26.

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That growth has had benefits inside, too. It’s most noticeable in the back seats, where the X1 has plenty of knee and headroom. Beside rivals like the Mercedes GLA and the Audi Q3, the BMW has a clear edge when it comes to accommodation. The same is true in the boot; the 540-litre volume is 50 litres more than before, and just edges the Q3 by 10 litres - though the Audi’s sliding rear bench allows you more if you’re happy to sacrifice some rear leg room.

The biggest change from old to new, however, is how the cabin looks up front. The basic layout is similar to that of the latest 2 Series Active Tourer - unsurprising, given that the X1 shares the same latest iteration of the UKL architecture - and it gives the X1 a serious tech boost. The dash is dominated by a pair of gently curving displays; the one ahead of the driver prioritises driving data, while the central touchscreen deals with the infotainment functions. 

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The touchscreen itself is one of the best around. The graphics are fantastic, the menus are logical, and the loading and response times are rapid. Physical buttons inside are limited, but the on-screen temperature controls are some of the easiest of their type to use and there’s BMW’s latest voice recognition software that the brand says will serve as a further replacement. Say “hey BMW, I’m cold” and the system will recognise which of the front seat occupants made the command, and adjust their temperature accordingly. The system even learns your voice over time, making it more effective at recognising your requests.

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From launch, the X1 is available with two petrol and diesel engines. A pair of PHEV versions will join soon after, and they significantly improve on the stats of their predecessor: range goes up 77 per cent to 57 miles, charging speeds have doubled to 7.4kW, and in the most potent 30e model gets 174bhp from its motor alone (an 86 per cent increase), contributing to system output that climbs by 115bhp to 322bhp.

However, BMW expects the all-electric version to be the most popular X1. When the 313bhp iX1, complete with a 270-mile range, is released in early 2023, it’ll eventually make up 66 per cent of X1 sales throughout the model’s life. The PHEVs will add a further 14 per cent, with the four combustion options, making up only a fifth of X1 sales as a whole. 

The lineup ranges from the front-wheel drive sDrive18d and 20i which make 148bhp and 168bhp, to a pair of four wheel drive options, including the xDrive23d which makes 208bhp and a hefty 400Nm of torque. 

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We’re driving the xDrive23i here. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit makes 215bhp and is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission and mild-hybrid tech. There’s a subtle delay from that gearbox on setting off, but get past that and there’s performance to spare. The car takes 7.1 seconds to cover the 0-62mph dash, and the power arrives in a linear, constant surge. Once up to speed, the gearbox finds its wits a little more, and the way that the MHEV system cuts and reengages the four-cylinder engine is very slick. Officially it’ll achieve up to 42.2mpg, and in our hands over a wide mix of driving, around 40mpg seemed entirely possible - not bad at all considering the performance.

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It’s effective rather than exciting, but the chassis makes up for that with a little more enjoyment. For a fairly high-riding car, the X1 handles more like a regular hatchback, with a positive front end that points keenly into turns, very little body roll, and plenty of grip. The steering is quick and precise, if not loaded with feedback.

There is a downside to the keenness of the chassis though, and that’s the ride comfort. Over most surfaces, the X1 proves to be quite firm, with higher frequency bumps causing the car to jiggle about a lot. It’s not crashy, but some occupants might find it a little irritating. The X1 is fitted with adaptive dampers which can’t be adjusted by the driver. Instead, they react to the road and your driving style, and adjust their rate accordingly. On this encounter, we’d like to choose a softer option ourselves. A shame, because in terms of road and wind noise, the X1 is more refined than its closest rivals. 

It’s worth noting that our M Sport car rode on 20-inch wheels - entry level Sport models are available with 17- and 18-inch wheels, which we’d expect to take some edge off that fidgeting.

Prices for Sport trim start from £33,775 in sDrive20i form. Standard kit includes LED headlights and LED rear lights, an auto tailgate, those snazzy curved displays, cruise control and a reversing camera. The xLine trim, like-for-like, costs £2,000 more, and comes with a different design of 18-inch wheels, artificial leather, satin silver trim on the outside and aluminium effect trim inside. 

The M Sport gets a more purposeful body kit, 19-inch wheels, M Sport suspension, sports front seats, and unique interior trim and upholstery. The M Sport starts from £38,525, while the xDrive23i version driven here, before options, costs £41,470.

Model:BMW X1 xDrive23i M Sport
Price:£41,470
Engine:2.0 4cyl petrol turbo MHEV
Power/torque:215bhp/360Nm
Transmission:

Seven-speed auto, four-wheel drive

0-62mph:7.1 seconds
Top speed:145 mph
Economy:42.2mpg
CO2:154g/km
On sale:Now

Now read our review of the BMW i7...

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Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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