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Awards

Small Premium SUV of the Year 2023: BMW X1

The BMW X1 is the Auto Express 2023 Small Premium SUV of the Year with the Cupra Formentor and Mercedes GLA commended

It’s not as if the Small Premium SUV class has been short on competition this year, with newcomers such as the stylish Alfa Romeo Tonale joining the ever-appealing Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque – not to mention last year’s winner in this category, the Mercedes GLA. But the brand-new BMW X1 still stood head and shoulders above the competition
to take the award for 2023.

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The third generation of Munich’s most compact SUV demonstrated to our judges just what an incredible range of talents it has. Whether you’re looking for a modest petrol or diesel engine, one of two plug-in hybrid variants – each of which can cover a staggering 50-plus miles between charges – or even the all-electric iX1, there really is something for everyone here.

Whichever model you choose, performance is strong, and the X1’s handling is the sharpest and most engaging in the segment. Gone are the days where choosing an SUV forced you to sacrifice driving fun.

The X1 in all forms benefits from one of the most spacious cabins in the segment – interior room is much improved over its predecessor, and the boot capacity, at 540 litres for combustion models, is well clear of its rivals. It also gets the best infotainment tech; BMW’s latest iDrive system looks beautiful and loads quickly but, most importantly, is still one of the simplest and most user-friendly systems around.

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There’s never any guarantee that a newcomer will jump straight to the top of its class, but with the X1 BMW has delivered such a strong overall package that – even in this hotly contested class – it looks set to be competitive for some time to come.

Our choice

BMW X1 sDrive20i xLine (£36,325)

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A firm ride is one of the few small chinks in the X1’s armour, but you can mitigate this by going for xLine trim. Its set-up is much easier to live with than that of the harder M Sport variants. For private buyers, the mild-hybrid sDrive20i makes the most financial sense.

Commended

Cupra Formentor

The Formentor holds onto its commended award in this category once again this year. The tried-and-tested VW Group mechanicals are clothed in one of the most attractive bodies in the class. Overall, it makes for a deeply appealing and slightly left-field package.

Mercedes GLA

While the GLA has had to concede the winner’s spot to the X1 in 2023, there’s still plenty to like about Merc’s baby SUV. The choice of powertrains is almost as wide as with the BMW, the GLA’s in-car tech runs its German rival’s close, and the car’s residual values are excellent.

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You’ll find all the information on our New Car Awards 2023 winners and the reasons why we chose them on these pages. Just follow the links below to read more…

New Car Awards 2023: the winners

Stay right up to date with the latest from the world of cars in 2023 and beyond, follow Auto Express on social media...

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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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