BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Advertisement feature
View the latest news
Car Review

BMW X1 review

£27,390 - £49,695
Published: 28 Mar 2023
BMW’s littlest SUV is no longer so little, but is hampered by its interior tech and combustion engines. iX1 is the pick of the bunch

Good stuff

Punchy electric version, cabin quality and space, practicality

Bad stuff

Worsened interior tech, coarse petrol engines, occasionally dopey gearbox


What is it?

It’s BMW’s littlest SUV. Only it’s no longer quite so little. Just like a 3 Series fills the footprint vacated by an old 5 Series, the X1 now nudges the dimensions of the original X3.

But for once we’re going to suggest that growth is a good thing. The first generation of X1 looked somewhat awkward, BMW design language applied to a car not really possessing the correct proportions. The second-gen car offered a big improvement, but now this Mk3 is a genuinely good-looking car. Y’know, as SUVs go.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Perhaps there’s a hint of Skoda Kodiaq to its rear three-quarters, but that’s clearly not intended as criticism. Especially given some of the consternation caused by recent BMW designs. This toes the line much better.

What’s beneath the skin?

It’s available with petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions. Which seems quite a tall order for its production line in Regensburg – where the legendary E30 3 Series was born – which has been primed to handle all four powertrains in whichever order they happen to whirr robotically through the factory. Crikey.

While it’ll give the factory bosses a headache, it’ll ease those in BMW’s financial offices; keeping all four powertrains on the same line helps make X1 production flexible to market demand, which will surely fluctuate – perhaps wildly – as different countries (and their car buyers) try to get a handle on energy prices, upcoming emissions regulations and how to somehow balance the two. For now, BMW predicts 41 per cent of X1s sold worldwide will be pure petrol and 31 per cent pure electric, with the remainder split pretty evenly between PHEV and diesel.

Speaking of sales, the X1 is a popular old thing, nearly three million of them finding homes since its 2009 launch. It faces off against the likes of the Audi Q2, Mercedes GLA, Lexus UX, Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC40.

Advertisement - Page continues below

What are those powertrains, then?

You’ve seven to choose from. Kicking things off at £34,340 is the sDrive20i Sport, which offers 168bhp, a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds and 47.1mpg. Above that sits the 205bhp xDrive23i, which offers similar fuel economy claims despite adding four-wheel-drive to the bargain.

The first pure diesel option comes in the shape of the shape of the sDrive18d, which translates roughly as ‘slowish front-driven diesel’, though 148bhp and 8.9 seconds to 62mph aren’t exactly terrible. And its claimed 56.5mpg is the very opposite of terrible. Above that sits the 208bhp xDrive23d, with a 0-62mph time one and a half seconds quicker and identical economy.

Both plug-in hybrids - the 25e and 30e - are also 4WD and claim up to 56 miles of electric-only range. The most powerful offers 322bhp and covers off 0-62mph in a hot hatch-like 5.7 seconds.

That only makes six...

Hold on, we’re getting there: your sole electric choice is the iX1 xDrive30 (that’s the one in green you see pictured at the end of the gallery above). It uses a motor at each axle, pairing 309bhp peak output with a 64.7kWh battery, and while it favours the front motor for economy, it can accelerate with the vivaciousness of the best EVs when both put down their power. BMW claims 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds, up to 270 miles from a charge, and a starting price of £53,295. Whisper it quietly, but it's the best of the lot.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

There’s no doubt the X1 is let down by its interior tech, chassis and combustion engines... it's really the iX1 that saves the day

The X1’s biggest strengths undoubtedly lie in the looks, build and roominess of its cabin, but there’s no doubt that it’s let down by its interior tech, chassis and combustion engines, which feels like a disappointing state of affairs.

And it’s really the iX1 that saves the day, thanks to its swish and accomplished electric powertrain. Without it, the broader X1 range might struggle to stick its head above the crowded pack of small SUVs on offer.

The Rivals

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine