BMW X1 (2023) reviewed

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BMW’s X1 has been one of BMW’s bread and butter models after the declining popularity of the 3-series and helping with the general transition into the SAV(Sports Activity Vehicle) ownership for many South Africans since its original launch in 2009. It was vitally important that when they reworked the all new X1, model code U11, they remained competitive with this third generation and kept up with the new consumer expectation of technology inside while balancing quality and price.

BMW Delivered with the completely new X1 giving it a simplified interior which causes attention to shift from the interior to all the tech and vast screen’s installed. We have been optioned with 2 engines and three trims for the local SA market and I’m sure everyone will manage to pick a combination that suites them best. Its also available with an extensive paid options list as expected from BMW.

What’s new on the outside? 

The new X1 has grown up not only in styling but in size, its now slightly larger than the previous model, growing by 53 mm in length, 24 mm in width, and 44 mm in height. With this extra Space it’s allowed for the smart guys at BMW to create more space in the cabin as well as improve the cargo-carrying capabilities. The wheelbase has been extended by 22 mm and widened by 31 mm, which helps improving the straight-line stability and cornering ability of the UKL2 platform.

The new BMW X1 leaps forward in the design department by ditching the softer lines in favour of hard, bold edges and distinct swage lines, but still staying relevant to the BMW iX design. Sharp, angular LED headlights carry the new face of BMW’s inverted L daytime running light elements and draw your attention to the large kidney grilles that, while considerably bolder than any other X1 before it,  BMW have thankfully practiced some self-control and not followed the styling on the x7!

The New X1 is available in one of tree trim options; xLine(Tested here) and M Sport trim with the latter for the less than classic BMW driver that prefers the aggressive looks, sporting gloss black grill and detailing with an aggressive front bumper with large vertical air skirts flanking the large, honeycomb central air dam and then the Signature trim being that most expensive option. The xLine trim offers a slightly more classic BMW approach with satin silver accents for a touch of class. The M Sport trim option sees the X1 fitted with a set of striking 20-inch wheels whereas the xLine wears a more sensible size.

The rear of the X1 is immediately recognisable and probably the easiest angle to distinguish between the X1 and slightly larger X3. The 3 Dimensional design LED taillights protrude inwards into the tailgate supporting the narrow rear glass while the rear diffuser element draws inspiration from the front apron and, on M Sport trims, is finished off in a more aggressive looking gloss black.

Infotainment and Connectivity

BMW has taken a simplified approach to the design of interiors lately and the X1 is no exception, we can tell they are styling it for the new iX1 its got all the feels of a modern electric car but with the ICE under the hood, this car really wants to be electric. This means that you get a future-forward approach to the cabin with the omission of the traditional gear selector, replaced instead with a toggle switch for gear selection like you would expect from an electric version.

The centre console is of the floating kind, similar to what we’ve seen on the BMW iX which means you no longer have centre console storage which is a loss for South Africa but love the  curved screen display that houses the BMW iDrive OS8, albeit without the iDrive controller – all part of the simplification process and definitely missing in action, its rather frustrating having a short cut button to select modes for example on the centre console, but then you need to go to the screen to scroll to the next one  and to select it can’t all be done in one motion or one hand position. Missed opportunity here and feels like the systems been designed for an iDrive controller.

The new X1 is also packed with a most driver assistance systems some are optional and you have a very personalization user experience or profile you can setup, the obligatory USB-C charging ports and a wireless charging system is also great.

The overall fit and finish are rather good for an entry-level offering and certainly are befitting of the premium classification that it is given, both by BMW and by the price tag. The bump in size means that you get a generous 540-litre boot, expandable to 1 600-litres when you fold the 40:20:40 rear seats flat.

Engine options

A single diesel and one petrol engine are currently on offer in the new BMW X1. Both are dubbed ’18’ followed by either an ‘i’ or a ‘d’. Both are only available in 7-speed automatic with a Steptronic dual-clutch system in play and both send power to the front wheels only.

The X1 sDrive18i is powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that produces 115 kW and 230 Nm torque while the BMW X1 sDrive18d employs a 4-cylinder turbodiesel of 2.0-litre capacity. The output from this unit is 110 kW but the 360 Nm makes this the preferred engine in my opinion. The petrol offering feels good but might need little extra power in certain circumstances the diesel is definitely the better performer.

The drive

I’ve mentioned that the X1 sDrive18i feels good, its got sufficient power for a daily driver and I can’t see at any stage one would need more power commuting while the diesel is the preferred option for many I’m sure, the extra torque and fuel saving will always be in favour, but my bigger revelation is that the xLine trim is the one that drives as a daily, better. The large 20-inch run flat wheels of the M Sport package have a tendency to track and tramline on roads that are less than ideal (which means most roads in South Africa) and the secondary ride feedback is a little more pronounced. It’s not a deal breaker, either of those observations, but something to keep in mind. The smaller wheel and tyres on the xLine derivative iron out all of these issues. so it comes done to Styling, or Comfort on the trim Levels.


Five-year/100 000 km


With two engine options and tree trim lines to choose from, you get four models in total. Here’s how much they cost before options.

Model Price
BMW X1 sDrive18i xLine R780 000.00
BMW X1 sDrive18d xLine R815 117.00
BMW X1 sDrive18i M Sport R793 046.00
BMW X1 sDrive18d Signature R900 817.00
Review Overview
  • Driving experience
  • Exterior styling
  • Interior look and feel
  • Technology and connectivity
  • Family friendliness
  • Value for money


The overall fit, finish and execution of the new BMW X1 is an amazing product. It feels bespoke and not a mix-and-match of a parts bin. This makes it feel like a model that stands on its own two feet (or four tyres rather) and genuinely welcomes you into the brand. The interior is cosy but spacious and well-suited for family use. The onboard Tech is enough to keep everyone happy but easy enough to use for all ages. The styling is attractive and the engine options and execution of all driver systems are rather well-considered and well-executed.

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