BMW X1 xDrive23i M Sport Premier

BMW X1 xDrive23i front dynamic
All-new ‘baby’ BMW SUV isn’t that small or that affordable, but it’s impressively spacious and classier than ever

The all-new third-generation BMW X1 has grown a bit over its popular predecessor.Only by 53mm in length, 44mm in height and 22mm in wheelbase, but that still means the ‘baby’ BMW SUV is now 4.5m long. Which is only about 60mm shorter than the Mk1 BMW X3, in case you were wondering…Anyway, this class is the default family car for huge swathes of car buyers, and bigger will be better in many people’s books. Underneath is the new UKL platform that we’ve seen so far in only the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.The X1 is available with a range of mild-hybrid engines, running from a 2.0-litre three-cylinder diesel in the front-wheel-drive sDrive18d to 2.0-litre four-cylinders in the 23d- and 23ixDrive. Two plug-in hybrids offer a choice of power outputs and up to 55 miles of electric running, courtesy of new, fifth-generation PHEV technology and a 14.2kWh battery. The electric iX1 tops the range.Prices run from £36,225 up to £43,235 for the mild hybrids, with the xDrive23i coming in towards the top-end of that price range. That’s a touch more than you’ll pay for an equivalent Audi Q3, for instance, but still competitive with the class overall.Thankfully, the X1 does feel grown-up and plush enough to justify that price fairly easily, but we’ll come back to that in a minute. What of the 23i’s drive? Is it the enthusiast’s choice of compact family SUV? With it being a BMW, and the most powerful non-plug-in option in the X1 range, thanks to the 215bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, it’s easy to see why you might be hoping so.You might be a touch disappointed, though. It’s not for want of a bit of fizz, that’s for sure. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (which has 201bhp without any electric aid) has 90% new components, not least of which is the fifth-generation 48V mild-hybrid tech that now integrates the 19bhp electric motor into a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.Give it Sport mode and a good road and the engine spools up quickly, pulling heartily right up to 6000rpm. There’s even a Boost function, which you can’t miss due to the Marvel-style ‘BOOST’ complete with red accent line on the gearshift paddle. We’re hoping for a ‘POW’ in a yellow starburst on the other one for the facelift, perhaps delivering a boost function for the boost function.The boost function is a touch incongruous and certainly unnecessary in a family SUV that’s hardly slow anyway and, in almost every other respect, has its strengths in executive slickness and exacting, high-class finish. Hey, maybe it’s childish, but it is fun, and the kids will love the very noticeable additional surge of power that it delivers even more than you do.Perhaps more likely to be useful in routine use is the efficiency aspect of the 48V mild-hybrid system, which will decouple the engine if you’ve been coasting in one of the less intense drive modes.Even if you jump back on the throttle quite suddenly, you barely feel any shunt or hesitation as it re-engages, helping to make the X1 feel smooth and responsive however you’re driving it. It’ll even pull away or manoeuvre around for a few moments in electric-only mode, such is the available power from the mild-hybrid system.All of this, of course, is facilitated by a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that does a very fine job of being in the right ratio at the tight time, or responds swiftly to a flick of the paddles if you want full control. Given all of that, it’s a shame that the engine sounds coarse at higher revs so doesn’t really encourage spirited use and the handling is similarly fit for purpose but a touch uninspiring.With steering that’s short on texture and feedback, if predictable and well weighted, you have confidence but don’t feel terribly connected or encouraged regardless of which mode you’re in.Body control is decent, though, and you can feel the xDrive four-wheel drive shuffling power to the rear wheels and delivering a sharper, more enjoyable turn-in than you get with most family SUV alternatives.M Sport cars, like our test car, get adaptive dampers as standard, and on 19in wheels, it is comfortable most of the time, although it’s unsettled by mid-corner intrusions and can be a bit smoother over sharp-edged potholes around town.While it’s not fantastically engaging to drive, then, this still has a bit more vim and responsiveness than most small-ish SUVs. Just bear in mind that – if you really want the ideal enthusiast’s family car and are not wedded to the idea of an SUV – a 3 Series Tourer remains a more fluid and engaging drive.Arguably the biggest strength in the X1 is its cabin finish and versatility. The rear seats slide 13cm fore and aft in a 60/40 split, while the seat backs recline or fold flat in a 40/20/40 split, and there’s plenty of leg and head room for a couple of six-footers to slouch in comfort.Hard plastic backing on the front seats is a pleasantly practical, wipe-clean feature that parents of small kids will really appreciate, too. A 500-litre boot is a good size and shape, with a fairly low load lip and a load bay that’s big enough to take a chunky double buggy if you need it to. It’s properly comfy and useful in there, and that’s what a family SUV should be about, after all.Up front, the cabin has reached new heights of premium finish. From the frameless, curved touchscreen complete with 14.9in touchscreen and the latest Operating System 8 to the dense-feeling materials and smart, modern architecture, it’s a masterclass in executive interior design.There’s no iDrive rotary controller for the infotainment system in the X1, but the system is still easy enough to use and the graphics are second to none. With wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now standard across the X1 range, the raft of native features, including excellent sat-nav, split-screen function and more, are probably redundant anyway.Overall, then, the X1 has strong competition with the likes of the Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA and Lexus NX on its back. Despite that, interior finish is about as good as it gets in this class and practicality is hard to fault. It’s perfectly nice to drive rather than being notably fun or even exceptionally comfortable, but every other aspect of the X1 is right up there.
Source: Autocar

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