The X1 serves as BMW’s entry point into its lineup of crossover SUVs. Now in its third generation, the X1 has become a fundamental part of its model range, reaching a point where it’s already so good, that it’s already a solid luxury crossover SUV as is, even if it’s the German luxury automaker’s most affordable model. Building on the success of past generations is this new 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18d xLine, which has received transformative upgrades to become one of the best in its segment.
From the outside, the 2023 BMW X1 looks completely different from its predecessor. Thankfully, however, BMW’s designers haven’t been tempted to fit this model with an obnoxiously large kidney grille as seen in cars like the iX and 7 Series. Combined with its classic lines, conservative shapes, and taut surfaces, the X1 doesn’t look groundbreakingly new, but it carries enough handsomeness to look distinct on the road. This is the classic BMW aesthetic we’re familiar with, but adopted for a modern era.
Since this is the sDrive18d xLine model, the aesthetic leans towards ruggedness as opposed to the sporty looks of the M Sport models that you can optionally get overseas. The xLine package adds a generous serving of satin silver trims, lovely 18-inch wheels, and in this particular model, adaptive matrix LED headlights and a new interpretation of the brand’s signature L-shaped LED taillights.
Inside, the 2023 BMW X1 adopts a very modern and minimalist interior layout that’s characterized by a floating center island where the central storage and major vehicle controls are located. The resulting aesthetic provides a very spacious and airy feeling inside the X1, and it’s helped by the two large displays measuring 10.3 inches for the instrument cluster and 10.7 inches for the iDrive 8 infotainment system. There’s also a well-designed wireless charging pad because it places your phone vertically and it comes with a nifty holder to prevent it from moving around.
Elsewhere, as with every BMW, the X1’s interior is filled with plush materials and nice synthetic leather that feels as good as the real animal-based stuff. Build quality is also extremely solid and very robust, with the dash and doors providing a feeling of heft and indestructibility.
Features and Infotainment
Moving on to those two displays, the X1 adopts a different version of iDrive 8, because while the rear-wheel drive (RWD) models come with the signature rotary knob controller, the one on the X1 is operated purely via the touch screen. I don’t mind it as much as I thought I would, but I am such a huge fan of controller-based infotainment systems, it’s something that I’d still prefer to have.
The interface is great with nice graphics and a responsive menu structure. However, not everything is great with this implementation of iDrive 8. Unsurprisingly, the new X1 has also ditched the physical controls for the air conditioning, which I always think is already a step backward. Even worse, the button for the engine start/stop system has been migrated into a set of menus. This means that turning it off requires more than a three-step process. Oh, and it always resets to its default “Activated” mode every time you start the car. Very annoying.
On the upside, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard, and both are wireless. Interestingly, with the X1 being a completely new generation vehicle, this entry-level luxury SUV comes with a degree of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) as standard, such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. Still not as comprehensive as I would like, but it’s at least a good step forward for BMW Philippines.
Space and Practicality
As with every generational change, the 2023 BMW X1 has grown in size. In fact, at around 4.5 meters long, it’s already as big as what compact crossover SUVs were a generation or two ago, though the X1 is still classified as a subcompact. Nevertheless, the increased dimensions do translate to increased interior space, being already on par with the bigger X3. Credit is also due to its front-wheel drive (FWD) architecture, which is more space-efficient compared to traditional rear-wheel drive (RWD) BMWs.
The same increase in space also translates to better cargo capacity. With 540 liters, on offer, this is 45 liters more than an equivalent Mercedes-Benz GLA. Folding down those rear seats triples the capacity to 1,600 liters, which is actually the exact same size as in the bigger X3.
As the sDrive18d nomenclature suggests, the X1 is two-wheel drive–FWD to be precise. However, the 18d moniker would suggest it has a 1.8-liter diesel, but instead, it uses a 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine that produces 150 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Oh, and from the specs I mentioned, I bet your eyebrows were already raised the moment I mentioned this is FWD.
Yes, the X1 is now an FWD crossover SUV for the past two generations, and I promise you, we’ll get into that later. But the moment you start driving this car, you’ll immediately notice how the new X1 (which now has a designation of U11) is much more well-behaved and grown up than the previous model.
The previous X1 possessed the typical German car levels of rigidity, solidity, and stability, but I found it to be not as quiet or as refined as I would like, especially compared to BMWs riding on the RWD CLAR platform. Now though, the new X1 feels very tank-like in terms of both quietness and solidity, a very pronounced improvement from the previous model and just as good already as the CLAR-based BMWs like the 3 Series and X3.
What hasn’t changed though from the previous generation is its 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine, which is not exactly a bad thing as this is one of the nicest diesel engines in the industry. It’s also quieter than before, both outside and inside, but what has not changed is how linear and punchy this engine always has been. It’s also mighty efficient, averaging in the region of 17-18 km/l during my use–as good as a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid even if the X1 isn’t a hybrid. The seven-speed dual-clutch mated to it is brilliant too, acting like a torque converter in terms of smoothness, even in stop-and-go traffic.
Now, I promised you that we’ll talk about the X1’s FWD architecture, and for the most part, the typical luxury car buyer probably won’t care. Handling remains neutral and composed, with steering that’s quick to react. I find its steering short on feedback as usual with modern BMWs, though it doesn’t feel completely numb. At least there’s still precision dialed in that you know where to point the vehicle through corners. The suspension is also well-balanced for me. It’s on the firm side, but just firm enough to provide excellent body control, wherein there are minimal vertical and swaying motions when going through bumps and through corners.
Is it sporty? Yes, it is, and with the well-tuned diesel engine and transmission, there’s fun to be had behind the wheel. However, if you’ve been accustomed to RWD BMWs, you will notice the FWD dynamics when pushed through its grip limits and when you power out of a corner too eagerly since there’s a degree of torque steer as a result of so much torque being sent to the front wheels.
Overall, the 2023 BMW X1 is mighty impressive from how much it has improved. The gap between the X1 and the X3 has never been narrower with its significantly improved refinement and stability. The tech execution is mixed for me, mainly due to the reduction of physical controls, but at least there’s now some degree of ADAS features that you usually expect in cars like these. However, hardcore BMW fans who are able to notice the nuances of an FWD and RWD architecture might find it worth it to splurge the extra P400,000 for the X3 xDrive20d Business, which now retails for P4,190,000. Nevertheless, for most people, the X1 serves as a great entry point into owning your first BMW crossover SUV.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.3 out of 5