Weekend Wheels: 2023 BMW X1 xDrive28i

Raise your hands for those of you who even knew that BMW had an X1 in its SUV wardrobe. The X3, of course; it’s BMW’s best-selling sport-ute. Close behind is the bigger, beefier X5. 

But since its arrival on this good earth back in 2009, the entry X1 has always lived under the shadow of the ‘3’ and struggled to find its own identity.

That’s all about to change. BMW has finally woken up to the importance of offering a first-rung on its SUV ladder worthy of the spinning-propellor badge; an entry SUV that stands tall above the competition. 

Say “hello” to the 2023 X1. It’s bigger, more handsome, more powerful, has all-wheel drive as standard, is more of a blast to drive, and has a truly awesome curved glass dashboard. 

And did I mention that the base price of this mightily-improved and nicely-equipped 2023 X1 kicks off at a highly-appealing $39,595, including destination? 

Load on the options, like those on our stunning Portimao Blue Metallic tester, and you can barely break the $50-grand mark. 

And for that you get the must-have M Sport Package ($2,300) that includes paddle shifters, grippy sports seats, adaptive suspension, an M steering wheel, plus 20-inch wheels ($1,200).  

This is one terrific-looking BMW in an almost old-school way. Yes, the swollen kidney grilles still look pretty swollen, though not in a terminal way like those on the flagship X7.

It’s also a tad bigger than the previous X1 – 1.7 inches longer, around an inch wider, and 1.7 inches taller. This means more space inside for five, and 26 cubic feet of luggage space behind the split-folding rear seats, and 57 cu. ft. with them folded. 

Talking of inside, the wow factor here is BMW’s Curved Display, a gently-arching sheet of floating glass that runs from behind the steering wheel to the center of the dash. It incorporates a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.7-inch multimedia screen. 

Gaze in wonder at its crisp, bright, high-rez graphics and easy-to-read navigation maps. It runs on BMW’s latest iDrive 8 operating system and includes “Hey BMW” voice commands. 

Under the hood is BMW’s trusty turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s uprated for this newest X1. Max power is now a healthy 241 horsepower with 295 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to zip you from a standstill to 60mph in just 6.2 seconds.

One big powertrain change is the switch from an eight-speed automatic to a swifter-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch auto, with the option of D-I-Y paddle shifters.

On the road, it feels like a rejuvenated, more alive, more fun-to-drive X1. It’s as if the previous version got a case of 5-hour Energy Extra Strength dumped in its tank.

Yes, there’s a bit of turbo lag, or hesitation, off the line, or when pulling out to pass slower traffic. But engaging Sport mode livens things up, as does pulling back on the paddle shifter.

The new X1’s slightly wider stance, the standard xDrive all-wheel drive, -nicely-precise steering, and wider rubber at each corner, all help increase the compact sport ute’s fun-to-drive quota. 

Being smaller than the X3, and a lot smaller than the X5, also makes the X1 easier to maneuver on narrow roads, and a breeze to zip into tight parking spaces. 

My only complaint was the too firm, too brittle ride, though that may have been down to the optional 20-inch wheels and tires. The 19s may be a better bet.

The redesigned cabin, however, is a big step up in terms of style, quality and fit and finish. The perforated SensaTec animal-free pleather upholstery looks and feels terrific, while the nicely-stitched, leather-like dash covering looks really high-quality. 

For now there’s only one X1 on offer, which is the X1 xDrive28i – in Europe, there’s an all-electric iX1, but alas it’s not coming here. 

But maybe for the first time in the X1’s history, this new “1” is definitely the one to have.