2023 BMW X1 First Drive Review: Worth the $40K Price of Entry

Entry-level luxury cars have a certain style-over-substance stigma. The sufficiently luxurious and sporty 2023 BMW X1 bucks this trend.

byChris Tsui| PUBLISHED Nov 5, 2022 6:01 PM
2023 BMW X1 First Drive Review: Worth the $40K Price of Entry
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Imagine this. You've got about $40,000 to spend on a new crossover and would like something that's a little nicer than the Toyota RAV4s your neighbors religiously buy every six years. Depending on how much you value space versus luxury, you're either looking at fully-loaded trims of something like a Mazda CX-5—or entry-level luxury rides such as the 2023 BMW X1.

Smart money would likely say to go for the nice-but-still-technically-mainstream Mazda. Forego the fancy badge in exchange for more room, more equipment, and presumably more forgiving out-of-warranty maintenance demands. But after a brief drive in the new X1, though, I wouldn't jump to sign on any of Mazda's dotted lines just yet.

BMW

2023 BMW X1 Review Specs

  • Base price (xDrive28i as tested): $39,595 ($46,795)
  • Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbo inline-four | 7-speed dual-clutch automatic | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 241 @ 4,500 to 6,500 rpm
  • Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1,500 to 4,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 3,750 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Cargo volume: 25.7 cubic feet (57.2 cubic feet with seats folded)
  • Fuel economy: 25 mpg city | 34 highway | 28 combined
  • Quick take: Looking and feeling very much like a real junior BMW, the new X1 reasserts the argument of affordable luxury over high-end mainstream.
  • Score: 7.5/10

As a design, the new X1 looks way less dowdy than its predecessors. Its creases are sharp and it comes with big wheels and interesting colors. The door handles are flush like the ones on a properly new BMW, and because the company is positioning it to be a volume seller, it isn't saddled with anything wack like a heinously large kidney grille or trickle-down XM wheels.

Easily more attractive than anything of similar price and premise from brands like Honda, Ford, or Subaru, the new X1 will likely be very popular with drivers who buy with their eyes more than anything else. And, thankfully, BMW's design team hasn't dropped the ball on the interior either.

The new X1's media preview event included ample seat time in the 2023 7 Series and i7 EV, but getting into the X1 subcompact crossover after a day and a half spent with BMW's newest flagships didn't feel bad. It was a step down, of course, but it didn't feel like a complete penalty box, either.

BMW

If I'm being honest, the cabin of the X1 mostly felt like a simplified toy version of that new 7er's cockpit. The new steering wheel, while not quite as fancy-looking, had the same switches and was functionally the same. It's got a slightly condensed version of BMW's curved-screen battle station setup running iDrive 8.

It also has something that very much caters to its young urban professional audience: a wireless charging space perfectly designed for phone storage. Placed fore of the cupholders, it lets your device sit upright so that its surely phone-addicted owners can keep an eye on it at all times. There's a big roller coaster lap bar-like thing that holds it in place and the area is extremely big, presumably to future-proof against an era in which we all carry nine-inch hologram-capable phablets.

BMW

One tech-related miss with the new X1 interior, however, is the lack of a redundant infotainment knob controller, which means the only way to control the touchscreen is, well, via the touchscreen. Not ideal when driving, if you ask me. BMW says the knob was removed because it believes the touchscreen experience is already so good, but I'm not buying it. Just admit there wasn't enough real estate/budget for it, guys. It's OK.

I only got about an hour behind the wheel of the X1, but even that was enough time to see that it's a pleasant performer. Power comes from a transverse 2.0-liter turbo-four making 241 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. It's a version of the same basic engine found in cars like the four-cylinder Toyota Supra and various JCW Minis, but in the X1, it's obviously tuned less rowdily. The sound it makes is typical turbo-four fare (a bit whiny but not completely off-putting) while zero to 60 mph is accomplished in 6.2 seconds.

All-wheel drive is standard and there's only one powertrain choice here.

BMW

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic works in the background invisibly while steering is positive for a car of this type. The ride didn't prompt any complaints, and neither did the visibility, the seats, or the power on tap. It's far from the quickest BMW out there, sure, but it's far from slow and can even feel quite peppy if this happens to be your first "nice" car. All around, it just feels like an agreeable, agile city car: comfortable, no-fuss, and even pretty fun when shown an empty, mountain road. It feels like a swankier, even more buttoned-down Mazda CX-5, and despite what brand snobs might think, that is high praise.

The 2023 X1 starts at $39,595 but, as tested, BMW's tester wore a sticker of $46,795. The key option driving this price up is the $4,200 Premium Package, which encompasses a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats, active driving assist, parking assist, Harman/Kardon audio, the wireless charger, a head-up display, parking sensors, and a surround-view camera. In other words, a bunch of features a car of this caliber and price really ought to have.

BMW

That fully-loaded CX-5 I keep talking about can be had for about $41,000, and despite the CX-5 being marginally bigger and more powerful, I actually think the BMW is worth the price premium. Whereas the CX-5 feels like an extremely well-executed example of something basic, the X1 comes off as an elementary sample of something truly premium. It drives like an entry-level BMW crossover should, and rocks a cabin and tech that haven't fallen that far from the tree of the brand's futuristic flagships. It's also just a practical urban runabout that happens to be one of the most stylish and unfussy things BMW's put out in a while.

Entry-level luxury cars like this have a certain reputation. To many, they represent buyers who are perhaps stretching themselves a bit thin to get a fancy badge that doesn't come with nearly enough car to justify those monthly payments. Think first-gen Mercedes-Benz CLA or the rebadged Prius that was the Lexus HS. The new X1 bucks this trend. No, I wouldn't necessarily call it a value hero but it's now good enough that the few grand or so it commands over something like a loaded Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, or *shudders* Subaru Forester is actually justified.

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