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Auto review: A return to form for the 2023 BMW X1

Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

As an identical twin, I often get mistaken for my brother. It’s something that twins get used to.

I bet that if the 2023 BMW X1 could speak, it would say that it’s often mistaken for 2003 BMW X3. After all, the new X1 is about the same size as its forebear, being 2.7 inches shorter and the same width, yet able to schlep an additional 8 cubic feet of lifestyle debris while generating an extra 9 horsepower and 74 pound-feet of torque.

Yet it’s always outsold by the X3 and X5, a factor not helped by the previous model’s Mini Countryman platform, rendering it front-wheel-biased. The initial X1 had used a 3 Series, rear-wheel-drive biased platform. For 2023, BMW is offering it in one configuration, with standard all-wheel drive.

Now in its third generation, the 2023 BMW X1 competes in a popular segment filled with worthy competitors, including the Audi Q3, Cadillac XT4, Lexus UX, Lincoln Corsair, Mercedes-Benz GLA/GLB and the Volvo XC40.

The redesigned X1 doesn’t break any ground stylistically. Its wardrobe has some of the slab-sided angularity that recalls BMW’s larger SUVs, but it is more tastefully executed. It’s capped by a squared-off rendition of the brand’s iconic double kidney grille that’s placed relentless upright — which, along with the X1’s short yet tall dimensions, lends it a pugnacious, bulldog-like stance, endowing it with more character than the second gen model.

Opening the front doors reveals the best interior ever fitted to an X1, one that feels starkly contemporary and luxurious thanks to its fully digital instrument panel, herringbone patterned audio system speakers, ambient lighting and aluminum trim. The cabin is larger than ever, thanks to being 1.7 inches longer, 0.9 inches wide and 1.7 inches taller for 2023. Head and legroom are generous considering its size, as is cargo space at more than 25 cubic feet. The center console features a large open area for stashing purses or messenger bags, but it means that the center console bin is too shallow to hold anything useful. A horizontal phone charger holds your smart upright so you can view it, a thoughtful design.


The test vehicle was fitted with the optional $2,300 M Sport package, which adds an M leather steering wheel with transmission shift paddles, sport seats and aluminum trim. It also came with a $4,200 Premium package, which adds the sort of luxury touches you’d expect, like auto-dimming mirrors, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and more. A standard curved 10.7-inch touchscreen houses the climate and infotainment controls, and proves easy to use thanks to the absence of a controller knob. A Bluetooth interface, four USB-C ports and a 12V power outlet are standard.

But the best part comes once it’s time to drive.

There’s one driveline, consisting of a new Miller Cycle 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual clutch transmission rated at 241 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It reaches 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, although it feels faster than that, while delivering fuel economy of 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 28 mpg in combined driving. A mixed driving loop of 80% highway, 20% city driving returned an impressive 30 mpg.

Aside from the interior upgrades, the M Sport package also brings with it an adaptive M sport-tuned suspension, unique wheels and exterior tweaks. It also adds a Sport Boost, which is activated by pulling the left shift paddle for more than one second. It responds by maximizing the powertrain and chassis settings to their sportiest and quickest response


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