BMW X1 xDrive28i — Great shape and livable room

Photos by Dan Scanlan

By Dan Scanlan

(January 22, 2023) In the 1990s, just say “BMW,” and car geeks would probably think of the light, tight 328i with its 190-hp inline six-cylinder engine, neat 6-speed manual, rear wheel drive and decent room for four, all in a compact 176-inch-long shape. These days, the light, tight BMW many may think about may not be a sedan labeled 3-Series.

It just might be something about the same size – this 177.1-inch-long compact crossover X1 in its redesigned third-generation skin and 2-liter TwinPower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine driving all four wheels. It also has room for four — plus a hatchback.

Let me correct myself — this is a Sports Activity Vehicle. And for 2023, it gets a slightly edgier and bolder take on a design that grows 1.7-inches in length and 1.7 inches (64.6) in height on a .9-inch longer (106-inch) wheelbase.

Yes, like many of the latest BMWs, the twin-kidney grill has grown a bit more prominent. But its large, “almost square” design — BMW’s words, not mine — stands a bit more upright with floating silver bars. Under it, a black bumper bar and more aggressive lower honeycomb intake, flanked by wider MSport side scoops with air curtains in outer front aprons that flow air around front rubber to smooth passage. The body has a fairly slick .27 coefficient of drag, aided by active air flaps in grille and lower intake.

Inside, changes for’23 are more radical, yet simplified in function for the most part, still hewing to the usually subtle BMW black-over-tan color scheme with aluminum Hexacube alloy accents. A funky BMW puddle light glows on nighttime entry. And dig the harmon-kardon door stereo speaker grills in checkerboard aluminum.

Analog has been banished inside, as have many physical controls. Instead, an almost 21-inch-wide digital display sweeps across the driver’s dashboard view, incorporating gauges, infotainment and more.

MSport seats with prominent side bolsters and shoulder support, plus adjustable seat angle and depth, greet folks up front with solid support and comfort – yes, manually-adjustable thigh support like all BMWs — and dual driver’s seat memory. They feel supple like leather, but are clad in SensaTec 2.0, whatever that is. On our cold days, occupied seats and steering wheel warm when the car fires up, or just ask “hey BMW,” then say “heat seats.” The chunky, grippable leather-clad “M” tilt/telescoping steering wheel had nicely-sized paddle shifters behind, and controls for the usual up front, including a station select thumbwheel.

That BMW Curved Display starts with a configurable 10.25-inch instrument cluster with central digital mph readout, flanked by 160-mph speedometer and 7, 000-rpm (6,000-rpm redline) that’s bluish-white in Efficient drive mode, or red-tinted in Sport. Or you can tap in Expressive mode, and a multi-colored nebula appears with speed display in the lower left, and a strip tach — very cool. Basic fuel, mileage, outside temperature, clock and other stuff remain across the bottom. There’s also a head-up display.

Slide right under a continuous glass surface and there’s the 10.7-inch central information display. It’ll show wide-screen navigation, audio info from that 12-speaker system, telephone, apps and other stuff. But in its zeal to de-button the interior, gone is any direct connection to climate control for the most part. To do anything more than activate front or rear defrost, or adjust dual-zone temperatures, you have to tap into another menu – phooey.

Back-seat room, despite the slightly longer wheelbase, is a bit tight in legroom unless those up front help. But back-seaters get cup holders in a center armrest, rear vents and two more USB ports. Storage space is decent behind the 40/20/40 split rear seats, some extra space around the spare tire under carpeted floor. The rear hatch powers up high enough to clear my head.

My favorite BMWs have always been 3-Series sedans and 4-Series coupes. Think of the X1 as their taller brother with a turbocharged 2-liter 4-cylinder engine offering 240-hp vs. last year’s 228-hp, and 295 lb-ft of torque between 1,500-4,000 rpm (vs. 258). There’s a quick-shifting 7-speed dual clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive sent to front wheels in most cases, then rapidly added aft when you play harder. And the M Sport Package’s gearshift paddles with that Sport Boost function was sure fun — more soon.

The Efficient drive mode was just fine for commuting. But when the auto-engine off system kicks in as you lift off the brake, it sometimes didn’t refire quick enough — no forward motion for a half-second. That said, full pedal down initially saw the 4,850-lb SAV launch moderately before turbo torque kicks in above 1,500 rpm to hit 60 mph in 6 seconds. Good news — even in Efficient mode, there’s always power on tap to move out or pass.

But my favorite was Sport, with more power available quicker, snapping off gearshifts with tighter steering and suspension as well as red highlighting in the information display. You can even back off traction control for play as the exhaust gets a snarl. Launch is quicker off the mark for 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, then crisp downshifts accompanied by throttle blips as we slow down. There’s a Sport Plus mode and Boost control — pull the left-hand shift paddle for at least a second and all powertrain and chassis settings are “primed to maximize their sporting responses for the most immediate acceleration possible,” BMW says.

The added oomph is appreciated, quick shifts keeping the turbo on the boil as we hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds again, and very handy when you need to pass on a hill. Use it with launch control and Sport Shift for quicker upshifts as we hit 60 mph in just over 5.6 seconds with quick, defined upshifts and more exhaust snarl. Not an M3, but quick.

This is a great all-rounder, able to commute and get 27 mpg, or scoot around a corner without control and zip off to the next apex. It’s a tall hot hatch, and lots of friends liked its look, blue color and tech, especially the wrap-around screens.

For safety, front-collision/ pedestrian/cyclist warning system with brake intervention, Active Blind Spot Detection, Active Park Distance Control and Surround View while parking. A Drive Recorder uses the driver assistance system cameras to record video all around the vehicle for later playback. There’s even a Remote Theft Recorder that records video from four outside cameras while alerting the customer on smartphone via the My BMW App.

A base BMW X1 starts at $38,600 – ours added $650 blue metallic paint; $300 Shadowline black accent package; $550 heated seat/steering wheel; $2,300 MSport package with double-spoke M alloy wheels, adaptive suspension, Steptronic auto gearbox, sport seats, M steering wheel and more; and $4,200 Premium package with alloy interior trim, interior camera, harmon-kardon sound system, wireless charger and more. Final price – $48,195 with destination fee.

2023 BMW X1 xDrive28i
Vehicle type – compact 5-passenger sports activity vehicle
Base price – $38,600 ($48,195 as tested)
Engine type –Turbocharged 16-valve in-line four
Gas engine displacement – 2 liter
Horsepower – 240 @ 4,500- 6,500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) – 295 @ 1,500-4,000 rpm
Transmission – 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual paddle shifting
Wheelbase – 108.5 inches
Overall length – 177.2 inches
Overall width – 72.6 inches
Height – 64.6 inches
Front headroom – 39.6 inches
Front legroom – 41.4 inches
Rear headroom – 41.3 inches
Rear legroom – 55.8 inches
Cargo capacity – 25.7 cu.ft./57.2 w/rear seats folded
Curb weight – 4,850 lbs.
Fuel capacity – 14.3 gallons
Mileage rating – 25-mpg city/34-mpg highway