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Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

2023 BMW X1 xDrive 28i review

2023 BMW X1 xDrive 28i
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2023 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

Small crossovers are a dime a dozen, but spunky luxurious ones are a bit rarer. And spunky ones starting below $40,000 are as precious as that last hidden Easter egg found before the cat discovers it.

BMW offers several luxury spunk mobiles, as do a couple of its Germanic competitors. Yet for 2023, the Bavarian Motor Works upped its game by restyling its entry-level X1. In fact, it grew it enough to exceed its X2 in size while approaching the pricier X3’s dimensions. As an aside, I named the X3 one of my top 10 test vehicles a couple of weeks back.

This X1’s styling is refined, and its fairly large twin kidney-shaped grille exudes an essential BMW look that bespeaks sportiness. The interior is restyled, too, bringing this BMW up to current luxury standards while also evoking a style that assures this is not your father’s Bimmer.

Yet this practical little crossover impresses most with its power and handling while satisfying the buyer who insists on gasoline power.

Under its sharply tailored hood is a peppy 2.0-liter twin-turbo I4 that cranks an impressive 241 horsepower and boasts a torque rating of 295, with the X1 weighing just 3,750 pounds, that’s more than enough power to boost it up to highway speeds in less than 6 seconds. Car and Driver say the X1 hits 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, and except for a bit of turbo lag at the outset, the BMW delivers a sports car vibe.

The handling, too is just what the arzt (doctor) ordered.

The steering is responsive with a moderately heavy feel and the X1 turns into corners with authority and agility while never exhibiting a tall wagon feel. Bimmers would likely prefer a sedan or coupe, but most of us find this exhilarating. Aiding the traction is a now standard AWD system along with traction and stability control. Four-wheel vented brakes create impressive braking power too.

Add in the Driving Dynamics Control and a driver can tune in three drive modes with Active being the go-to and Sport giving the BMW a kick in the seat of its breeches. An economy mode also is available.

Yet the X1 gets such fine gas mileage that Eco mode likely will be mostly for show. I managed 29.5 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving while the EPA rates this at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Sadly to extract the maximum pony power one needs to administer premium fuel. That power is transmitted to the four drive wheels via a dual-clutch 7-speed automatic transmission, while an 8-speed transition comes with the longer X3 model.

The ride is well-controlled in the Bimmer, but decidedly firm. A run over a rustic road in a nearby rural area confirmed that passengers won’t be punished in the X1, but there is a bit of shake when traversing big cracks and potholes. Riding on a 106-inch wheelbase, the X1 is right on the edge of needing a bit more length to spread out bumps and jolts.

No hybrid system here, although BMW is committed to moving its lineup to electric power in the next 7-8 years. As for hybrid competition, the Volvo XC40 Recharge (plug-in) would seem like a prime alternative, but it costs about $15,000 more. The Lexus UX also is in this segment and gets better gas mileage while the Mercedes GLA is a near twin in performance and pricing.

Inside, the X1 impresses too, moving BMW further away from the staid all-black and gray interiors that German makes favored for decades.

This one features sharp angles for the satin chrome door pulls and a fine single digital unit that houses the driver’s instrument panel and the large but not garnish infotainment screen. which. The seats and door panels are black and orange and feature Sensa Tec upholstery, a fake leather BMW now uses frequently. It adds $500 to the price tag, but feels and looks much like leather, but also has the full support of the bovine populace.

The test crossover added sport seats too for another $400. These are extremely supportive and comfortable with excellent side and back support. Many pricier options will not deliver the long-term benefits of these seats, so these are a must.

While there’s plenty of room here for four adults and the rear seats also are comfy, there’s one flaw: the lack of a flat-bottom steering wheel. Shorter drivers (I’m 5-5) will have the seat fairly far forward which creates a crunch for knee room under the steering wheel when entering and exiting the X1.

I solved this by flipping up the tilt/telescope wheel each time I got out, but that’s a bit of a nuisance.

Another concern is the floating console, a popular trend among car interior designers. The idea is to open up space below the console for purses and other carry-ins, so maybe a laptop or tablet. A fine idea, but the BMW console features a support on the passenger’s side. That really curtails access to that lower bin for a passenger. I, too, found it nearly impossible to retrieve a cell phone from the bin while sitting in the driver’s seat. Again, with a shorter driver positioning the seat far forward it cuts off easy access to the area below the console.

The good news is that a wireless phone charger is directly under the center stack, so it’s easy to use and access. That’s part of a $4,200 Premium Package that also includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Those can be set automatically via the info screen and then left to do their magic as temperatures dictate. The seat and wheel both have three heat levels.

The package also adds a HUD, park distance control, 360-degree camera, a harman/kardon premium sound system and other cockpit refinements.

2023 BMW X1 xDrive 28i sunroof
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2023 BMW X1 xDrive 28i sunroof

Overhead is a dual sunroof and in back is a power hatch.

Oops, I’ve neglected to tout the $650 paint scheme, called Utah Orange. It was spectacular and judging by the many unsolicited comments I received, I’m not alone in my admiration. This is a metallic burnt orange somewhat reminiscent of early 1970 Mopar colors, and Nissan now also features a similar shade.

Utah Orange is an eye-catcher that’ll make the neighbors jealous.

Practicality plays a role here too as a family of four can toss four bags under that power hatch for a road trip. Cargo space is rated at 26 cubic feet, and yes the rear seats split and fold down, increasing that to 57.2 cu.ft.

Pricing may be the biggest surprise on this BMW as it starts at $39,550, including delivery, and there are no premium trim levels to consider, just option packages like the Premium package on this one. So one could snag a sporty X1 for roughly $40k, or add some goodies and end up like this one at $46,245, or thereabouts.

That’s what you’ll expect to pay for a small luxury crossover, and this one comes with enough power to make it fun, yet useful. If you prefer a hybrid or electric you’ll need to look elsewhere for now, and it’ll cost more.

FAST STATS: 2023 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

Hits: Spunky yet practical with excellent power, handling, AWD, good mpg, and well-designed interior. Comfy supportive seats, dual sunroof, heated steering wheel and seats, good combo digital dash and large screen, plus power hatch and a stellar color too.

Misses: Firm but well controlled ride, steering wheel needs to be flat-bottomed as legroom is tight on exit. The floating console also is hard to access from both the driver, but particularly the passenger’s side. This also is a premium fuel drinker.

Made in: Regensburg, Germany

Engine: 2.0-liter twin turbo I4, 241 hp/295 torque

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

Weight: 3,750 lbs.

Wheelbase: 106 in.

Length: 177.2 in.

Cargo: 26-57.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/34

MPG: 29.5 (tested)

Base Price: $39,550 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $37,315


Utah Orange metallic paint, $650

Premium pkg. (heated steering wheel, Comfort access key, auto-dimming mirrors/rearview mirror, heated front seats, block gloss trim, interior camera, active driving assistant, parking assistant plus, harman/kardon premium sound system, wireless charging, life cockpit pro w/HUD, anti-theft recorder, active park distance control, surround view/3D), $4,200

Line pkg. (satin alum. ext. trim, SensaTec dash, xLine content), $500

Remote engine start, $300

19-inch Y-spoke bi-color wheels, $600

Sport seats, $400

Test vehicle: $46,245

Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
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