2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i (car review)

BMW introduced the new X1 sDrive18i at the end of last year. Now in its third generation, it’s been heavily updated front to back, top to bottom and inside out. And it is so good, that we were reluctant to hand the key fob back.

We’ve driven the previous generations, and if you really want to see how much it’s changed, you can read about the 2020 sDrive18d. If you do, you’ll see that the X1 has been completely transformed.

Stunning new looks, a redesigned modern interior with iDrive 8.0, a longer wheelbase for more space, and a wider track for better road holding all feature. The X1 also gets the full monty of BMW driver and parking assist systems.

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In our case, the sDrive18i is powered by a TwinPower turbo 1.5-litre petrol three-cylinder producing 115kW and 230Nm. A front-wheel drive, the engine is matched to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Priced from $60,400 plus on-roads, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to optioning and customising your own (it’s on my wish list if the boss gives me a pay rise), and it would take this entire review to outline all of them (check it out online).

2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i
2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i

Our Cape York Green Metallic car came with the brilliant Enhancement Package, which includes the paint, choice of interior trim surface, sunroof, electric front seats, Driving Assistant Pro, adjustable rear seats and Harman Kardon audio system.

Standard features include a 10.25-inch instrument display mated to a curved 10.7-inch infotainment touchscreen, a head-up display, adaptive stop-start cruise, adaptive LED headlights, BMW Personal Assistant and satellite navigation.

There’s also Live Cockpit Pro, Drive Assist Plus and Parking Assistant Plus, complete with surround view cameras, remote 3D view, a drive recorder, and reverse assistance. It’s one of the best user experiences we’ve ever had in terms of parking.

Other neat touches include the leather sports steering wheel, dual-zone climate with loads of vents, rain sensors with auto headlight and wipers, and a very handy four USB-C ports, two 12V outlets, and a cool new wireless phone charging cradle.

There’s no shortage of space either, and with a big family, this reviewer had no issues carting four kids, with all their various bits of sports gear, school kit and the shopping. Rear cargo sits at 505-litres, or a whopping 1,600-litres with the seats down. Impressive.

dash
Inside the 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i

First impressions last and the X1 had me mumbling like I did the first time I laid eyes on my wife. It was love at first site for this rev head. The colour, the 19-inch bi-colour wheels, the wider, longer stance, the highlights, the entire front-end. It all looks so good.

Fit and finish quality is as expected – spot on. Outside, there are plenty of neat matte alloy silver look highlights, with blacked-out ventilation, grille, and wheel arches, a colour-coded rear diffuser and aerial, stylish LED lights and the prominent BMW roundel.

Hop inside and it just gets better. The upgrade over the previous generation is a jump from economy to first class. The leatherette front seats are semi-bucket and offer great lumbar and side support. The footwell is deep; good if you’re tall, not so much if you’re short.

A comfortable steering wheel position was easy to find, the armrests are well placed and all of the controls seem somehow familiar and intuitive. Mrs Ware, at 163cm, needed the seat all the way forward to reach the pedals. This placed the seatbelt on her neck; not ideal.

Meanwhile, I felt as though the X1 ergonomics were designed for me. Whether on longer highway stints, or spirited fangs through the local hills, I had no cramps, strains or fatiguing. I could literally drive all day long in comfort. For a medium sized car, that is rare.

rear seats
Inside the 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i

In the back row there’s generous space for adults or kids, bottle holders in the doors, plus two cup holders in the centre armrest, a storage tray, A/C vents and USB-C ports. The kids did complain that the backrests angled back too far for them. So I turned the music up.

The panoramic sunroof is a ripper; easy to operate, minimal wind noise when open, well insulated when fully closed and covered, and it really makes the already roomy cabin feel even more so. The A/C system is powerful and well regulated too.

I liked the placement of the centre controls (volume, mode and camera, gear selection), but Heather struggled with them. Having to have the driver’s seat all the way forward meant she had to reach back to use them, but the seat was in the way.

That and the footwell depth were deal breakers for her in a car she absolutely loved in every other way. I suggested a big cushion and platform shoes. The bad news is, she is not really that short, so it does raise questions about accessibility for some drivers.

The ride is on the firmer side of comfortable, but just right. Sporty, solidly sprung and damped, there’s lots of control over high and low speed bumps, with impeccable road holding and steering for a compact to mid-sized SUV.

2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i
2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i

There’s great feedback at the wheel too, yet it’s still light for town work. The braking package on the X1 has a premium feel at the pedal, despite not being too special on paper. It truly stops like a much higher spec system and it’s smooth around town.

Modern small capacity engines, with current turbocharging tech, continue to blow my mind. At 1.5-litres this one is absolutely punching well above its weight but does so with ease around town. It’s only on the open road you might crave a bigger motor.

When it comes to efficiency, BMW claim 6.5-litres/100km. We got close, at 6.9-litres/100km over an 800km test of all types of driving. It could have been thirstier, had Heather been able to fully depress the go pedal. Overall though, impressive figures.

The dual-clutch is smooth on initial pickup, both off the lights or when reversing. It’s not perfect, but it is definitely one of the better ones. All-in-all, the transmission does a great job. Active stop/start cruise control and lane assist are incredibly well calibrated too.

Both are super smooth and accurate, and that sums up the car in a nutshell. The 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i truly surprised us with its mid-sized SUV interior space and storage, larger exterior proportions and gorgeous looks.

reversing camera
Inside the 2023 BMW X1 sDrivei18

There are plenty of options in the category but few that offer the assist and infotainment suite of this brilliant, fun five seater. If you’re keen on one and need finance, talk to CreditOne.

Our test vehicle was provided by BMW Australia. To find out more about the 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i, talk to your local BMW dealer. Images: HMC Photography.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Driving experience
9.5
Exterior styling
10
Interior look and feel
9.5
Technology and connectivity
10
Family friendliness
9.5
Value for money
9

SUMMARY

Pros - styling; handling; luxurious spacious interior; safety features.
Cons - centre storage tray access; long pedal reach for shorter drivers; touch screen climate adjustment; armrest storage opens away from driver.
Jeff Ware
Jeff Warehttp://www.bikereview.com.au
Jeff Ware has been an Australian motorcycle journalist and publisher since 2001. He was the founder of Rapid Bikes Magazine, Knee Down Magazine, and Retrobike Magazine and currently heads up the team over at BikeReview. He's not a bad car journo either.

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<strong>Pros -</strong> styling; handling; luxurious spacious interior; safety features.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> centre storage tray access; long pedal reach for shorter drivers; touch screen climate adjustment; armrest storage opens away from driver.2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i (car review)