The X1 feels like the Cinderella of the BMW range; the attractive younger sister left behind while the new i7 goes off to the ball.

But the all-new model has a new floorplan, and also gets the funky little 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder turbo motor from the MINI range.

While in Auckland at a BMW Conference, we grabbed the all-new X1 sDrive18i and hit the road for a 600km return drive to Wellington. We spent the following week commuting with the X1. 

Is there still a place for a car that’s not a hybrid or EV?

What We Like and Dislike About The 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i

What we likeWhat we don’t like
A fun drive!
Engine sound and character
Comfort levels
Sharp looker in M Portimao Blue
High-def displays
Route-based adaptive cruise
Adaptive LED headlights
Could feel underpowered when loaded up
Adaptive cruise distance adjustment

What’s In The 2023 BMW X1 Range?

New Zealand sees just one version of the X1, the sDrive18i. That means it’s front-wheel drive and has a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbo-petrol motor that manages 115kW of power and 230Nm of torque. Attached to that is a 7-speed automatic.

With no options, the price is $71,300.

The X1 is the first BMW offering to enable customers to subscribe to a car’s feature, rather than pay for it outright. For the X1, an example is heated seats and a heated steering wheel. If you want these on a subscription basis, be prepared to pay $30/month for the heated seats, or  $20/month for a heated steering wheel. How will this go down in New Zealand? Badly, we think, but time will tell.

For the 2023 model year, the X1 has a new 10.7” curved control display, along with a 10.25” dashboard display. There’s the new BMW System 8 operating interface, new switchgear, new seats, new upholstery, wireless phone charging, a redesigned steering wheel, and a touchscreen climate control interface, among other changes.

2023 BMW X1 Standard Equipment Highlights

  • Automatic climate control, 2-zone
  • Automatic tailgate operation
  • Adaptive LED Headlights
  • BMW Live Cockpit Pro 10.7”+10.25” curved widescreen display
  • Driving Assistant 
  • Navigation system with 8.8” touch display 
  • Park Distance Control (PDC) front and rear
  • Parking Assistant
  • Rear View Camera
  • Roof rails Aluminium satinated
  • Reversing Assistant
  • Speed Limit Info
  • Sport leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons 
  • Storage compartment package
  • Wireless charging
  • 21” M Performance light alloy wheels
  • Matrix LED headlights

BMW Connected Drive, including:

  • ConnectedDrive Services
  • Connected Package Professional
  • Real-Time Traffic Information (RTTI)
  • Remote Services
  • Intelligent Emergency Call
  • TeleServices

Our Review Vehicle’s Optional Equipment

Our test car was fitted with the Launch Package at $7,900, which includes:

  • Metallic paint
  • Alarm system
  • Driving assistant professional, which adds:
    • Steering and Lane Control Assistant
    • Automatic Speed Limit Assist
    • Approach control (Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go function) up to 210 km/h
    • Lane Keeping Assistant with active side collision protection
    • Front/rear crossing traffic warning
    • Emergency Stop Assistant
  • Panorama sunroof
  • Harmon/Kardon Hi-Fi
  • Sliding rear seats
  • Electric seat adjust, front row
  • Sun protection glazing

Including the optional equipment, our review car’s retail price is $77,800.

You can also choose the Innovations Package at $5,500 and this will give you:

  • An alarm system
  • A panorama sunroof
  • Harmon/Kardon Hi-Fi
  • Sliding rear seats
  • Electric front seats

There’s also the M Sport Package at $2,500, comprising:

  • 18” M Sport alloy wheels
  • Adaptive M Suspension
  • M Aluminium Hexacube dark interior trim
  • M Leather Steering Wheel
  • M high gloss Shadow line
  • M high gloss roof rails

You get to pick from a huge range of colours for your X1, twelve of them. Alpine White is the only no-cost colour, all the others except for Storm Bay Metallic are an additional $1,690. Storm Bay is $2,500 extra.

  • Alpine White 
  • Mineral White Metallic
  • Black
  • Black Sapphire
  • Phytonic Blue Metallic
  • Cape York Green Metallic
  • Utah Orange Metallic
  • Sanremo Green Metallic
  • Space Silver Metallic
  • Blue Bay Lagoon Metallic
  • Frozen Pure Grey Metallic
  • Storm Bay Metallic

If the number of colour choices isn’t enough for you, there’s also a selection of 8 interior colour schemes, and 4 different trims. You’ve got to hand it to BMW, they make a car to suit individual tastes.

For a full list of specs and options available for the 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i, head on over to the BMW New Zealand website.

How Does The 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i Compare To Its Competition?

We’ve stuck to front-wheel drives only in our chart, to keep it apples vs. apples.

All prices below exclude the refund or additional cost of the New Zealand Clean Car Programme.

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
SeatsFuel L/100kmTowing
(excl CCP)
Mercedes-Benz GLA2001.3-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol120/25056.2NA435$77,799
BMW X1 sDrive18i1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbo-petrol115/23056.5750/1,800540$71,300
Audi Q2 35 TFSI Advanced1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol110/25055.8690/1,500405$59,990
VW T-Roc TSI R-Line1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol110/25057.0670/1,500445$54,990

First Impressions Of The 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i

A definite first impression of the new X1 is its size; it seems to have exploded in all directions. Not in a bad way though – it doesn’t look frumpy or strange. The model has grown longer by 53mm, wider by 24mm, and higher by 44mm. The wheelbase has expanded too, now 22mm longer.

Finished in M Portimao Blue, our test car actually looked good with nice proportions all around. There is a new grille of course, with BMW hanging on to the let’s-make-it-even-bigger theme, but overall the lines are crisp and the design pleasing.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i?

A bigger body should mean a bigger interior and in the new X1, that’s obvious. There’s an almost huge amount of space for everyone and a feeling of space in all seats. It all seems so wide and long – perfect for a 600km trip back to Wellington. Headroom is very generous front or rear, and rear-seat passengers have loads of legroom, too.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, there’s a particularly chunky steering wheel which feels amazing in your hands. It looks almost too chunky to be practical, but in use, it’s perfect. 

Our test car was fitted with many options, including a full panoramic sunroof. While that optional sunroof doesn’t open, it’s fitted with a sliding electric blind, something I always like playing with. With the blind open and the large interior, the new X1 feels quite welcoming inside with lots of natural light spilling everywhere. Honestly, I think it really needs that panoramic sunroof as without it, all the blackness could reduce that sense of space. With black seats, headlining and pillars, there’s not much escaping it.

To ease that blackness, BMW has put some silver alloy trim along the dashboard, and this does help a little to break things up.

Something that might grab your attention before all the black is the new curved screen like we first saw in the iX. It looks brilliant, it looks luxurious, and it has very high definition. It’s a highlight of the cabin, and a highlight when on the road, too.

Those in the front get access to two USB-C ports, and a 12-volt socket right up front. There’s a centre cubby, but it’s extremely shallow, and I could only fit in some loose napkins. I couldn’t fit my wallet in there. A design throwback from it being a European car, the lid on the centre cubby opens only from the passenger’s side, so the driver has to peer over to see what’s in there. Underneath all this is a wide-open storage area, with loads of room for stuff that you carry around in your car but never use.

Decent space in the glovebox

Right up front next to the USB and 12-volt ports is an almost vertical Qi wireless phone charger. This in itself is not strange, but BMW have chosen to add a movable bar in front of the charger to hold it in place while on the move. I did use this bar but having a Qi charger that’s flat or at an angle seems like a better solution. It also has some glitzy trim around the outside of the charger that I felt was a bit too much.

In the back seats, you’ll find two more USB-C ports and a couple of air vents. The seats are split 40/20/40 so you can carry skis and two passengers in the back seats. To drop the back seats, you’ll have to release them from the seats themselves – there is no remote release or even a seat-top release for the seats, which can be a bit painful if you do this often.

The boot itself is extremely usable in size at 505 litres, expanding to 1,600 litres with the seats down. Under the floor is the biggest storage area I’ve ever seen. It looks like it’s supposed to take a full-size spare (or maybe a space-saver) but instead, it’s all open and very usable. The loading height on the new X1 is about average for this class.

What’s The 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i Like To Drive?

Just walking up to the X1 was a good start; it may be a small thing and perhaps I’m too lazy, but I love cars that have walk-up unlock. The X1 does and like cars that do this, simply walking away with the car in your pocket will lock the car. Lazy? Yes. Good feature? Totally. 

Heading out of Auckland, I am immediately thankful for BMW’s one-touch adaptive cruise. Just hit the button, and it’s done. In use, BMW’s adaptive cruise is one of the best, if not the best there is. The steering wheel controls have changed, but don’t panic, they haven’t gone haptic. But there are fewer buttons so everything is simplified, and easy to use. One of those changes is around the adaptive cruise controls, with a mode button on the left allowing you to choose from a speed limiter, ‘normal’ adaptive cruise or adaptive cruise with driver assist, where the car will help you steer within your lane.

On the shores of Lake Karapiro

I’ve got to say that BMW’s lane tracing system is also one of the best, it rarely put a foot wrong in my 900km of driving the car, and because the system is so good, I used it often. Like other BMW models, if you stop holding the steering wheel, after a short amount of time you’ll get notified on the dashboard to take control, and orange lights will start flashing on the dashboard and the steering wheel. If you continue to not hold the steering wheel, the lights will turn red, you’ll hear some beeping and then the car will put its hazard lights on, start slowing down and call emergency services. It assumes you’ve had some sort of medical event at this point. It might never be used, but it’s great to know this sort of safety system is in place.

Still on adaptive cruise, the new X1 has their route-based speed adjustment system, where, when using adaptive cruise, the car will slow for a corner or bend. I’m happy to say that they’ve listened to our past criticisms and have made it adjustable in the menus, so you can set it so that when approaching bends, you prefer it to be slow, medium, or fast. Previous incarnations of this were still too nannyish, with the cars slowing far too much, even in Fast mode. Now, it’s near-on perfect and should please most drivers.

If there’s one drawback of BMW’s adaptive cruise, it’s that you have to go into the menu system on the centre touchscreen to adjust the distance you prefer between your X1 and the car in front of you. Nearly every other car lets you do this from the steering wheel, so it’s a bit painful to adjust in the X1.

On Auckland’s motorway and in fact on my entire trip south, at 100km/h the interior of the X1 is like being in an EV. There’s so little tyre or road noise coming into the cabin, and a slight hint of wind noise from the top of the A-pillar. It’s very comfortable and relaxing, especially on a long trip. That tyre noise does increase quite a bit when on a road sealed with coarse-chip, those 245/45/19 Pirelli P-Zeros really making themselves known.

While that little 3-pot turbo motor is quiet on a steady throttle, such as on the motorway, give it a boot and you’ll be rewarded with a delicious exhaust note that only a 3-cylinder engine can deliver. It can get slightly rattly near the redline, but never intrusive. It sounds absolutely brilliant.

On Auckland’s busy motorway, the X1 proves itself to have excellent visibility. With nice, large side windows and a huge back window, you can see all that’s happening around you with ease, and that large back window fills the interior mirror nicely, giving you some piece of mind that you can see everything outside the car.

Getting to Cambridge, I hung a right to go through to the south side of Kihikihi, and then the back road to Mangakino, Whakamaru, and then turned right to go on the Western Access Road all the way to Turangi. Surprisingly, this is where the little X1 really showed its stuff. Yes, the ride is quite firm at all times, but this car can actually handle quite well, with less body roll than I had expected. Body control is very good, feel from the steering is more than acceptable, and even a mid-corner bump will not upset the car’s handling.

The long sweepers towards Mangakino that turn into tight 30km/h bends after the dam are a real test of a car’s handling, and the X1 did extremely well here. You can get that 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbo motor humming, with amazing sounds between 4,000 and 7,000rpm. 

Not only the engine, but the brakes are superb too, with decent feel and plenty of stopping power. Add into this a near-on perfect 7-speed transmission, and it’s a recipe for a little (okay, not so little now) SUV that could. You do need to keep the engine revs up to get the most out of that tiny motor, but it loves it. I did use the paddles for this part of my trip, manually controlling the gear shifts, and whoever said a dual-clutch automatic is faster to change gear than a ‘normal’ automatic like that in the X1, needs to drive one. The changes are quick enough for any driving that isn’t on a racetrack.

I found it a little weird that the left-hand paddle has the word “boost” on it, but I guess you could take that to mean that by changing down a gear, you get more performance. Just not sure about BMW’s intent on putting ‘boost’ right there on the paddle.

Like many BMWs, you get a selection of drive modes that they choose to call My Modes. There is a choice of Personal, Sport, Efficient, and Expressive. Each will also change the dashboard and centre screen colors and themes, to align them with the drive mode. Of course with a mode like Sport, it will also change the gear-change points, engine response etc. 

Like the adaptive cruise functionality, BMW has also listened to us about their heads-up display (HUD). Previous versions of BMW’s HUD have been mostly excellent, with a large display on the windscreen, plenty of info and excellent turn-by-turn directions when using SatNav. But if there was one thing missing, it was a rev counter. BMW’s are supposed to be a driver’s car, and yet very few of their models with a HUD told you what the engine was doing. That’s changed, and the X1 will give you a bar-type rev counter. While it has no RPM numbers, it does have a red bar at the very right end to show you you are on the engine’s red line. Not perfect, but far better than nothing at all. It means you can really use the gearbox’s manual mode and upshift at exactly the right time. 

My trip south in the afternoon meant nighttime would hit me around three-quarters of the way home. This also meant I got to use the X1’s adaptive LED headlights. Like almost all adaptive LED headlights on any car, they are superb, lighting up the sides of the road on high beam while you are following another car, or while traffic is coming towards you. Those who haven’t experienced these headlights are missing out. It’s a stunning safety feature.

After Turangi, I used BMW’s voice recognition system to get me home. Really, again, I was being lazy instead of using the infotainment system. It seems easier to say, “Hey BMW. Navigate to Wellington” and let the car do the donkey work. Of course, you can use the same system to change the aircon settings, audio, and a load of other functions. I’m tending to use these systems more and more in cars lately, as they improve over time.

The X1 has Augmented Reality for the Satnav system, and like other cars we’ve seen this in, it’s a great feature to have. When using Satnav, you will get turn-by-turn directions on the centre screen (and the HUD). As you approach an intersection, Augmented Reality will kick in and give you arrows on the image on the screen, which will have switched to a front camera view. Those arrows will follow the image, moving with it so as you get closer to the intersection, the arrows will point to exactly the right road you should take. It’s really revolutionised SatNav but still fairly rare to see.

Seat comfort was pretty darn good, which is lucky because even at $70K or $77K with options, there’s no lumbar adjustment at all on the seats. That was a little surprising, although to compensate, side support is excellent. The front seats are heated but you have to go into the climate menu on the centre touchscreen to turn them on or off, but at least there are 3 settings to pick from.

The Harmon/Kardon sound system in our test car was an optional extra, and very good. Not excellent, but would certainly suit most people’s needs. 

When I picked up the X1, it had a full tank of gas and 750km of range showing. That’s pretty impressive for a 51-litre tank. In our testing, we covered 900km of driving, and that resulted in a very reasonable 6.4L/100km. This compares well to BMW’s claim of 6.5l/100km.

2023 BMW X1 sDrive18i – Specifications

Vehicle Type5-door small SUV
Starting Price$71,300
Price as Tested$77,800
Engine1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol
Power, Torque
Transmission7-speed automatic
Spare WheelPump only
Kerb Weight, Kg1,516
Length x Width x Height
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
(seats up/seats down)
Fuel tank capacity,
Fuel Economy,
Advertised Spec – Combined – 6.5
Real-World Test – Combined – 6.4
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
Turning circle
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 Year Warranty
5 Years Roadside Assist
3 Years Free Servicing
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars – Link – 5 Stars – PMM532

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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.
2023-bmw-x1-sdrive18i-car-reviewAs a long-distance tourer, the X1 was hard to beat on an Auckland-Wellington trip. Comfort levels are high, the engine sound is glorious when you want it to be, and almost silent when you don’t. Then you get to the twisty bits, and the X1 surprises you by not being just fun, but also very capable. <br><br> You can see by our pros/cons table that it’s hard to fault the 2023 BMW X1; it does brilliantly on all fronts. The X1 has a lot going for it. <br><br> It’s getting to the point now where it’s rare that we aren’t testing a hybrid, or EV, and at the outset, we asked if there’s still a place for a non-hybrid or non-EV. The 2023 BMW X1 romps home with a definite ‘yes!’ for this question.


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