bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech

BMW X1 sDrive 18i

$69,900

Price

9.2 sec

0-100 kmph

7L

Fuel Economy

103kW

Power

Pros

  • Finally, an X1 with character
  • Loads of interesting tech
  • Truly practical/spacious compact SUV 

Cons

  • Knocking on $80k with options
  • Double-clutch gearbox can dither at low speed
  • Just one engine choice – for now

The BMW X1 has gone from a bit of a town mouse to something quite striking in its latest (third) generation. It’s bigger, now about the size of the first-gen X3, but also bolder: angles and holes everywhere. Not necessarily pretty, but really purposeful; that’s the BMW way these days.

Bigger it might be, but this is a time of engine downsizing. The sole X1 for launch in New Zealand is the sDrive18i, which means a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine (that’s the “18i” bit) and front-drive (“sDrive”), with a seven-speed dual-clutch Steptronic gearbox.

bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech

It’s still based on the same basic platform as the Mini, hence the FWD. But it’s also designed for AWD, and in fact this generation of X1 architecture will also provide the base for the next iteration of the Mini Countryman SUV.

It’s a relatively quirky powertrain package for a premium BMW SUV aimed at a city audience, but we’re into it. The three-pot engine and Steptronic transmission aren’t always a happy combo in town, where one or the other can have a bit of trouble waking up away from the lights, but it gets smoother the faster (and harder) you drive, and low NVH means you get the aural character without the powertrain becoming intrusive. Who doesn’t love a fizzy three-cylinder engine?

BMW hasn’t always hit the mark with design and quality in its smaller SUVs (earlier X1 and X3 models weren’t too flash at times), but the new X1 has a pretty sensational cabin environment – right up there with the brand’s larger models in terms of fit, finish and feel. It seems really special.

It’s also truly practical, with a high seating position up front, generous rear-occupant room and a 540-litre boot – as much as some medium-sized SUVs. One of the options packages helps things along, too: the X1 has BMW’s signature 40/20/40 split rear seat, but the Innovations package adds further adjustment that allows you to lock the rear seats in various positions to allow a little more loadspace (at the cost of some passenger comfort, of course).

bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech

Innovations also adds power adjustment/memory for the font seats, Harman Kardon audio, panoramic glass roof and an alarm. And while we’re on the subject of options, our test car also had the M Sport package, with a thick-rimmed steering wheel (might be too thick for some), black roof lining, a special body kit including roof rails and adaptive suspension (which might be too firms for some in in its Sport setting).

To answer the next obvious question, yes that does make the little X1 quite expensive; so in that sense it’s a true premium-brand car as well. Our evaluation car is $77,990 all-up, or $8k over base price.

Still, the level of technology fits the premium positioning, including some stuff we haven’t experienced before in any car (it’s possible we don’t get out enough, though). For example, the “Hey BMW” intelligent voice assistant now extends to dynamic functions: you can activate the adaptive cruise control, and even adjust the speed (“Hey BMW, drive faster”) or spacing (“Hey BMW, increase the distance to the car in front”).

bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech

It’s pretty clever stuff, and in addition to automated tech we already know and admire, like augmented reality sat-nav (graphics are overlaid on a front camera view for directions), Parking Assistant and BMW’s excellent Reversing Assistant, which remembers the last 50 metres you drove and can steer you backwards automatically down the same route.

All those design details – the tall grille, the bumper cutouts, the extended rear roof, the curved digital instrument panel – make the X1 seem like a miniature version of the iX, BMW’s new pure-electric luxury SUV.

That might not make sense right now when there’s a thrummy three-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet, but in early 2023 we’ll see the iX1 xDrive30: a battery electric vehicle with dual motors (AWD), 0-100km/h in 5.6sec and 440km range; it’ll be BMW NZ’s 10th BEV. Then the X1 gets even more interesting.

BMW X1 sDRIVE18iENGINE: 1.5-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinderPOWER: 103kW/220NmGEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, RWD0-100KM/H: 9.2 secondsCONSUMPTION: 7.0l/100km
PRICE: $69,900 ($77,900 as tested)

bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech
bmw x1 sdrive 18i review: the mini-suv with maximum tech

Keyword: BMW X1 sDrive 18i review: the mini-SUV with maximum tech

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