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BMW charges ahead in the compact SUV class

New electric iX1 is a technical triumph

BMW’s new all-electric iX1

BMW’s new all-electric iX1

Alan MurphySunday World

​BMW recently invited Motormouths to the Cotswolds to sample some their updated 2023 models and there were some impressive (and eye-wateringly expensive) test cars to get excited about, but the highlight for us was a first drive of the new iX1.

The latest all-electric vehicle from BMW, the iX1 is part of the third-generation line-up of the company’s smallest SUV offering.

From the outside, the new X1 range sports a larger, more distinctive kidney grille than its predecessor – in fact, the whole car is bigger in every way.

Altogether, it has a lot more presence and a more purposeful-looking stance than the previous generation, and now looks like a mini X5 (which is a good thing in our book).

Inside, the car feels roomier and more premium too, but it’s the tech that really takes this new X1 to the next level.

As with all 2023 BMWs, the X1 range will be fitted with the marque’s iDrive 8 system and a sweeping Curved Display similar to that which first appeared last year on the iX and i4.

Controversially, almost all conventional buttons are dispensed with in favour of a menu system within the large 10.25in touchscreen. This can be distracting to use while driving, and some of the menus are a little buried within the system architecture, but shortcuts are easily set up for your most-used functions.

However, BMW’s voice command system is brilliant and there’s an awful lot of the X1’s functions – climate control, navigation etc – that can be controlled just by speaking in much the same way as Alexa or Siri commands. Far from being gimmicky, this is a great safety enhancement when on the move.

BMW’s new all-electric iX1

On the central console, some of the switchgear and buttons have disappeared or been made smaller and everything looks cleaner and more modern, though the absence of the classic iDrive rotary control knob is a bit annoying.

Our 40-minute drive of the iX1 prototype took us on a route that covered everything from picturesque villages to twisty B roads that were a good mix of rough and smooth.

On the move, the car feels sure-footed and secure and the iX1 offers a nice, relaxed ride thanks to supple suspension, while it also felt agile and engaging when pushed.

Very little road noise gets through to the cabin, and there are all kinds of themes you can select to make the ambient sound match your mood.

Another nice touch is the cheeky boost paddle on the steering wheel that makes all the car’s power available for 10 seconds, which makes for safer overtaking and punchy standing starts. And the iX1 is no slouch: powered by two electric motors it develops 313hp, which is enough to shove it to 100kph in just 5.6 seconds.

The adaptive regenerative braking is very clever and, using the car’s navigation and driver-assistance tech, automatically adjusts the level of braking/regen force depending on conditions and traffic.

While we didn’t have time to test the range, BMW claim the iX1 will travel up to 440km (WLTP) on a full charge.

On the practicality front, there’s 490 litres of boot space (there’s 540 in the ICE versions of the new X1) and there’s plenty of legroom in the rear seats.

First impressions are of a car that is a very capable all-rounder, one that’s bristling with technology and safety equipment while maintaining that trademark BMW premium ambience.

The iX1 will initially be offered as an xDrive30 xLine, with more models and trims to be added to the range after launch. Production has just started for 2023, delivery and prices start at €63,995.

Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid versions of the new X1 are also available, with prices for ICE models starting from €48,200.

For those with deeper pockets, some exotic 2023 BMWs also tested were:

BMW iX M60

BMW’s flagship electric vehicle just got the M treatment, and the iX M60 produces 630hp of power and 1,100Nm of torque (yes, that’s right) with sledgehammer delivery. Put your foot down and the horizon begins to move like the Stargate scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but with an updated Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Outside, the only noticeable difference between this and the regular iX is the black M60 badge on the rear and some subtle styling changes. The car has the same luxurious minimalist interior too, which is no bad thing, but I found the plush seating lacked the side support you’d expect for an M model. Price from €143,675.

BMW X7 M60i LCI

Ok, there’s no getting around the fact this is a huge car… with a huge engine. However, if you need to seat seven people in luxury with an abundance of power on tap, this range-topping version of the X7 might just be the car for you. Despite its weight of 2.7 tonnes, the X7 drove nicely and soaked up all the best and worst the UK’s B roads had to offer. The extended merino leather interior was sumptuous, while the 4.4-litre V8 is smooth as silk and packs a whopping 750Nm of torque. The standard spec is impressive, and my test car came fitted with the Ultimate Pack, which adds almost every conceivable option including Sky Lounge sunroof and Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound. Price from €192,545.

BMW M340i Touring LCI

For my money, the 3 Series Touring is still one of the best all-rounders you can buy. I’ve had five in the past with various engine specs, and they never failed to deliver. This refreshed M340i would be the daddy of the range if it weren’t for the new M3 Touring stealing the show.

The 3 has always been renowned for its excellent driving dynamics and, combined with the practicality of an estate body and beefy engine, this is a perfect do-it-all car. Price from €92,767.


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