REVIEW: 2023 BMW X1 sDrive18d is attractive, practical and frugal, but not quite cushy

Published Sep 27, 2023


BMW has been unashamedly pushing the design boundaries with many of its most recent creations, most notably the XM and 7 Series. And some fans have given the company a ‘grilling’ over those large snouts.

But when it comes to BMW’s smallest SUV, the carmaker has decided to play it safe and as a result the new X1 looks agreeable from just about every angle, at least as far as we’re concerned.

But while subdued exterior colours like white and silver perhaps leave it looking a little too conservative, the sDrive18d xLine model that we recently tested really ‘popped’ quite proudly in its Utah Metallic Orange hue.

The X1 comes standard with 18-inch alloys, but our car came with optional 19” rims and those seeking to completely destroy the ride quality in the name of style can instead opt for 20” wheels.

What’s it like inside?

Moving inside the new BMW X1 is a far cry from its predecessor, with its large curved screen and ‘floating’ centre console. I think the latter deserves a round of applause for its design functionality. The top section consists of an armrest and a console with a volume button as well as the electronic gear selector, parking brake and start button. Having all three in one place makes it really easy to start the vehicle and hit the road.

Below this ‘floaty’ console is a huge storage area, which will really suit hoarders and those messy types who like to have old takeaway containers floating around in their car for six months or more.

Please, don’t be that person.

The main command centre is the aforementioned curved screen that juts out above the dashboard, housing the 10.25 inch (26cm) digital information readout and 10.7 inch (27.2cm) infotainment system.

As with many such systems, the screen has devoured all the climate controls, but even without the physical buttons it’s still relatively user friendly as there is a permanently visible short cut to the climate system, and the screen layout is relatively straight forward.

The curved display houses the latest BMW Operating System 8, which includes an improved version of Intelligent Personal Assistant voice command system.

As for practicality, the cabin is relatively spacious, front and back, and there’s a useful 540 litre boot.

What’s it like to drive?

Engine-wise BMW X1 drivers can choose from three models: sDrive18i, with a 115kW 1.5-litre turbopetrol, sDrive18d featuring a 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 110kW and 360Nm, and an all-wheel drive, plug-in hybrid xDrive30e xLine with a system output of 240kW.

We had the diesel on test, and it impressed with its combination of economy, effortless performance and refined power delivery.

BMW claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.0 litres per 100km, but in dense city traffic it can easily surpass the 9.0 l/100km mark. It is impressively frugal on the freeway, however, and our friend Sudhir Matai from Double Apex managed a figure of 4.8 l/100km during a 1,800km road trip.

While we enjoyed the engine, the ride and handling equation didn’t quite live up to expectation.

The ride felt a little firm on our test car’s optional 19-inchers, so if I was buying I’d stick with the standard 18” wheels. While it’s great on smooth roads, which are plentiful in its home continent of Europe, the X1 fell short of being entirely comfortable on our somewhat rougher surfaces.

I was also surprised by the amount of torque steer, which is unwanted force on the steering wheel under acceleration. Although it is an inherent problem with front-wheel drive vehicles, in the new X1 it felt highly noticeable, more so than in any car I’ve driven in recent memory.

BMW X1: Pricing and standard features

The BMW X1 starts at R788,045 for the petrol-powered sDrive18i, while the diesel kicks off at R815,612 in xLine trim as per our test car. The xDrive30e is priced from R1,050,000.

Being a premium branded product, it is priced quite a bit higher than similarly sized vehicles like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Kia Sportage.

Standard features in the X1 include the BMW Live Cockpit Professional Plus infotainment system, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, leather-covered sports steering wheel, automatic headlight activation and four USB-C ports.

There is of course a wide array of optional extras, including Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Head-Up Display and Surround View.


The new BMW X1 sDrive18d scores many desirability points for its stylish exterior, thoughtful and practical cabin and decent blend of performance and economy.

It does however fall behind a bit when it comes to overall driving refinement, with the ride being a little firm and torque steer being notable. Those are not necessarily deal-breakers however.

But the R815 000 starting price may be, for many prospective owners..


This week I spent some time with the BMW X1. Here’s what I thought of it.