BMW iX1 review

The BMW iX1 is powerful, refined and practical. But as well as being more engaging to drive than its closest rivals, it’s also more expensive

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5

Pros

  • Well equipped
  • Quiet at speed
  • Spacious

Cons

  • Very pricey
  • Firm ride
  • Rivals offer greater range
Car typeRangeWallbox charge timeRapid charge time
Electric272 miles10hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)29mins (10-80%, 130kW)

The BMW iX1 is not an all-new, clean-sheet-of-paper electric vehicle. Instead, it's the fully electric version of BMW’s new, third-generation X1 compact SUV, a model that’s also available with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid power.

Given the appetite in the market for small electric SUVs right now, it’s no wonder that BMW expects the iX1 to make up two thirds of new X1 sales. Look at its long list of rivals for proof: the Audi Q4 e-tron, Mercedes EQA and Volvo XC40 Recharge are probably the closest alternatives, but some larger models like Nissan Ariya, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ford Mustang Mach-E have similar appeal and capabilities.

There is an elephant in the room, however, the iX1’s starting price of over £52,000 is much higher than those of its direct rivals. It’s even undercut by the Mustang Mach-E. We suspect there are more than a few buyers who will baulk at paying so much for what is now BMW’s entry-level EV.

Thankfully, the iX1’s interior quality helps justify its price tag. It’s all screwed together well, with plenty of premium-feeling materials. It’s the same cabin you can get by spending over £15,000 less on a petrol-powered version but the same is true for the Volvo XC40 and Mercedes GLA, with the zero-emissions versions of these rivals commanding similarly hefty price premiums.

The iX1 standard kit list is suitably generous, with the base xLine model featuring a 10.25-inch digital driver’s display, 10.7-inch infotainment touchscreen, a reversing camera, 18-inch alloy wheels and multi-zone air conditioning. xLine favours a more rugged look, while M Sport adds bigger wheels, gloss black trim and a more athletic look, as well as roughly £2,500 to the price. It also gets you extra goodies like LED headlights and wireless phone charging.

In time, we expect a single-motor front-drive option to be added to the range, which would lower the price considerably, but right now, all iX1s come with a dual-motor powertrain for four-wheel drive, with 313bhp and nearly 500Nm of torque on tap. It’s by far the quickest-accelerating X1, regardless of which fuel you pick, getting from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds.

Stomp on the accelerator and it does indeed feel hot-hatch quick. There’s even a boost function that gives you the entire power output for 10 seconds, at which point your passengers might be searching for something to hold on to. The performance doesn’t tail off as much as you might expect at higher speeds, either.

Drivers get a choice of five levels of brake regen, four of which can be selected through the touchscreen, including an adaptive setting that gauges how much deceleration to apply based on speed limits, junctions and other traffic. Some will find it clever, but we found it doesn’t hold a constant speed down a hill. Adjusting regen levels through the screen is also more fiddly than in rivals like the Ioniq 5 that use steering wheel-mounted paddles. At least the strongest brake energy regeneration mode is accessed simply via the ‘B’ mode on the gear selector, and essentially allows for one pedal driving.

Even when you use the brake pedal yourself, up to 120kW can be fed back into the battery, leaving the mechanical brakes required only for very hard stops. The pedal calibration is close to seamless making it hard to distinguish where the regenerative braking stops and the mechanical brakes engage. 

You can’t hear any whine from the electric motors, and much less road noise filters through into the cabin than in a Mercedes EQA. The iX1 is very refined indeed, with a little wind noise from the door mirrors only becoming apparent at motorway speeds. BMW has added the option of a synthesised six-cylinder engine note, which sounds reasonably accurate but does feel gimmicky.

The BMW iX1 weighs in at around two tonnes – considerably more than the petrol X1 models. The extra weight helps make its ride less fidgety, even though it’s still slightly on the firm side. Body roll is kept in check well, which is a key upside of the taut suspension setup that tends to be shared by most electric versions of compact SUVs on the market today.

One thing that sets the iX1 apart from the other options in the class is its responsive steering, which is more involving than the setups in the Volvo or Mercedes. BMW has also gone back to its rear-wheel drive roots by building in reliance on the rear motor in most situations. These factors come together to help make the BMW iX1 significantly more fun to drive than its rivals.

It’s not lacking in the range department, either. The 64.7kWh usable battery is enough for a range of up to 272 miles depending on the exact spec, comparing well to the XC40 Recharge’s 261-mile range, and the EQA’s 264-mile maximum. Hopefully, a single-motor model would be able to go further on a charge, as the iX1 currently trails behind the longest-range Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Nissan Ariya.

The focus, we’re told, is on achievable range figures, so most customers should be able to get close to BMW’s estimates. After a brief drive in the UK on a cool 10-degree day – not ideal weather for electric cars – it indicated a range of around 240 miles fully charged, which is only about 10% less than the official figure and translates to around 3.7 miles per kilowatt hour efficiency – pretty impressive.

130kW rapid charging speeds might not beat those of the Tesla Model Y or Kia EV6 but a 10-80% top-up takes less than half-an-hour. Thanks to revised software, also used in the BMW i7 luxury saloon, the drop-off in charging speeds past 80% are less dramatic than in BMW’s previous EVs. Fully replenishing the 64.7kWh battery from a typical 7.4kW home wallbox will require close to 11 hours.

It may be BMW’s smallest SUV, but the iX1 should still be practical enough to be considered for family transport. The 490-litre boot, while smaller than petrol or diesel models, is significantly larger than the Nissan Ariya or Ford Mustang Mach-E's. Plus, there’s enough space in the rear seats for adults to get comfortable. 

The iX1 is just as spacious as any other X1 model, with no compromises made for the battery pack under the floor, however, the rear seats don’t slide like they do on the petrol and diesel models. We’d have appreciated some extra storage under the bonnet, too, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker.

The BMW iX1 might not be as groundbreaking or as futuristic as a Hyundai Ioniq 5 or Kia EV6, but it might be a contender for anyone wanting to slip effortlessly into an electric car. It trumps its closest rivals when it comes to technology, practicality and range, with slightly more driving fun included. Though you’ll certainly have to pay for the privilege of living with the iX1.

Most Popular

Volkswagen ID.3 facelift due in spring 2023
Volkswagen ID.3 facelift sketch
News

Volkswagen ID.3 facelift due in spring 2023

New sketches provide a glimpse at refreshed styling and cabin of Volkswagen’s electric family hatchback
2 Dec 2022
Jeep Avenger review
Jeep Avenger first drive
In-depth reviews

Jeep Avenger review

The Jeep Avenger is the 4x4 brand’s first step into the electric age, and one of 2023’s most anticipated EVs
28 Nov 2022
New Vauxhall Astra Electric hatchback and estate unveiled
Vauxhall Astra Electric
News

New Vauxhall Astra Electric hatchback and estate unveiled

The new Astra Electric and Astra Sport Tourer Electric go on sale in early 2023, with prices expected to start from between £35,000 and £40,000
29 Nov 2022