We road test the iX1 – the 100% electric version of BMW’s much improved entry-level SUV…
Back in November 2022 I reviewed the impressive new third-generation BMW X1. As well as an extensive drive of a petrol model, I also got a quick whiz in a pre-production LHD pure electric iX1.
Excellent though the regular X1 is, it was clear that the flagship iX1 variant was going to be the highlight of the range.
And having spent a week with the iX1, I can now confirm that it really is one of the best EV packages on the market today.
Part of the credit for that goes to the designers and engineers at BMW who’ve managed to produce a family-sized SUV that not only looks good, but is practical, safe and comfortable.
In fact, it’s an all-round class act, which is just as well because its many rivals include the Nissan Ariya, Toyota bZ4X, Audi Q4 e-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQA, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang-Mach-E.
At first sight it looks much the same as its petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid siblings, which is no bad thing.
Up front, a bold BMW kidney grille is flanked by slim LED headlights. The side profile sports meaty wheel arches and fared-in door handles, while three-dimensional LED lights and underside protection add character to its pert rear.
The only obvious exterior differences between the iX1 and the ICE versions are the closed-off grille, blue trim highlights and badging.
Delve deeper and you’ll find two electric motors (one on each axle) producing a total of 309bhp and a 68kWh battery pack that’s capable of delivering a claimed range of up to 270 miles.
I tested the AWD xDrive30 in xLine trim (there’s also an M-Sport version). Inside, there’s a commanding view of the road from up front (I would prefer the option of a lower seating position) and visibility is pretty good, though the reversing camera is handy when manoeuvring because the tailgate window is on the slim side.
On the road, the iX1 is refined, especially once you’ve switched off the irritating Hans Zimmer ‘IconicSounds’ soundtrack which whooshes as you drive along.
With a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds, it’s probably a bit faster than it needs to be, especially when Sport mode is engaged.
More importantly, it delivers an engaging and easy driving experience with light steering.
Nimble and fun, there’s good traction from the AWD set-up (the iX1 favours its front motor in day-to-day driving), plus it rarely feels anything but composed with well controlled body lean in faster corners.
Yes, the ride is on the firm side, but it’s not uncomfortably so. What’s more, the brakes are responsive, which isn’t always the case with EVs, giving you that extra confidence to push it on more challenging roads.
Priced from £53,295, the iiX1 features the eighth generation of BMW’s iDrive operating system, which includes a 10.7-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a 10.25-inch driver’s digital instrument cluster.
The curved screen infotainment system is mainly operated via the touchscreen, voice commands and flush buttons on the steering wheel. There’s no longer a rotary controller next to the gear selector, which may annoy some, along with the minimalist look and feel.
And even though climate control is accessed via the touchscreen, the system powers up quickly and there’s a prominent short-cut to the climate menu at the bottom of the screen.
All in all, the iX1’s infotainment system is slick and sharp, along with a clear head-up display and augmented satellite navigation system which overlays upcoming directions on the touchscreen via big chevron graphics.
It’s hard to criticise the cabin too, because there’s plenty of space for five people. In fact, there’s superb leg and headroom in the back, while boot capacity is a decent 490 litres (expanding to 1,495 litres with the 40/20/40-split rear seats folded), though sadly there’s no space under the bonnet to store charging cables like some rivals.
Awarded a maximum five stars by Euro NCAP, it’s packed with safety and driver assistance goodies as standard, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning and speed limit assist, plus an additional centre airbag between the driver and front passenger seats.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect car and the BMW iX1 is no different.
The only real disappointment is the range, which could do with being closer to 300 miles, making 250 miles on a single charge a realistic possibility.
Average though the claimed range is, energy consumption manages to stay close to the predicted journey length, which isn’t always the case.
I’d also prefer steering wheel paddles for adjusting the regen, but that’s a minor gripe. On the plus side, it is possible to recover a few miles on steep downhill stretches of road by playing with the brake regeneration settings or sticking the gear selector in B mode.
Finally, the 130kW charging speed might not beat rivals such as the Kia EV6, but a 10-80% top-up will take less than 30 minutes via a suitably rapid charger.
Verdict: The BMW iX1 is, quite simply, one of the best all-round EV packages on the road today. Easy to live with, this handsome SUV delivers a winning blend of performance, practicality, dynamism, refinement, safety and quality.