We had hoped that the move to electrification might shrink the world a little by allowing different parts of the globe to share the same models, especially EVs based on existing combustion cars. Yet, although BMW is going to be selling gasoline-powered versions of the new X1 in the United States, there are no plans to bring the fully electric iX1 across the Atlantic.
It wasn’t long ago that BMW seemed to be at the forefront of the electric revolution. The adorably gawky carbon-bodied i3 hatchback and the three-cylinder PHEV i8 sports car were both pioneers. But in recent years the company has switched to a more timid approach, one where—outside of the solely electric iX—BMW has introduced a new range of “i”-branded cars that are EV versions of existing models. Like the iX3, i4, and i7, the new iX1 is one of these, fitting a fully electric powertrain to the third-gen X1, which is just going on sale in Europe.
The iX1 is being introduced in dual-motor all-wheel-drive form, carrying xDrive30 branding (BMW hints it will launch a less powerful two-wheel-drive version later). The motors turning each axle are identical but for a slightly lower gear ratio for the single-speed reduction at the back. Combined peak output is 308 horsepower and 364 pound-feet of torque. Power comes from a 64.7-kWh battery pack under the floor that gives a range of 266 miles under Europe’s flattering WLTP testing protocol—likely below 240 miles under the EPA’s more rigorous procedure. The battery supports DC fast-charging at up to 130 kW, which can take it from 10 percent to 80 percent in a claimed 29 minutes. The water-cooled pack will also adjust its temperature to an optimal 77 degrees Fahrenheit when nearing a fast-charger programmed into the nav system.
The iX1’s interior feels well finished and impressively spacious for a car that is just over 177 inches long. Full-size adults will be able to sit front and rear without complaint, and there is a roomy24 cubic feet of cargo space—virtues that will remain for the U.S.-bound, gasoline-powered X1 xDrive28i, which actually gets a little more cargo room at 25.7 cubic feet.
The iX1 gets a 10.3-inch digital instrument display as standard, plus a 10.7-inch curved touchscreen, both running the new BMW 8 operating system. This looks nice and operates snappily, but it does mean the demise of both physical heating controls and the useful row of customizable function keys BMW previously offered. Swiping down on the top of the screen brings up a rendered version of the function keys but requires eyes to be taken off the road. Similarly, although a My Modes button on the center console has survived the cull of conventional switchgear, pressing it just brings up options on the screen, with another input then required to select one.
This EV’s performance is punchy and delivered with minimal drama. The iX1’s accelerator pedal is a little top-loaded in its responses, especially in Sport mode, where the aggressive mapping makes it hard to achieve a smooth takeoff. BMW claims a 5.7-second zero-to-62-mph time. Full thrust is reserved for Boost mode, which is activated for 10 seconds by pulling a paddle behind the steering wheel, but we didn’t notice a perceptible difference versus just stomping on the accelerator. There is also a one-pedal mode, accessed by pulling the stubby gear selector to “B.”
The iX1 also comes with a switchable soundtrack, with the so-called IconicSounds Electric option creating a futuristic and vaguely engine-like hum in the cabin that varies according to accelerator position. This felt less contrived than some rival offerings, but we still preferred the silence with it turned off.
That’s because refinement is impressive. The cabin is well insulated at both urban and highway speeds, and despite a chunky 4600-pound weight—more than 800 pounds heavier than the X1 xDrive28i—ride quality remained good even over the bump-strewn British byways where we drove the car. The iX1 rides on passive dampers, but, like those in the G20-generation 3-series, they can hydraulically vary effort under large suspension travel.
What’s lacking, sadly, as in several other recent BMWs, is the sense of dynamic connection that formerly came as standard with any of the company’s products. The iX1’s steering is completely devoid of low-speed feedback, and its front-biased handling balance is easily powered into understeer. The retired i3 was smaller and slower but was also sharper and better to drive.
The priorities of driving enthusiasts don’t seem to be very high on the list of iX1 attributes. The point is made by three new switchable modes that have joined the familiar Personal, Sport and Efficient settings: Expressive, Relax, and Digital Art. Selecting Expressive changes the dashboard display and triggers the driver’s seat massage function; switching to another mode didn’t turn the kneading off, which had to be done through a tour of various menus. Relax started to play an ambient soundtrack. And Digital Art gave another redesign to both display screens. Frankly, all felt like gimmicks.
Still, should we feel aggrieved to be denied the iX1? Definitely, given its combination of relatively strong performance, cute design, and competitive pricing—in Europe at least. In Germany, the pre-tax price translates to just over $45,000, meaning it costs almost exactly the same as the entry-level Kia EV6 and undercuts the Mercedes EQA350 4Matic. Better news for us is that the rest of this X1 is significantly upgraded over the outgoing model, which bodes well for the gasoline version that will come here.
2023 BMX iX1 xDrive30
Vehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base: $46,000 – German USD equivalent, won’t be sold in North America
Front Motor: current-excited synchronous AC, 188 hp, 182 lb-ft
Rear Motor: current-excited synchronous AC, 188 hp, 182 lb-ft
Combined Power: 308 hp
Combined Torque: 364 lb-ft
Battery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 64.7 kWh
Onboard Charger: 11.0 kW
Peak DC Fast-Charge Rate: 130 kW
Transmissions, F/R: direct-drive/direct drive
Wheelbase: 106.0 in
Length: 177.2 in
Width: 72.6 in
Height: 63.6 in
Passenger Volume: 101 ft3
Cargo Volume: 24 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 4600 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 5.5 sec
1/4-Mile: 13.7 sec
Top Speed: 112 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 97/99/96 MPGe
Range: 230 mi