BMW iX1 2023 test drive review – Neil Allison

BMW iX1 2023 test drive review - Neil Allison

Electric Road Star Contributor, Neil Allison, has recently had the BMW iX1 for a 48-hour test drive.

As a self-confessed BMW fan and one of Sytner BMW Coventry’s best customers over the years, Neil managed to get his hands on the ‘hard to get hold of’ BMW iX1 and we were delighted when he said he’d provide a test drive review.



As many of you will know, I love my BMW i3. I was dismayed when BMW decided to cease production with no clear replacement. I was further dismayed when it’s ‘official’ replacement, the iX1, was launched and the pricing was announced. With a price hike of at least £18,000 up to £25,000 dependent on specification, I knew this would be unaffordable for me. I would suspect with a starting price of around £52,250 going up to in excess of £60,000, this will rule out a great many customers.


Admittedly, the launch vehicle is standard with 4-wheel drive and 30e power and with less expensive versions mooted, I do wonder whether this price tag is justified. Well, to put that to the test, I was given the opportunity to have an extended test drive courtesy of the good people at Sytner BMW Coventry and these are my findings.


BMW iX1 2023 test drive review - Neil Allison


The iX1 is an aggressively-styled small SUV which fits into the family category. Big double kidney grille, albeit not as large as some, and a scaled down X5-look. Visually, it’s very appealing (in my view) although I do acknowledge that BMW looks can divide opinion. The interior is pretty standard BMW in terms of seating and layout and is unsurprisingly very well screwed together. The new BMW OS 8 operating system features a large curved screen which gives all driver infotainment. The only thing is, it’s now either all voice-controlled or touchscreen and the rotary controller so familiar to BMW owners has gone but more of this later.


BMW iX1 2023 test drive review - Neil Allison



It’s not really possible to compare the iX1 with an i3. This might sound daft but of course the iX1 is an electrified version of a conventionally-fuelled car and other than being quieter, it immediately feels like it’s ICE counterpart.  That said, once you get driving, and specifically when you accelerate, the difference becomes clear. The power on tap is exhilarating to say the least with masses of power available through your right foot.


The car also makes a kind of synthetic ‘accelerating’ noise as you increase the power. A passenger with me commented that it sounds a bit like an electric train; I quite liked it. One thing about having so much power through the front wheels means that in damp conditions, the car was struggling occasionally to put the power through the wheels without wheel spinning, despite having systems that minimise this. Handling otherwise is very composed and confident through corners.



You can set 3 different levels of regenerative braking, which feels like nothing to quite marked. In maximum setting, it did offer more regeneration than the i3 but other settings felt milder. One feature of this car is a little ‘flappy paddle’ on the right side of the steering wheel. This is a boost function which literally makes the car accelerate like a ‘bat out of hell’ but is subject to a countdown and does not last indefinitely, probably to save battery power. It’s lots of fun though and the synthetic sound system makes an even more aggressive noise adding to the drama.



On the second day, I took the iX1 for a rapid charge. Admittedly only a 50kWh charger and I didn’t fully charge, I went up to about 75% and this was showing a range of 145 out of a maximum of 210. The conditions were cool but not freezing and this didn’t appear to be anywhere near the advertised maximum of 270. I’d turned down heating settings etc. to try and maximise range so this was perhaps a little disappointing. I’m not one for measuring kWh consumption but I took the car on a trip of about 50 miles, leaving a range of 80 when I took the car back.



One thing I did find a bit frustrating was the absence of the familiar rotary iDrive controller. In the iX1 the majority of systems are controlled either by voice, which was always pretty accurate or by a plethora of menus on the large touchscreen. For someone who is used to the iDrive, I didn’t find the touchscreen as user-friendly. I’m sure if I actually owned the car and had more time with it, I would get used to it but one of the strengths of all the BMWs I’ve owned is the simplicity of use; this is certainly a step back in my view.


BMW iX1 2023 test drive review - Neil Allison


There are of course many assistance features and the car was fitted with a Harman Kardon sound system which was excellent, better than the one I have in my i3. But overall, I didn’t adjust too much as it would have taken awhile. I often wonder whether all the settings and the ability to change things around are really necessary and take something away from the ‘ultimate driving experience’ which BMW have always offered.



Overall, this is a very good car. Well made, very fast, full of tech and a good looker in my view. However, when you consider that you could have 2 x MG4s for the same price as one of these (and yes, I know you can’t really compare them), is the additional £30,000 justifiable unless the badge is everything to you?


It is undoubtedly a desirable vehicle but I’m struggling to come to terms with the high price tag, even by BMW’s standards. It’s possible to get a new Tesla Model 3 or Y for considerably less and unless you are dead set on a BMW, would you really spend this much more on the iX1?


Finally, in my view, there is something special about a ‘ground up’ electric vehicle. It just feels special. The i3 is a master stroke in innovation and I’m sure is missed by many. The iX1, as good as it is, feels like an electric ICE and a very expensive one at that. So on that basis, I’m sorry to say, I wouldn’t buy one even if I could afford it.


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