It’s taken three generations to get there. but the BMW X1 is now a fine family SUV. Slightly bigger than the outgoing Mk 2 X1 (24mm wider, 44mm higher and 22mm in wheelbase), not only does it deliver more space for passengers and their luggage, but it’s chunkier with a greater road presence. The pure electric version (marketed as the BMW iX1) that’s the pick of the range. At first sight, it looks much the same as its petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid siblings with only a closed-off grille and blue trim highlights to differentiate it
Up front, the large kidney grille is flanked by slim LED headlights. The side profile sports meaty wheel arches and fared-in door handles, while its pert rear boasts three-dimensional LED lights and underside protection.
But, off course, there is much more going on beneath the skin of this zero-emissions 4×4, including two electric motors (one on each axle) producing a total of 309bhp and a 68kWh battery pack (64.7kWh usable) that delivers an official range of up to 270 miles.
Inside, the iX1 features BMW’s impressive eighth-generation 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 general minimalisation of switches, buttons and dials.
And even though climate control is accessed via the touchscreen, the system fires up quickly and there’s a prominent shortcut to the climate menu at the bottom of the screen.
All in all, the iX1’s infotainment system is slick and sharp, along with the clear head-up display and augmented satellite navigation system which overlays upcoming directions on the touchscreen via big chevron graphics.
I tested the AWD xDrive30 in xLine trim (there’s an M-Sport available too), and an impressive piece of kit it is too, with BMW’s usual top build quality and classy materials.
There’s a commanding view of the road from up front (though I would prefer the option of a lower seating position), visibility is good, while a reversing camera (standard on all models, along with front and rear sensors) comes in handy when manoeuvring because the tailgate window is on the slim side.
The iX1 is a practical proposition with plenty of space inside the cabin and superb leg and headroom in the back for a car of this size. Boot space is a healthy 490 litres (expanding to 1,495 litres with the rear seats folded), though sadly there’s no space under the bonnet (frunk) to store charging cables like some rivals.
It’s safe too. Awarded a maximum of 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.
On the road, the refinement levels in the cabin are impressive. In fact, it’s whisper quiet once you switch off the irritating Hans Zimmer ‘IconicSounds’ soundtrack which whooshes as you drive along.
It’s swift with a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds. In fact, 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. Despite the fact that it weighs around 400kg more than its ICE stablemates, the engineers at BMW have done a great job hiding it, because the iX1 is nimble and fun, and boasts light steering.
Yes, the ride is on the firm side, but it’s not uncomfortably so. Needless to say, 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.
Finally, the brakes are responsive, which isn’t always the case with EVs.
Which brings us to range. It’s a shame it’s not closer to the magic 300-mile mark, which would make a real-world 250 miles a realistic possibility. Average though it is, energy consumption manages to stay close to the predicted journey length, which isn’t always the case.
You can play with the brake regeneration settings or stick the gear selector in B mode in order to eke out more miles.
I’d prefer steering wheel paddles for adjusting the regen, but that’s a minor gripe. One thing’s for sure, on steep downhill stretches is possible to recover a few miles, which is always satisfying.
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.
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