The BMW iX1 brings BMW all-electric SUV motoring to more of a mass audience than the BMW iX3 or the BMW iX, but it still has all the qualities that you would expect from a BMW.
Now that the i3 is no longer in production, BMW’s all-electric offerings are the i4, iX3 and the iX. If you wanted a smaller SUV (although BMW calls the iX1 a ‘Sports Activity Vehicle’ (SAV)), there has been nothing on offer. However that has now changed with the arrival of the BMW iX1, sitting in the premium compact segment, and the entry to electric BMW SUV ownership.
The platform for the BMW iX1 is new, and it provides the base for petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and fully-electric models. The iX1 has a 64.7 kWh battery, a 190 hp electric motor at the front, and an identical 190 hp electric motor at the rear, giving electric all-wheel drive (unlike the BMW X3 which is only available with rear-wheel drive).
There’s a 490-litre boot (or 1,495 litres with the rear seats folded), you can fit a roof rack, and you can tow up to 1,200 kg.
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We drove a BMW iX1 prototype for a relatively short time on UK roads so we’ll have to carry out a full week-long test when the final production car is available, but the initial feedback is that this is an excellent car to drive.
The iX1 feels like a BMW. This means that it exudes ‘premium’, combining a well-engineered, refined feel, with comfortable ride quality (Adaptive M suspension is fitted as standard), sporty handling, and responsive performance. The dashboard is also mostly typical BMW, although the iDrive rotary dial has disappeared.
To drill down into some more detail, the iX1 has a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 5.6 seconds, which is impressive performance for an SUV. The acceleration is delivered in the immediate, linear way typical of electric motors, and all in near-silence – although you do experience BMW’s futuristic electric soundtrack (“BMW IconicSounds Electric”, courtesy of composer Hans Zimmer) when you accelerate enthusiastically. You can also press a button on the steering wheel to provide a short burst of extra electric torque.
There are three main drive modes: Personal, Sport and Efficient. Any form of a traditional gear selector has gone, instead there’s a switch that you pull back for ‘D’, and pull back again for ‘B’, ie. increased brake regeneration. There’s also adaptive recuperation, when the car decides itself how much regen to apply.
The iX1 doesn’t exhibit any particular front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive traits, and this is because although it operates in front-wheel drive in normal driving, the car will switch to all-wheel drive when needed. BMW also claims that its traction control is 10 times faster than other systems on the market.
The dashboard looks like a traditional BMW dashboard, but it features the latest technology, including the BMW ‘Curved Display’ and ‘BMW Operating System 8’, which includes the latest generation of voice control. We’ve been on various new model launches from different car brands over recent years when the latest systems of voice control have been hailed as massive progress, but we’ve not yet found a voice control system that works reliably on a consistent basis. However during our short time with the iX1, there did seem to be hope that its system does actually work effectively – but more time is needed with the car to verify this.
One excellent feature of BMWs over recent years has been the iDrive system with its rotary dial and shortcut buttons positioned conveniently between the front seats, however this has disappeared in the iX1 and instead you have to reach to the touchscreen to press buttons.
The satnav system is excellent, with clear mapping graphics – even if it seems to be getting a little over-complex. There’s an optional head-up display, and an optional ‘Augmented View’ function which lays down arrows on top of a video of the actual road in front of you, which is projected onto the touchscreen from cameras at the front of the car.
The BMW iX1 has a WLTP Combined electric driving range of 259 – 273 miles. It wasn’t possible to test the real-life range on the launch event but hopefully we’ll do this soon.
The iX1 has a maximum rapid charging rate of 130 kW, and BMW says that its engineers have been working to optimise the charge curve, in other words, trying to reduce the drop-off in charging speed as the battery charge increases. The result is that a 10% to 80% charge at a 130 kW+ rapid charger can be achieved in 29 minutes. Potentially you could gain 75 miles of range in just ten minutes.
If you can charge at a workplace offering 11 kW three-phase power, a 0-100% charge could take 6.5 hours. There’s also the option to be able to charge at up to 22 kW AC, when the charging time could be reduced to 3 hours 45 minutes.
The iX1 xLine is available from £52,255 and the iX1 M Sport is available from £54,960.
The blue exterior trim details are a no-cost option; 18-inch light-alloy wheels are fitted on xLine and M Sport cars, although these models can also be specified with 19-inch or – in a first for the BMW X1 – 20-inch wheels.
The BMW iX1 is available to order now and deliveries should start in the UK from January 2023.
The X1 is available with petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains, but what’s interesting to note is that BMW expects 66% of X1 sales in the UK to be fully electric and 14% to be plug-in hybrid (ie. 80% to be ‘plug-in’ models), leaving only 20% to be petrol or diesel.
The BMW iX1 is a very welcome addition to the choice of EVs for car buyers. It offers the BMW badge, the sporty and premium BMW driving experience, a practical SUV body style, all-wheel drive, and a decent range of up to 273 miles. It also has a cabin that looks good and features the latest technology, and, in typical BMW fashion, it works well. We look forward to carrying out a full review of the production model when it’s available in the UK, but in the meantime the BMW iX1 is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.