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Steering, suspension and ride comfort

If BMW being able to engineer a good engine and gearbox is no longer a certainty that you can count on, you might hope that the chassis engineers haven’t forgotten their craft. The X1 may not be natively rear-wheel drive, but that needn’t be a barrier to a fine-handling car.

Our test car was an M Sport model, like most BMWs in the UK, which brings bigger wheels and lowered suspension. It also had the adaptive M Sport dampers and the huge, 20in wheels. Although firm, the suspension deals with bigger lumps and bumps without being deflected, while also keeping the body level.

Even though the latest evolution of the Continental EcoContact tyres provides decent grip, at everyday speeds the steering’s initial response suggests otherwise. Push through with more steering angle and commitment, and the car will turn in fine. The steering will even weight up very subtly to tell you what’s going on.

The X1 has 17in alloys as standard, M Sport models get 19s but our test car rides on massive 20in wheels. At least the tyres aren’t run-flats, so the ride remains bearable. It’s curious to see both the star (BMW) and MO (Mercedes) markings on the same tyre.

Get on the power hard out of a bend and you can feel enough power being sent to the rear to cancel out any understeer. Equally, a mid-corner lift of the throttle will neatly tuck in the nose. That’s all very well, but it’s odd for a family crossover that you have to drive it quite hard to get any sense of fun or engagement out of it. It ought to deliver more tactility through the controls at ordinary speeds.

That culminated in how well the X1 took to the Millbrook Hill Route. The stability control is generally smooth and unintrusive, and with the system in one of the sport modes (it won’t ever turn fully off), the X1 will even show a playful side. The steering comes alive, too.

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Overall, though, you have to drive the X1 quite hard to get any sense of fun or engagement out of it, which doesn’t seem quite right for a family crossover.

Comfort and isolation

21 Bmw x1 23i rt 2023 rear corner 0

You might fear the worst for an M Sport BMW on 20in wheels, but thanks to adaptive dampers and non-run-flat tyres, the X1’s ride is not too bad. It’s still very much on the busy side of acceptable, and it’s a safe bet that a car with standard suspension and small wheels would be more pleasant in day-to-day use. Even in Comfort mode, the damping is fairly firm, but not as crashy as you might expect with those wheels. Even so, there is only so much that good dampers can do.

All UK X1s have the sport seats that are optional in other countries, and they’re very supportive with plenty of adjustment. However, BMW tends to make lumbar support an optional extra, and on the X1 it’s fairly pricey, at £225 or as part of the £1050 Comfort pack.

For the class, the X1 is a pretty quiet motorway cruiser, too. We measured 67dBA at 70mph, which is 1dBA quieter than the Volvo XC40 and the DS 7 Crossback, though both of those have since been facelifted.

Assisted driving notes

22 Bmw x1 23i rt 2023 assisted driving

In keeping with its reputation for making driver’s cars, BMW’s assisted driving features always used to be far less meddlesome than most. BMWs also used to have a button in the middle of the dashboard to turn the lot off, but that’s now gone.

Most grating is the absence of a button to change the adaptive cruise control’s following distance. Instead, the option is hidden several menus deep in the touchscreen. There is an adaptive mode, but it doesn’t always get it right. In particular, it kept following quite closely during a downpour.

On the plus side, the automatic emergency braking never gave any trouble and the automatic lane following and adaptive cruise control are fairly astute. The lane keeping assistance is quite intrusive but isn’t too much of a chore to turn off, but it still requires you to dive into the screen.

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