Only a keen observer will be able to notice that this BMW X1 is powered by electrons and not fossil fuel.

Don’t let the fact that the BMW iX1 looks and feels so familiar deceive you, because the electric X1 is a very different machine to its combustion-powered siblings. It still excels at everything good about the X1, but the electric powertrain adds an extra layer of refinement and performance to this accomplished package.

We like:

Classy, well-made cabin

iDrive becomes better with each generation

Effortless performance

Easy to drive, just like a normal X1

Driver assistants are effective yet non-intrusive.


Fantastic (optional) matrix LED headlights

Decent driving range

We don’t like:

Rear seat could do with more legroom

The usual EV charging infrastructure limitations

..... and that's about it, really.

The latest BMW X1 is quite a large car, and compares with the first X3 on exterior dimensions.As one of the modern-era EV pioneers, BMW indulged in some experimental weirdness with the i3, before going in the opposite direction by making their recent production EVs as “normal”-feeling as possible. The new iX1 is an excellent example of this philosophy, and adds a very capable electric powertrain to an otherwise familiar SUV recipe to great effect.

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A big front grille marks the iX1 as a new-generation BMW, but those kidneys are only for show.

BMW iX1 exterior styling

It takes a close-up look to tell the electric X1 apart from its combustion-powered counterparts, because they all share the same body shell and general styling cues. Our “Alpine White” test car was adorned with the M Sport package, sporting bumpers and wheels which made it look even more like any other high-spec X1 model.

Discreet M badges on the front fenders mark this iX1 as being on M Sport specification.This test car presented very neatly, showcasing the recessed door handles being phased-in at BMW at the moment to good effect on its smooth flanks. Compared to previous X1 generations, the lack of superfluous creases and scallops is refreshing, and the few character lines remaining are applied with decorum and good taste.

Our test car wore 19-inch “style 871 M” alloy wheels, a R 15 000 option, but even the standard 18-inch split-spoke wheels look pretty attractive. Those big wheels square-up the X1’s stance and adds an impression of visual solidity - exactly as an SUV should possess.

These 19-inch alloy wheels are a R 15 000 option.The cosmetic differences between the iX1 and the regular models amount to the obvious lack of exhaust pipes and a redesigned grille. There are no fake pipes at the back, their place in the rear diffuser instead taken up by two frozen-blue inserts, and a gloss-black blanking insert is placed in the kidney grille with a blue surround of its own and a tiny “i” badge in its top left corner. Just like a normal X1, except not quite.

Play around with the BMW iX1 configurator to build your dream virtual electric SAV.

The new BMW iX1 has an elegant interior design, with high-quality materials and solid assembly. It looks good, too.

BMW iX1 interior

Once again, the electric X1’s interior is nearly an exact copy of a regular model’s. The latest-generation X1 (code name U11 in BMW-speak) adopts the company’s Curved Display, which combines the driver info and infotainment screens into a single giant unit.

The user interface is slightly altered with this latest BMW architecture, and the new look is attractive and easy to use. The “control island” which handles many of the physical controls now resides in an elevated position ahead of the centre armrest, with ample storage (a traditional BMW weakness now addressed) underneath the armrest.

The "control island" is now raised to hand height, and features physical controls for the audio- and drive mode controls.This is both convenient and aesthetically pleasing, because it reduces the hand movement required to access the main infotainment system- and mode selection functions. A special shout-out goes to the presence of separate switches for the audio system, including a multi-function knurled roller for volume control. And, while the iDrive rotary controller is gone, the latest BMW operating system makes for a fairy intuitive interaction through the high-res touchscreen.

Build- and material quality both appear to be good, with soft-touch plastics everywhere one would reasonably want to touch and more rugged stuff where wear could be expected. The switchgear imparts a similarly sturdy impression, and helps justify the X1’s premium positioning - everything clicks with a measured precision which speaks of quality and attention to detail.

BMW still keeps developing combustion cars despite its commitment to EVs, as this upgraded 2 Series illustrates.

490 litres of boot space is quite generous, and the loading aperture is large and evenly-shaped.


In-car storage space is abundant and useful. While the centre console box doesn’t have a lifting lid anymore, there is a large storage tray underneath the control island. The glove box is deep but not very wide, and the generously-sized door pockets make provision for bottle storage as well.

Perhaps the nicest detail touch is the phone holder for the optional wireless charging pad. It has a simple hinge mechanism which applies just enough pressure to hold a phone securely in place, yet clicks lightly out of the way when the time comes to remove the device. The charging pad itself works very well, and added about half a day’s worth of power to my iPhone on a round trip between Pretoria and Jozi.

The (optional) wireless charging pad has a nifty and user-friendly spring-loaded phone holder.The luggage compartment is usefully sized at 490 litres with all seats in use, expanding to 1 495 litres with the rear seatbacks folded away. The underfloor compartment, which houses the charging cables, also has some free space to add, and can easily accommodate a laptop or something similar.

This hidden compartment under the luggage floor normally carries cables, but can also accommodate a laptop or other small items.

Well-equipped, but even nicer with options

In usual German fashion, the base iX1 is equipped with most modern conveniences as standard, but needs some ticking of option boxes to get the optimal package. Standard equipment on the M Sport variant as tested includes adaptive suspension, front sport seats, a padded dashboard and door cards, and the Shadow Line high-gloss exterior styling package, so the M Sport package certainly justifies its R 40 000 premium over the basic xLine trim in comfort and cosmetic advances alone.

Fantastic matrix LED headlamps are enough reason to order the optional "Equipment Package".This test car was equipped with an additional “Equipment package”, which adds another worthwhile R 24 500 to the list price of an iX1 M Sport. Among various other items, this package adds adaptive matrix LED headlights with high-beam assist, and this brilliant feature makes the price worth it all by itself. The comfort access system, wireless charger with its nifty phone holder, and anti-dazzle rear-view mirrors which complete this package are almost incidental to those fantastic headlights, but do add greatly to the seamless user interaction between this BMW and its driver.

That "30: at the end of its name indicates that it's set up to perform like an old-fashioned 3.0-litre petrol BMW.

iX1 Power and performance

Nestled under the floorboards and where the normal X1’s fuel tank and propeller shaft would go is a 64.7 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which sends electrons to two electric motors, one mounted on each axle. The combined power output amounts to 230 kW and 494 Nm, so even a kerb weight of almost 2.1 metric tons doesn’t exactly blunt the performance.

Sure, the iX1 xDrive30 isn’t as crushingly rapid as the twin-motor Volvo EX30 which came up one week earlier in our review schedule, but its claimed 0 - 100 km/h sprint time of 5.6 seconds is certainly more than adequately quick. Real-world performance bears this out, with effortless and linear acceleration just a flex of the right ankle away.

Regardless of the starting speed, a mere squeeze of the accelerator nearly instantly adds 20 km/h to the digital driver’s display readout. This responsive performance is also easily accessible and easy to manage, with pedal calibration which deliberately recalls that of a naturally-aspirated combustion car. Yet more proof of the “normal-ness” of the latest mainstream BMW EVs.

All-LED lighting play an important part in the BMW iX1's efficiency, and the tail light clusters are downright pretty.

Driving range and charging speed

The BMW iX3 is equipped with both AC- and DC charging ports, and arrived with a 220V wall-socket adapter in the compartment under the luggage floor. After running the battery down to about 50% (using 30% of its capacity on a hurried trip to and from Johannesburg), it was connected to the mains power at 7pm, and showed 100% charge only 13 hours later.

With home charging speed this decent, there was no need to visit any public charging station - the freshly recharged battery lasted for the rest of the review period, before the car was returned with more than 200 km of available range left over.

BMW claims up to 440 km of driving range, and the review period showed that at least 400 km should be available to a moderately-conservative driver who nonetheless taps into that delicious electric torque once in a while. That’s really good going, and, combined with comparatively quick home charging, makes the iX1 a brilliant car for peri-urban commutes.

The new BMW iX1 is as nice to look at as it is to drive - nothing outlandish, yet embodying the best of modern BMW.

Driving experience and ride quality

It really is just as easy as getting behind the wheel of any regular X1, with an identical on/off pushbutton and thoroughly conventional controls, right down to the stubby gear selector toggle. The dashboard is unchanged, but the driver’s info display has EV-specific readouts among its many customisable displays.

The latest X1 is a sizeable SUV, close to the original X3 in size, and its tall build doesn’t really promise exciting driving dynamics. However, the steering is pleasingly direct, there’s plenty of road grip even from the eco-friendly EV-specific tyres, and the handling balance is neutral up till the point where the rather conservative stability control system induces some light understeer to scrub off some speed.

Blue inserts slot into the space normally reserved for exhaust outlet pieces.This isn’t due to a lack of grip from the chassis, but purely software-related and likely included as part of a rollover-avoidance system. It’s easy to forget to which extent modern cars have become dependent on their electronic control systems to keep such heavy and rapid vehicles under control, and this level of technological integration across safety systems is truly impressive.

Despite the oversized wheels, the ride quality of our test iX1 was also very good. While the suspension tuning keeps the body under tight control, there’s enough compliance to deal with suburban roads and graded gravel surfaces, and potholes and speed bumps are handled with nary a shudder. This bias towards comfort over sportiness pays dividends in making the iX1 a pleasure to live with on a daily basis.

The BMW iX1's driver's pew is a comfortable place to spend time.

Comfort and space

Front occupants in the new X1 will have no reason to complain whatsoever. This is one of very few cars where an egregiously tall driver (1.95-meters, mostly composed of legs) doesn’t need to set the seat all the way back. There’s head- and shoulder room aplenty up front, and fairly deep side glass reinstate some of the outward visibility claimed by rather thick roof pillars.

However, with the driver’s seat set for the tall occupant mentioned above, there won’t be enough room at the back for him to sit behind himself. If the front-seat occupants are of average size, there will be space for three more average-sized people on the rear bench, but if the front occupants are tall, rear legroom takes a severe knock.

The BMW iX1's rear-seat space isn't as generous as the front occupants enjoy.Perhaps the sports seats fitted as part of the M Sport specification plays a role here, because such deep sculpting do exact a toll on rear-seat space. Either way, larger passengers won’t be very happy on the X1’s rear bench, simply on account of the limited legroom.

Those front sports seats are superb, however, with enough side support to make an enthusiast feel at home along with ideal padding and (manual) adjustment to find an ideal posture for long-distance comfort. Long-legged occupants will particularly appreciate the extending seat base, for added under-thigh support.

Comfortable and supportive front bucket seats form part of the iX1 M Sport trim level's standard equipment.


The entry-level iX1 is mechanically identical to the M Sport on test, bar the cosmetic bits and adaptive suspension. The latter is the main reason why we’d recommend opting for the higher-end variant from the outset - everyday comfort is definitely worth the price premium.

In base xLine trim, the iX1 xDrive30 costs R 1 205 000, while the M Sport ups that to R 1 245 000. Add the optional equipment pack for another R 24 500 just to get those amazing headlights and the cool upgraded alloy wheels, and the total for our test car comes out to R 1 284 500. Less than R 80 000 makes the sporty one so much more desirable than the base model…

The blanked-off grille with its blue surround and tiny "i" badge are key giveaways to the iX1's EV status.


The electric BMW X1 scores its greatest victory not because it’s especially quick, really driver-focused or particularly advanced - it’s none of those things - but because it is a really good compact BMW SUV (sorry, SAV) which just happens to get its power from batteries rather than a fuel tank.

In all aspects bar the refueling process, it demands no compromises and delivers all the best elements of the latest BMW X1 despite its alternative propulsion method. Yes, it’s pricey, but it has enough virtues and baked-in usability to make it worth that money.

Martin Pretorius


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