BMW's iX1 sets a high standard for small full-electric SUVs. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
The BMW of small, relatively affordable EVs now looks like this, the iX1. Visually, it's little different from any other third generation X1, but the 64.7kWh powertrain offers very competitive driving range, rapid performance and remarkable traction. A pricey package, but one with considerable potential.
It was crucial that BMW's third generation X1 crossover should also be available in full electric form. Most of this model's key rivals now offer that option, so the iX1 is extremely significant for the Munich maker and effectively acts as the new entry point for the company's growing range of EVs.
It doesn't have bespoke EV architecture underneath, but then most current segment rivals don't yet have that either. The advantage of this from BMW's point of view is that an FAAR platform shared with combustion X1 variants allows the iX1 to be built on the same production line at Regensburg in Germany. So is this contender going to really worry direct class rivals like the Tesla Model Y, the Mercedes EQA and Volvo's XC40 Recharge Pure Electric? Let's see.
There's a choice of two iX1 models. Things kick off with the base single motor front-driven 204hp iX1 eDrive20 variant, with 247Nm of torque and between 268 and 296 miles of range. Or there's the much more powerful dual motor AWD xDrive30 version, which offers 313hp, 494Nm of torque and 257-272 miles of range. Both variants use the same 64.7kWh (usable capacity) battery.
We tried the iX1 xDrive30, which as mentioned is powered by one electric motor at the front axle and another at the rear, each combined with power electronics and transmission in a single, compact housing. It's quite a potent package this, the twin motor all wheel drive system giving the iX1 xDrive30e a rest to 62mph sprint time of just 5.7 seconds. Top speed is 112mph. BMW's promising more accomplished handling than class EV rivals can offer as well, thanks to clever wheel slip limitation technology borrowed from the larger iX. With this traction management setup, power can be automatically transferred between front and rear wheels to maximise stability and grip. If you're used EVs of this size scrabbling away for traction from rest under hard acceleration, that feature will be welcome.
Expect refinement to be even more impressive than it usually is on an EV thanks to a sleek drag coefficient of 0.26Cd. Adaptive M suspension is standard, agility and comfort benefitting from mechanically controlled adjustable and frequency-selective dampers. Pressure peaks inside the dampers are smoothed out by additional valves active on the rebound side. The specially designed damper system also brings about a 15mm drop in ride height.
Design and Build
Blue detailing will help your neighbours identify that you've chosen the full electric version of this X1. Otherwise, apart from the badging and the charging flap, it'll be difficult to tell this iX1 apart from its combustion range counterparts. This third generation X1 completes the visual switch of this model line from Crossover to fully-fledged SUV. It's larger than its predecessor too, 53mm longer, 24mm wider and 44mm taller. At the front, slim LED headlights flank the large, almost square BMW kidney grille. The profile has a dynamically rising character crease. And at the rear, horizontal lines and the narrow rear window emphasise the extra body width.
The cabin's marked out by the adoption of BMW's 'Operating System 8' media system, which sees the introduction of a 'Curved Display' on the dash top, made up of a 10.7-inch instrument monitor seamlessly joined to a 10.25-inch central infotainment screen. The latter display incorporates the 'BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant', a voice control system responding to the command 'Hey BMW'. Wireless 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring is standard. And the infotainment set-up now updates itself with 'over-the-air' upgrades, so you'll get into your X1 one morning and find it able to do something it couldn't do the day before.
As for practicalities, well the front of the cabin's notably spacious and the seats offer excellent all-round comfort. The rear compartment is roomy for a car of this compact class too, with three full-sized seats and a base able to slide by up to 13cms. That aids the 490-litre boot, 10-litres less than you get with the non-electrified X1 combustion models (though the same as you'd have with an X1 PHEV). With the rear seats folded in an iX1, capacity is 1,495-litres.
Market and Model
You'll need from around £46,000 for the eDrive20 variant with base 'Sport' trim; plusher 'xLine' and 'M Sport' versions of this model are also offered if you've more to spend. You'll need just under £54,500 for the AWD xDrive30 model (that's with 'xLine' trim); or around £57,000 if you want it with the 'M Sport'-spec we tried.
For this kind of outlay, you'd expect a very wide range of driver assistance features - which is exactly what you get. The iX1 is fitted as standard with the latest version of BMW's front-collision warning system with brake intervention. It comprises features such as Collision Warning, incorporating pedestrian and cyclist warning with a braking function. There's also Crossroads Warning, plus Cruise Control with a brake function, Speed Limit Info with a no-overtaking indicator, a manual Speed Limit Assist system and BMW's useful Evasion Assistant which helps with emergency manoeuvres: all of this is fitted as standard. Lane Departure Warning with lane return also comes included and is capable of suppressing course correction on narrow roads to allow the driver to move over for an oncoming vehicle.
The standard Active Park Distance Control package issues alerts and automatic brake inputs to help avoid collisions with obstacles to the front, sides and rear of the vehicle. Also standard are a Reversing Assist Camera and the BMW's clever Reversing Assistant, which can automatically reverse you out of a space the same way you drove into it. Also fitted is the brand's 'Parking Assistant', which helps select and park in spaces parallel or perpendicular to the road, with the system also able to take bearings from the kerb.
Cost of Ownership
We gave you the range figures for the 64.7kWh battery in our 'Driving' section - 268-296 miles for the eDrive20 and 257-272 miles for the xDrive30. The faster AWD model achieves a combined power consumption of 3.6 mi/kWh. We struggled to get much more than 200 miles during our test. But these days, charging times are almost as important as range and efficiency figures.
Charging rates are the same with both iX1 variants - up to 130kW, which means a 10-80% top-up at a DC rapid charger can be completed in 29 minutes, with 75 miles of range added in just 10 minutes. At home, the car's Combined Charging Unit enables single and three-phase AC charging up to 11kW, which allows the battery to be fully recharged from empty in 6.5 hours as standard; specify the upgraded 11kW on-board charger and you can reduce that replenishment time to just three hours 45 minutes.
As in the BMW i7, the charging software has been further refined for this iX1. Once the battery reaches a higher charge level, the new process drops the charging rate smoothly instead of the previous "stepped" curve, resulting in even shorter charging times. An optimised cooling strategy for DC charging improves the durability of the battery. Alternating phases of full and partial cooling power are used to prevent cell temperatures dropping too low during fast charging, shortening charging times and reducing ageing. Customised settings for individual charge points can be stored and automatically recalled on the next visit, while pre-heating can be started manually on approach to a DC charging station.
In some ways after the revolution that was the i3, BMW's very first entry-level EV a decade ago, the iX1 seems a touch conservative. But it will better represent the Munich maker in a category where customers increasingly expect their small EVs to be crossovers. Those who want real-world driving range capability regularly over the 250 mile mark though, may want to try before they buy because we never managed anything like that during our test. Still, in compensation, the iX1 brings a slightly more engaging level of driving involvement to the lower mid-sized EV Crossover segment and for that, we'd recommend it. You certainly won't wish for more performance from this zippy dual motor version. There's also a classy cabin, very high standards of media connectivity and safety standards that are difficult to beat in the class.
All enticing attributes, but all also shared by the two Plug-in Hybrid X1 variants that we'd recommend you consider carefully before deciding upon this full-battery version, each with a potential EV driving range of over 50 miles and the drive flexibility beyond that you might want given our country's rather flaky EV public charging network. But if a full EV it has to be, then here's one you can't ignore.