The BMW iX1 is a deceptively sized and gorgeously styled EV, it sits just below the luxury car tax and is currently the cheapest electric car the company sells in Australia. It’s what BMW considers to be a small SUV, and from photos, you’d think the automaker was joking, but it isn’t too big, rather it’s a neatly-sized car with quite a sporty feel and a premium cabin. In terms of value, however, it’s a difficult proposition – much of the price tag is owed to the BMW badge, and the luxurious performance that badge promises.
I spent a week with the BMW iX1, and here’s what I think of the car.
The BMW iX1: Not the tank you might think it is
The BMW iX1 EV is an electric car built on a petrol-powered drivetrain. Aesthetically, the car is distinctive from its fuel-dependent relatives by its plastic grille, which retains the brand’s front-end aesthetic with a splash of futurism. It’s a good-looking car, no doubt, but as I mentioned, the photos make it look gigantic. Although the BMW is an SUV, it’s no bigger than the Tesla Model Y. Talking boot space, this thing has a 490L boot (1,495L with the seats down) – ‘small’ isn’t it.
This car is a road-rocket, fitted with a boost button behind the steering wheel which bumps the car up into a temporary sport mode, with a 0-100km/h speed of just 5.6 seconds. Where other electric cars would simply offer a quick toggle for driving modes, the boost button fills this hole by quickly applying a motor boost to the car for a short time (for getting in front of a car, for example, or merging onto a motorway). It feels like a video game button.
It was certainly cool, but it’s a gimmick, right? It’s a temporary overclock that is made redundant by simply slipping the car into ‘Sport’ mode (which is an option in the infotainment system). It mostly adds to the experience as an aesthetic choice, which would certainly be attractive to some drivers, but other drivers might just want one simple driving mode. That being said, it did feel incredible hitting the boost button and merging onto a highway, or turning onto a road with a stream of traffic (safely, of course – I’m no rev-head).
Sitting on an AWD platform, the iX1’s road presence is incredible. Driving it around windy roads I absolutely loved how this thing handled, and when making tight turns, I was extremely impressed with the iX1’s turning circle. It’s capable of turning far tighter than I expected it to, making slipping it into my tight car park a breeze, even if it’s such a large car. This was enhanced by the car’s 360 camera display, which made fitting into tight parks a non-issue.
Precision German engineering
Speaking of the OS, I was mostly using (wireless) Android Auto for my week with the car, and having that wireless connectivity definitely added to the experience. I was also pretty impressed with the seatbelt the car has for phones. Yes, the wireless charger mount sits in a totem-like structure below the car’s infotainment system, sitting upright with a seatbelt latching over it so that the phone doesn’t fly into the back of the car when you hit the pedal.
I loved how well everything just worked. Android Auto would automatically come on, Maps directions would feed through into the holographic display in front of the driver, and if needed, there were also USB ports.
The sound system was amazing, and though I wasn’t a big fan of the seats in the car (the material was a bit too hard for me), BMW does offer a deep level of height, depth, and lumbar adjustment to make it right for you.
And all of this is really the value the iX1 offers. The battery has a 440km WLTP range, with a 130kW max charging speed (which most public DC chargers will be able to facilitate).
It’s at this point where I, as appreciative as I am of how well this all works for BMW (the infotainment system has to be among my favourites), start to question the value offered by the iX1.
A short walk to the Model Y
The BMW iX1 currently starts at $84,990 in Australia before on-road costs, putting it in competition with the Tesla Model Y Long Range ($78,400), the Lexus UX300e ($82,530), and the Volvo XC40 Recharge ($76,990). If we drop down to the next sort of tier, we can add the base Model Y to this list, along with the Kia EV6 ($67,990) and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 ($72,000).
Now, BMW fans may disagree, but at the $84,990 price point, I didn’t really see enough interesting features to justify going BMW over many of these alternatives. The iX1 does have larger internal storage space than many of these other cars, sure, but that’s really not a reason for spending $6,600 more than on a Tesla Model Y.
It does feel nicer to be inside of than some of these other cars (I definitely preferred the cabin of the iX1 to the EV6 and Model Y, but probably not to the Ioniq 5), but again, I think savings are inescapable when we’re talking about this much money.
And just talking about power, for a moment – most of these other cars offer greater range than the iX1, and often faster DC charging speeds. They also all have fairly great acceleration speeds – perhaps not as fast as the iX1, but still enough to outpace most petrol-engine cars when merging onto a road.
If you’re after value, the good news is that BMW will soon introduce the cheaper iX1 ‘eDrive 20’ (the model I drove is the eDrive 30) to Australia, with a $78,900 starting price, although some features have been removed.
The BMW iX1: A luxury badge and a boost button
Let’s not beat around the bush; you’re paying for the badge with the BMW. There is a fair amount of prestige and excitement in this car that its contemporaries can’t match, and it does feel brilliant on the road, no doubt (it is an AWD, after all, which bumps its road feeling up quite a lot).
The BMW iX1 is an excellent car. It’s fast, it has a tremendous OS, it’s well-mannered and it’s very luxurious. It’s everything somebody shopping at the $85,000 price point needs it to be.
But with a cheaper model on the horizon, perhaps it’s worthwhile weighing your options against less expensive alternatives.
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia
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…. to be continued
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