We’ve spent an enormous amount of time in the previous X1 and its close cousins the MINI Clubman and MINI Countryman. While the X1 was decent take on a front-wheel drive BMW crossover, it did little to excite it and was often overshadowed by the slightly smaller and more engaging MINI Clubman and Countryman. Now BMW is back with a larger X1 that turns up the design, quality and performance making it one of the most dramatic generational improvements we’ve ever seen from BMW. It’s also a great preview of the next generation MINI Countryman that will be based on it.

For the first time since the original, 3 Series based X1, we have something that feels closer to what you’d expect from the Roundel. In fact rarely have we seen such a dramatic increase in design, quality and performance from one generation to the next.

The BMW X1 28i is offered with the familiar B48 four cylinder turbo with a 241 hp, 295 lbs of torque tune. That propels the car from 0-60 in 6.2 seconds – a respectable number but one that will improve with the forthcoming M40i model our sources have informed us about. We’d expect similar figures with both the forthcoming Countryman S and Countryman JCW.

Unlike the previous X1, xDrive is standard and is offered exclusively with a 7 speed dual clutch transmission. In our time with the car the DCT felt both quicker and overall smarter than the previous Aisin sourced 8 speed auto. Shifts were less noticeable which helps the entire package feel a bit more refined. This will be a welcome change in the Countryman line-up as well.

While we’ve seen some reviews that referenced sluggish responses attributed to the transmission, we believe more than likely that early software was at fault. Our test car didn’t exhibit any of those characteristics.

2023 BMW X1 28i

One area that is particularly improved is the steering and suspension tuning. In Comfort the steering resistance is noticeably lighter than before to the point of being surprising at first. The X1 we tested at the Adaptive M Suspension which has more range than before. In Comfort the ride is compose but focused on exactly what you’d expect – comfort. In Sport however the X1 comes alive with an heavier steering that feels artificial but does provide positive feedback to the point that you can place the car with trust anywhere in a corner. Along with the hardware and tuning, the .8″ wider track is certainly a part of that. There’s precision here that surprised us and is a clear step forward from the previous X1. The Sport suspension is also a noticeable improvement with better body control and less lean while being no more harsh over expansion joins or rough pavement. In fact with the one inch longer wheelbase it feels more refined and comfortable even in sport than the previous X1.

2023 BMW X1 28i

BMW Makes Some Major Changes to Standard Equipment

The X1 28i comes standard with BMW’s excellent all wheel drive system xDrive and for the first time in the US. Dynamic Cruise control and Navigation are standard along with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto.

SensaTec is the only interior material available as BMW has quietly eliminated leather from the X1’s ordering books. While that may sound like a downgrade, BMW’s latest version of SensaTec is a clear step-up and feels better to the touch than mid-grade leather the X1 had before. It will also surely be more durable. We’ll also see this change in the upcoming 2024 Countryman as MINI goes entirely vegan over the next several years.

The X1 comes with 18″ wheels as standard but can be optioned with 19″ and 20″. And finally BMW is offering an optional trailer hitch with a towing rating of 3500 lbs. Expect this option to be available next year and eventually on the Countryman as well.

All of these changes serve to position the X1 better against it’s less premium rivals in the US while increasing both the quality and driving experience.

What This means For the 2024 Countryman?

In this redesign BMW has brought this 3rd generation X1 closer to the rest of the BMW crossover range in design, material quality and performance. Everything from the proportions to the technology to the material quality has been improved. Even the feel, feedback and overall driving engagement has been noticeably improved over its predecessor. All of that bodes well for the Countryman which we can imagine will see most if not all of these benefits in a slightly smaller package. But slightly smaller to the now larger X1 means we will still see that car grow noticeably in size.