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BMW continues to grow in market share and as a top luxury brand. Of the 340,000+ BMW vehicles on the road today in the U.S., more than half are SUVs, or as BMW calls them, “Sports Activity Vehicles.” Some attribute the automaker’s success with its surge to embrace electric and battery-powered models. Leading with swagger in that lineup is the wildly impressive BMW X1. 

BMW changed things up for the X1 in 2023, including a complete redesign. Everything was updated, too, including the SUV’s performance, safety, technology, and design aesthetics. But in a recent J.D. Power initiative, there’s already some indication that BMW X1 owners still don’t like one surprising thing about this incredible luxury contender.

A blue 2023 BMW X1 driving down the road.
2023 BMW X1 | BMW Media

BMW X1 owners were asked to rank their favorite features

The BMW X1 already earned high ratings with J.D. Power. It was ranked highest in its class in the J.D. Power 2022 Initial Quality Study, for example. But it’s the APEAL study we’re talking about today. It’s the Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study. J.D. Power collected verified data from BMW X1 buyers, asking for their opinions of the small premium SUV contestant. 

As part of the survey, each new BMW X1 owner provided their opinions in rating their favorite and least favorite aspects of the vehicle. J.D. Power established 10 key categories for owners to evaluate.

These included important vehicle features, like powertrain, ease of access, safety confidence, and fuel efficiency. But there were more aesthetic categories, too, including exterior styling, driving comfort, driving feel, and interior design. 

The least favorites among BMW X1 owners of all these categories might surprise you.

What BMW X1 owners liked the least

BMW is known for over-achieving in certain aspects of vehicle engineering and design. Typically, these vehicles are widely respected in performance and luxury arenas. It’s an automaker that doesn’t overlook details—anywhere. 

But in this latest J.D. Power survey and APEAL Study, the least favorite categories seemed to challenge those preconceived notions. At the bottom of the list were interior design, setting up and starting, and fuel economy. Wait. What?

What 2023 updates might have contributed to this grumbling among car owners?

One of the more significant upgrades in this year’s BMW X1 redesign included size. This year’s model is larger, by an inch than last year’s entry. And that might have contributed to the poor ranking in the “setting up and starting” category.

Interior design isn’t terrible, but as J.D. Power points out, this five-seater will really only be fully comfortable for four. Another interior change is the standard adoption of SensaTec 2.0 vegan leather, which is still rather luxurious. But genuine leather fans might be disappointed that it’s no longer available in the X1.

And part of the “setting up and starting” challenge might be the abandoning of the traditional shifter. There’s now a toggle-style gear selector and a myriad of “flat buttons” for starting and stopping your engine, choosing My Modes, and controlling the audio volume. Testers weren’t too fond of the “cumbersome climate controls” either.

As for fuel economy, the 2023 rates are slightly better than last year’s model, with EPA estimates of 25 mpg and 34 mpg. But the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine does put out 13 more horsepower than 2022 (241-hp,) meaning there could be less impressive real-life driving results on the fuel efficiency front.

While the BMW X1 continues to enjoy its view from the top, it’s important to recognize that many X1 owners aren’t as impressed with interior design, among other categories. You might just have to test-drive one yourself and see how you feel about climbing inside and driving one home.


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