2024 BMW X1 M35i: A Fun and Practical Little CUV

Strong points
  • Powerful engine
  • Agile handling around town
  • Supportive seats
Weak points
  • A few subpar plastics inside
  • Driving position could be improved
Full report

Ever since the 2 Series Gran Coupe exited the North American market, BMW’s lineup has been lacking a punchy and practical little car. Sure, the 2 Series is an excellent gateway to the brand, but it’s by no means family-friendly.

But here comes the 2024 BMW X1 M35i, a subcompact crossover that’s equal parts utility and fun. While not a pure M model, this vehicle is pretty remarkable on its own. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the German automaker’s performance division doesn’t even need to concoct what would be called an X1 M.

The X1 M35i is explosive enough to intimidate some Volkswagen Golf R drivers—in a straight line, of course.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

The M Look

Unfortunately, our tester was still riding on winter tires and sported a basic set of wheels when we got to spend a week with it. Other than that, the X1 M35i is every bit the performance-focused CUV you’d expect from Munich. The front fascia, for example, proudly wears a gloss black grille with a little “M” badge on it, as well as larger intakes on the lower bumper feeding fresh air into the engine bay.

While 19-inch alloys are standard equipment on the X1 M35i, as you can see here, customers have the option of selecting a 20-inch kit that does a better job of filling up the wheel arches. That being said, the crown jewels on the outside are the two pairs of twin tailpipes under the gloss black rear bumper garnish, leaving no doubt about the vehicle’s potential. What’s more, the spoiler atop the rear window is larger and more chiseled than the one on the regular X1.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

Inside, the heavily bolstered front seats set the tone, while the sport steering wheel with a red marker at the 12 o’clock position confirms the spicy flavour of the X1 M35i. The rest of the cabin, except for the sport buckets included in the optional M Sport Pro Package ($2,500), is pretty much the same as in base trim.

312 Horses Ready to Please

Under the hood, the 2024 BMW X1 M35i goes with four cylinders only instead of six, but the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine delivers a healthy 312 horsepower, or 71 horsepower more than the standard X1, making for spirited acceleration. It’ll take you to illegal speeds faster than you can pronounce its full name.

The suspension is rather stiff and we paid the price on the many poorly paved roads and highways in and around Montreal during the week. Find some slick asphalt, however, and the X1 M35i proves extremely solid and enjoyable.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

The force-fed four-banger is a great match for the chassis. Naturally, there are a few drive modes to choose from, one of which is a Sport mode that firms up the adaptive suspension and steering while significantly increasing throttle response over the more laid-back modes.

Yes, It’s Fun

Of course, the vehicle’s centre of gravity is higher than a comparable car’s. If you attack corners with plenty of enthusiasm, expect to feel a little more body roll. That’s one of the downsides of sacrificing handling for extra utility.

We’d love it if we could sit lower behind the wheel and enjoy a driving position that’s closer to that afforded by the 2 Series Coupe, for instance. But you know what? The X1 M35i is fun nonetheless and makes it easy to smile thanks to a very rigid chassis, clever tuning and sharp, precise steering. The paddle shifters, meanwhile, are there to put on a show. You see, the X1 comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission—something that’s rare in the BMW lineup—and it adds to the sporty feeling of driving this crossover.

Press and hold the left paddle, with “Boost” written on it, and the transmission will drop two gears at once, shooting you forward like a slingshot. And as the engine revs spike, the exhaust system lets out a series of loud pops. So, yeah, we had a great time with the X1 M35i.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

Our Verdict

Now, as you can imagine, this five-door German pocket rocket isn’t cheap. Pricing starts at $57,500, but our tester came with the Premium Enhanced Package ($5,400), M Sport Pro Package ($2,500), Blue Bay Lagoon Metallic paint ($900), 20-inch wheels ($500) and Driving Assistant Plus ($1,200), meaning it cost $68,000 before freight, PDI, dealer fees and tax. Then again, it’s no ordinary X1. The M sauce adds a good dose of adrenaline and proves a delight for sporty drivers.

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