Expert Reviews

2024 BMW X1 M35i Review and Video

8.1
10
AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • STYLING
    9/10
  • Safety
    8/10
  • PRACTICALITY
    10/10
  • USER-FRIENDLINESS
    7/10
  • FEATURES
    8/10
  • POWER
    9/10
  • COMFORT
    8/10
  • DRIVING FEEL
    9/10
  • FUEL ECONOMY
    7/10
  • VALUE
    6/10

While the likes of Audi and Mercedes-Benz have long since abandoned the traditional tenets of performance motoring, BMW is staying true to them for as long as it can.

This is a brand that still builds rear-wheel-drive sports cars with manual transmissions – rare treats in an age of automation and electrification. Alas, even BMW’s brand of performance has changed in recent years, with an entire lineup of M-badged crossovers to choose from.

Far from the gloomy picture painted by purists, the 2024 BMW X1 M35i proves even this automaker’s smallest crossover is packed with performance potential – and all without much compromise when it’s time for errands and everyday tasks.

Power: 9/10

The beauty of an M-lite offering like this one is the way it takes an otherwise ordinary BMW and adds enough performance to get excited about. In the case of the X1 M35i, that means sticking with the same turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder from the standard version of this crossover but cranking it up to a healthy 312 hp (to go with the same 295 lb-ft of torque).

For a bit of context, that output is similar to what’s generated by a high-strung sport compact car like the Acura Integra Type S. Of course, the X1 is bigger and heavier, but it makes good use of what the four-cylinder spins up. It also benefits from a so-called “sport boost” function that switches all powertrain and chassis parameters to their sportiest settings for 10 seconds at a time when the left-hand steering wheel paddle is pulled and held.

In spite of sharing a torque figure with the lesser X1, this M35i feels every bit as exhilarating as it should be given the expectations that come with it. It sounds pretty damn good, too, with the baffled exhaust emitting the appropriate burbles and pops – particularly with sport mode engaged.

Driving Feel: 9/10

Of course, performance is about more than engine output. No, this isn’t a full-fledged M vehicle; but even in the context of lesser performance, this X1 delivers a dynamic drive experience worthy of that special letter in its suffix. The front-mounted mechanical limited-slip differential helps to reliably get torque to the ground even under duress, reducing the kind of torque steer that might otherwise exist without it.

Toss this crossover into a corner and it remains admirably engaging, with little body roll to report. It handles more like a small hatchback than its dimensions would suggest – not that it’s especially oversized, but there’s very little indication of its upright shape from behind the wheel.

With the thick steering wheel in hand, tackling switchbacks is rewarded with balance and predictability. This is no 2 Series by any means, but then it isn’t pretending to be one, either. It is, however, capable of fun while remaining relaxed and easy to drive the rest of the time. Set in its most laid back drive mode, this X1 could almost be mistaken for the standard version if it weren’t for the stiffer-than-normal suspension.

Comfort: 8/10

That suspension system, which is of the adaptive variety, is firm while remaining just about friendly enough for everyday driving. It’s likely the sole flaw as far as comfort is concerned, rolling over road imperfections if not exactly absorbing them outright. Sure, it could be softer, but then it would sacrifice sportiness in the process – the antithesis of this X1’s intentions.

Practicality: 10/10

Diminutive dimensions be damned, the X1 feels properly spacious inside (mostly because it is). More than once during this test was the necessity of the larger X3 in the BMW lineup called into question – an anecdotal testament to how well used the space is here.

Headroom is exceptional for a crossover of this stature, a feat that’s accomplished without leaving the seats feeling too low slung, while cargo capacity is nearly as generous as that of its larger sibling. Better still, the back bench folds in a very European 40/20/40 split, leaving four full seats inside while offering enough space to stash long items like skis in the back.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

Considering its shape, size, and relative sportiness, the X1 M35i is reasonably efficient. It’s officially rated to burn 9.0 L/100 km of premium-grade gas, a number that was easily eclipsed during this week-long test. An initial evaluation drive to kick off the week turned in an impressive consumption rate of 8.0 L/100 km over the course of about 200 km spread evenly between city and highway conditions. Meanwhile, the final tally registered at 8.7 across a total of about 420 km of mixed driving.

Features: 8/10

BMW isn’t in the business of giving much away, with this crossover requiring a few expensive add-ons to make it sufficiently sporty and luxurious. Yes, the adaptive suspension is standard, as is the sport exhaust system and limited-slip differential up front; but the fantastic M Sport seats seen are part of a $2,000 upgrade that also includes extra black exterior accents, while the pricey Premium Enhanced package ($5,400) brings with it a heated steering while, panoramic sunroof, and more.

Even so, a 10.25-inch digital instrument display is paired with a 10.7-inch touchscreen, while wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections are included, as is subscription-based satellite radio. A 12-speaker stereo is also included, as are heated front seats that are electrically adjustable (and feature driver’s side memory settings), among other amenities.

Safety: 8/10

Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is standard fare, as is automatic high-beam control, front and rear parking sensors, low-speed reverse automatic braking, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking that works at city speeds. Likewise, lane departure warning is included. Adaptive cruise control can be added through the choice of two packages, one of which also comes with lane-keeping assistance.

User-Friendliness: 7/10

There are certainly more aggravating vehicles to interact with, but the X1’s interface isn’t without its own learning curve. And while it isn’t exactly steep, the infotainment system isn’t the easiest to get the hang of, while even simple stuff like the lack of a setting on the gear selector for park takes some getting used to. (Park can be engaged by applying the parking brake, but again, it’s not the most intuitive approach since most vehicles with automatic transmissions still include an engageable park setting.)

Styling: 9/10

With this tester’s shade of searing-yet-serene paint, a $900 option that’s worth every penny, the X1 M35i has a tastefully funky look that’s equal parts sporty and luxurious. The package that includes the awesome sport seats – that, it’s worth noting, can be wrapped in red upholstery for a spicier look inside – also adds some black exterior accents, while the brake calipers can be finished in the choice of blue or optional red ($500).

Without the sport seats, which can be optioned on their own for $1,600, the cabin could be mistaken for the one in the standard X1. It’s not that it isn’t a stylish space, but there isn’t much beyond the red 12 o’clock stripe on the steering wheel that hints at what it’s capable of in terms of performance.

Value: 6/10

At $57,500 before freight and tax, the 2024 X1 M35i is nearly $12,000 more than the conventional version of this crossover. That’s no small sum, but then BMW has stuffed this thing full of extras to account for that price increase. Beyond the extra power it’s been bestowed with, this M-lite offering gets a noteworthy adaptive suspension setup, active exhaust, and upgraded brakes, to name a few.

With options, this tester rang in at more than $68,000 before freight and tax. Meanwhile, the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 starts at $61,800 before extras and the government’s share, while similar upgrades make it more expensive still, putting this fiery little crossover at a price advantage over its one true rival.

Regardless, that’s a lot of money for a crossover this size. It’s the ultimate question of subjectivity that will determine whether or not it’s worth the price of admission; and, somewhat oddly, there’s nothing like this on the mainstream market as far as performance goes. But if a crossover isn’t explicitly necessary, the Volkswagen Golf R is a relatively comparable option that’s substantially cheaper.

The Verdict

Purists will take potshots at the 2024 BMW X1 M35i as not a “real” M vehicle; but it’s crossovers like this one that allow their beloved brand to keep building cars like the M2 and M3 in the first place. More importantly, this version of the X1 blends performance and practicality in a stylish package that’s easy to live with every day. 

 

Competitors
Specifications
Engine Displacement 2.0L
Engine Cylinders Turbo I4
Peak Horsepower 312 hp @ 5,750-6,500 rpm
Peak Torque 295 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 10.1 / 7.6 / 9.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 540 / 1,600 L seats up/down
Model Tested 2024 BMW X1 M35i
Base Price $57,500
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,480
Price as Tested $70,580
Optional Equipment
$10,500 — Premium Enhanced package, $5,400; M Sport Pro package, $2,000; Driving Assistance Plus, $1,200; Blue Bay Lagoon Metallic paint, $900; 20-inch wheels, $500; Red brake calipers, $500