Test Drives

2019 BMW X1 sDrive20i M Sport Review: Top Of The Pops

BMW’s smallest sport utility vehicle gets a mid-life update to keep it refreshed and fend off new challengers in Singapore

Photos: Jonathan Lim & Ben Chia


Interesting fact: Did you know that the BMW X1 is the brand’s third biggest seller globally? The Munich carmaker shifted over 286,000 units of the compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) in 2018, accounting for some 13.5 percent of the brand’s sales overall.

That makes the X1 BMW’s best selling SUV by far, and also its most popular model based on its small car platform. It’s quite an achievement for BMW’s baby SUV, for it to sit alongside the brand’s stalwart products like the 3 Series and 5 Series on the podium of top sellers.

But BMW is certainly not one to rest on its laurels, given that there’s plenty of competition waiting to pounce and steal sales in this fiercely-competitive segment. Audi has a brand new Q3 fresh out of the oven, and Mercedes-Benz announced their all-new GLA literally just this past week when we were test driving the X1.

READ MORE: We’ve driven the X1’s rival from Ingolstadt too. Check out how the new Audi Q3 stacks up here

The X1 most definitely has its work cut out then, and it is in that vein that BMW has given it a mid-life refresh in order to help it stay relevant. The changes are fairly minor in the greater scheme of things, as detailed by Ju-Len during the car’s international drive event in September, but the most visible difference is the enlarged pair of kidney grilles up front.

There’s also slightly refreshed rear lights and tailpipes, but they’re not quite as noticeable unless you put the pre-facelift model beside it. The interior also gets an updated version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, accessible via the 8.8-inch touchscreen, but otherwise, that’s really it in terms of changes to the X1.

Then again, given the X1’s success, it stands to reason that BMW wouldn’t mess about with a winning formula. Most of the drivetrain is carried over unchanged, and for Singapore, you get two options: the entry-level sDrive18i with a 1.5-litre three-pot petrol delivering 140hp, or the top-end model you see here, the sDrive20i M Sport, which has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with a pretty handy 192hp.

The price difference between the two stands at $11,000 ($171,888 versus $182,888, inclusive of COE), but choosing which one to go for is really a matter of preference and priorities. Aside from the bigger and more powerful engine, the sDrive 20i model also throws in the M Sport aerodynamic package and suspension, if you fancy a more aggressive look and drive.

Surprisingly, despite our previous experiences with BMW’s M Sport suspension which left much to be desired, the X1 actually rides fairly decently. It copes alright on most road surfaces, only becoming mildly unsettled over very harsh bumps (like the many construction sites littered around Singapore), and on the whole the X1 makes for a pretty comfortable car to drive around town in.

Or even out of town, because having a 2.0-litre engine with almost 200hp in a car this small makes for a pretty handy performer, especially on the highway. Power is plentiful, and delivery is smooth and linear, and you get the feeling that the X1, in this iteration, would make for an excellent cruiser up and down the North-South Highway. It feels like a much bigger car than its size suggests, such its its level of refinement and stability at speed.

That stability translates to the car’s handling prowess too, with the X1 taking on corners in a pretty surefooted manner. There is some degree of understeer when you’re really pushing, because it is, after all, a front-wheel-drive car, and there is a little bit of body roll, but for an SUV the X1 acquits itself rather well in the bends.

Most X1 buyers would probably have their priorities elsewhere though, such as the interior, where there is space aplenty, and some neat features like the individually adjustable rear seatbacks, and the folding middle slot that lets you accommodate long items in the boot. Certainly, the X1 achieves top marks when it comes to practicality.

And that’s probably what most X1 buyers want really, a car that is, first and foremost, practical enough for their daily needs, while offering the usual BMW standards of quality. That it drives well is probably a bonus, but the X1 is a clear demonstration of BMW giving their customers exactly what they want. No surprise then that the X1 sells by the bucketload worldwide, and its success is very much well-deserved.

BMW X1 sDrive20i M Sport

Engine 1,998cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 192hp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque 280Nm at 1350-4600rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual clutch
0-100km/h 7.7 seconds
Top Speed 226km/h
Fuel Efficiency 6.5L/100km
VES Band / CO2 B / 149g/km
Agent Performance Motors Limited
Price S$182,888 with COE
Availability Now

Verdict: Mildly updated X1 gets fresh new looks, but remains as competitive as ever with its winning formula

READ MORE: Coming soon in 2020, it’s the X1’s biggest rival, the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLA, which has become even more SUV than before

about the author

Ben Chia
CarBuyer's senior staff writer went out to explore the Great Big World, including a stint working in China (despite his limited Mandarin). Now he's back, ready to foist upon you his takes on everything good and wonderful about the automotive world. Follow Ben on Instagram @carbuyer.ben