SMALL SUVs all seem to be much the same, well equipped and versatile in their own unique ways. But if you’re looking for a small high-performance SUV, then BMW has this; the 2019 BMW X2 M35i.
BMW M models are the pinnacle of their kind, and although not a ‘true’ M car in the strictest sense, the M35i has been fettled with enough to make it very special compared to its garden variety X2 siblings.
As is tradition, the engine, styling, wheels and tyres, brakes and suspension have all been tickled to give the X2 M35i a menacing edge, that gives excitement and fun to a segment that otherwise is very functional and purposeful in its delivery.
Powered by a 2.0-litre M Performance TwinPower turbocharged engine producing 225kW and 450nm, immediately you know that this is no ordinary BMW X2. Offering almost 85kW more than the sDrive20i, the engine is what dominates the experience in the M35i.
Driven through an 8-speed sports automatic transmission, normal driving is smooth and seamless. Drive it hard though and the up-shifts are sharp and almost violent. There is a real snap from the transmission as the car accelerates through the gears.
In that way, it’s similar to something like say the 2019 Alpine A110; the changes can be felt through the whole car and while some may feel it adds to the driving experience, many won’t and we’re one of them.
Completing the 0-100km/h dash in 4.9 seconds, the M35i is fast by any standard. The fact that it does it dressed in a small SUV body just makes it even cooler.
The engine makes all the right noises too, offering that sporty exhaust blurt on up-shift and crackles and pops on overrun. It’s enough to make the hairs on your neck stand as you pull the up-shift paddle mounted on the M leather steering wheel.
This extra power does expose a slight flaw in the driving experience though, traction. Even with the M Sport front mechanical limited slip differential, traction is an issue at low speeds in the lower gears.
Upon this loss of traction, the xDrive system (BMW speak for all-wheel drive), sends power to the rear to help compensate and restore forward momentum. The problem being, it’s too late.
It feels lazy and by the time this transition has occurred, power has been restricted and your spirited punch out of a corner spoiled.
It’s a shame and we probably expected a little bit more from BMW in this department as it means to get the true potential from the X2 M35i, you’ll need to attack your favourite back road with the traction control off.
Ride and handling in the M35i is also very sporty, thanks to M Sport adaptive suspension, which sits 10mm lower than the standard X2, and the M Sport brakes which look great and offer premium stopping performance.
The ride is on the firm side and sometimes uncompromising if met with harsh bumps or edges, but on the right surface or when pushed to the limit, offers terrific grip and road holding ability.
Whilst a small amount of body roll is evident, it is to be expected considering we are talking about a small SUV here. What isn’t expected is just how much fun the M35i is through the corners.
The speed you can carry through a corner and how well it stops on the other side thanks to the M Sport brakes definitely surprises.
Climb inside the M35i and the M treatment continues with M Sport seats, M leather steering wheel and ‘M35i’ door sill finishes. The seats are fantastic and offer great support, which all adds to the sporty theme of the M35i.
Everything else is pretty standard fare for BMW and you are well catered for thanks to the excellent iDrive system, including BMW ConnectedDrive and a Harmon Kardon 360W HiFi system.
The exterior design is a perfect example of how a few subtle changes can add up to one aggressive little SUV. The M Sport X exterior package adds some attitude and sporty finesse to the standard X2 as well as the M aerodynamics package.
Big 20-inch M light alloy wheels with the previously mentioned M Sport brakes painted in blue, and Cerium Grey accents and highlights all round, make the M35i instantly stand out as something special in the range.
While most small SUV buyers are looking for something of a compromise between space and versatility, the BMW X2 M35i adds a third layer to that consideration; performance.
With that, BMW opens up the M35i to buyers from the hot hatch market who may need something more than what a Ford Focus RS or Volkswagen Golf R can offer.
Priced from $76,641 drive away, the BMW X2 M35i isn’t exactly cheap, but it also doesn’t really have any close rivals, yet. The AMG GLA45 could be considered a rival, but it is over $22,000 more expensive.
So, until Audi’s SQ2 arrives next year, the M35i is in a world of its own. While some may think this poses an identity crisis of sorts, we believe the opposite. The M35i has the ability to poach buyers from many segments due to its multiple personalities.
Nothing else really matches the practicality, performance and price that the M35i offers. Thanks to BMW’s M Sport division, the M35i looks, feels and sounds special.
It offers a refined driving experience and a level of performance that currently can’t be matched on price by it’s rivals.
What this all means is that the M35i stacks up just as well on paper as it does from the driver’s seat. All you’ll have to do is convince your heart. But with one stab of the throttle and a few corners later, that will be taken care of too.
Our test vehicle was provided by BMW Australia. To find out more about the 2019 BMW X2 M35i, contact your local BMW dealer.