Singapore - Let’s face it. Buying a car is always fun but it can be rather stressful too due to the possibility of buyer’s remorse coupled with the multitude of choices thrust in our faces.
This is especially the case when most manufacturers have a bevy of cars for you to choose from. Want that in four doors with a coupe roofline? No problem. Big engine in a small body? Got you covered too.
So to help those living in the city – yes we know Singapore is not that big – we decided to put two rather different, but possibly complementary cars, through their urban paces.
The challenge? Is one more suited for city living? We’re looking for fun and functional. Hip yet polished. Stylish yet practical... you get the picture!
Above all, they had to be fun to drive. And the two contenders couldn’t be more different yet similar.
In the smurfy blue corner, we have the BMW X1 SAV or Sport Activity Vehicle, in BMW vernacular. For all intents and purposes an SUV, the X1 is newly facelifted and looks unmistakably BMW so you won't confuse it for anything else.
In the Storm Bay Metallic corner, we have the range topping M135i xDrive. This car probably appeals to those who care more about go than show as you can easily get a 3 Series for the money.
(Click HERE to read our First Drive of the M135i xDrive)
But S$90k more than the base 1 Series gets you a tonne of niceties that’s a surefire win in the one-upmanship stakes, especially in the eyes of other petrolheads.
First, the similarities. Both are powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder – basically the same engine but in a different state of tune, so road tax for the two is identical.
The M135i features xDrive, BMW’s version of all-wheel drive, while the SAV is in sDrive guise, which is BMW speak for two-wheel-drive (in this case, front).
(Click HERE to read about the 1M vs the M2 CS)
In normal conditions, xDrive distributes drive power between the front and rear axles in a 40:60 ratio. When road conditions change, xDrive can also split drive power 50:50 if necessary and is designed to ensure predictable handling in all driving situations. Its aim is to provide the most power to the axles with traction, and can even allocate up to 100 per cent of its power to one axle.
Behind the wheel, all this torque allocation is seamless and all you feel are the superlative levels of grip when accelerating – even in the wet. Do note that xDrive doesn’t allow one to defy the laws of physics though. And this is where the laws work in favour of the M135i.
Thanks to the M135i’s M-suspension, lower centre of gravity, and lower profile/stickier tyres 225/40R18, the M135i is a sharp and snappy handler – but what’s surprising is how supple the ride is too.
For all-rounded everyday driving, leaving the Driving Experience Control in ‘Comfort’ gives you that good balance of power and efficiency; in ‘Sport’, the dampers tense and stiffen up – a cue that preps you for more visceral driving fun to come as throttle and gearbox offer sharp and snappy responses for a fast and furious motoring experience.
If you only want certain dynamic traits such as a louder exhaust note, or have the 8spd transmission shift-up only at higher revs, such settings can be individually tailored.
On everyday commutes, 306hp and 450Nm easily see-off traffic-light boyracers; with the all-weather plantedness of xDrive, its advantage remains even on slippery roads. Furthermore, with eight forward gears, one is never caught in the wrong part of the powerband and the shifts feel as quick as BMW’s own DCT.
From the 'fun' hatchback, we hop to the 'functional' SAV. Despite the ability to clear curbs in a single bound, the X1 handles better than its crossover credentials suggest. And for those trips to the supermarket for groceries during the ‘Circuit Breaker’ period or to ferry furkids around, the X1 will dot all the i’s and cross the t’s.
40:20:40 fold-down rear seats and enough space to fit five (once the Covid-19 measures are lifted) prove a boon for social butterflies, particularly the tall ones. That said, you’ll need an IKEA stool to wash the X1 as even our 190cm tall tester could not reach the centre of the roof.
Style? Both cars have lots of it. The M135i looks striking thanks to a powerful stance and aggressive M-style body kit, which in this limited-unit ‘Speed Edition’, also includes a pair of carbonfibre/titanium exhaust tips.
The X1 sDrive20i M Sport on the other hand, is the range-topper of the X1 range, and suitably decked out with high-gloss exterior trim and 18-inch alloys. However, jumping from the X1 to M135i makes one appreciate how highly-equipped the M Performance Automobile is.
In keeping with the ‘high-tech’ theme, BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional with two 10.25-inch digital display catapults the M135i into the 21st century, even as the X1’s round dials are perfectly functional. BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant – think of it as BMW’s Siri – is also standard.
Like the current crop of BMWs, this system allows for a wide range of personalisation configurations and intuitive home-screens to suit the busy connected commuter on the go, so it's 'virtually' (and literally) an extension of one's personal mobile device for both business, as well as leisure purposes.
BMW X1 sDrive20i
BMW M135i xDrive
So which is better suited to the city-dweller? We’d have both – one for fun and the other for function. We even put a couple of people in the cars for joy rides – from the 40-something senior executive to the dog walker in her early 20s. He was taken by the M135i’s power and red seats because “it makes me wanna to go drive around”, while she liked the practicality and #likes the X1 would get on her Instagram page.
The X1 looks the part of a lifestyle vehicle, has ample grunt and is practical for the use and abuse of daily drive drudgery. On your days off from running errands and mindless A-to-B commutes, the five-door M135i offers the driving enthusiast petrolhead thrills in a compact, yet nicely versatile package that is big on punch and practicality.
PHOTOS Penoramic Publishing
BMW M135i xDrive ‘Speed Edition’
Engine 1998cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 8spd auto
Top Speed 250km/h (electronically limited)
Fuel Consumption 7.5l/100km
BMW X1 sDrive20i M Sport
Engine 1998cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 8spd auto
Top Speed 226km/h
Fuel Consumption 6.5l/100km