The first-ever BMW X2 piles on the good looks in its pitch as a premium small crossover player. But does it have substance to match its sporty looks?
Which of your shoulder angels, Conscience or Temptation, wins out when buying cars? Or even when choosing which cars you like? C’mon, be honest now. Point is, there are no car buying policies you must adhere to, nothing to stipulate that pragmatic objectivity must overrule emotion-driven subjectivity.
Of course, the car industry knows this, offering product dripping with panache and funkiness that targets the heartstrings of buyers ruled by Temptation. Buyers whom oftentimes look to Conscious-minded opinion-makers – journalists, typically – to help validate wants in the face of potentially contrary needs. Because car scribes are purely a voice of objectivity, right?
Confession time. The first-ever BMW X2 had me as a JPEG on screen well before I jumped on a couple of bombers to fly to Lisbon, Portugal, to sample one in the flesh.
It was the same for many of my CarAdvice colleagues, many jaded senior journo types, keen for some validation that this fantastic-looking small crossover SUV from Munich looked as good in the flesh as it does on the screen. And, importantly if not necessarily crucially, whether there was more goodness beneath the sexy skin.
While it would be remiss to rate such a subjectively driven vehicle as the X2 purely objectively, it is ultimately a funkier take on the X1 twin with which it shares most of its technical make-up. The framework upon which the newcomer is built is SUV.
The X2 is (69mm) shorter and (72mm) lower by fair margins, and is fractionally (3mm) wider and, combined, is noticeably sleeker in proportions to the X1 despite sharing the same wheelbase and track measurements.
If there’s an initial bone of contention, and perhaps the biggest bugbear of the X2 pitch, it is the pains its maker goes to denying the SUV format of this “BMW with a standalone character".
Munich’s marketeers call it a Sports Activity Coupe, complete with an unfortunate ‘SAC’ acronym attached. Thing is, car design tradition defines a ‘coupe’ as a silhouette with a roof line that slopes beyond first-row occupancy (at the B-pillar) that sacrifices row two and/or luggage space in trade for style, independent of door or lid count.
The X2 is not a coupe. Not even close.
In current ranges, from 2 Series (small two-door) to 4 Series Gran Coupe (medium five-door), to X4 and larger X6 SUVs, BMW has happily complied with design convention. It’s perhaps the company’s own constrictive nomenclature convention – even numbers equal coupes – and the ‘X2’ pigeonhole to fill that’s forced the inevitable.
Munich wants its share of the urban lifestyle SUV-crossover real estate increasingly populated by Benz’s GLA, Range Rover’s Evoque and, more recently, Audi's Q2 and Jaguar's E-Pace. A place where, comparatively, X1 is a little too conventional. Frankly, the X2 badge had to fit this seductive new design, creative licence with coupe designation be damned.
Meanwhile, back in Funky Town, the upside-down kidney grille, novel angular air vents and round spotlights, the rippling and upswept shoulder line, the squared-off wheel arches, the BMW roundel badge in the C-pillar, even the bold, new Galvanic Gold metallic paintwork push the X2’s aesthetic about as far from the staid (X1) SUV convention as seems possible while retaining consummate style and taste. It doesn’t disappoint in the flesh, in either M Sport and M Sport X guise.
M Sport X? Another new mechanism via X2 – and more model lines in future, no doubt – that allows BMW to let its hair down and achieve a distinctive look against the M Sport convention. M Sport X adds grey accents on the sideskirts, wheel arches and other lower sections of the bodywork, a well worn, usually soft-roader visual trick that makes the body appear higher off the ground than it is. M Sport colour-codes the arches and skirts and adds some Dark Shadow highlights, which almost completely removes the ‘soft-roader’ theme.
Either way, in either theme being offered at no extra cost, Aussie-spec versions will sit on passive 10mm-lower Sport suspension with standard-fit 19-inch wheels (20s will be cost-optional in a Style Plus package).
BMW had M Sport X versions in Galvanic Gold, and M Sport examples in striking Misano Blue and Sunset Orange – three of nine available hues – displayed in Lisbon at the international launch and, in whichever colour choice, the X2 looks stunning.
Two themes, then, bonded by a common aesthetic that’s tasty, sporty, contemporary, exceedingly handsome while also neatly and suitably avoiding any ‘performance’ pretensions. That designers have executed such an eye-punching look that still has, in my humble opinion, multi-generational and non-gender-specific appeal – it’s quite bloke friendly – deserves applause.
The X2 will launch in Australia in March in front-driven, petrol-powered sDrive 20i form with M Sport X appearance (and regular M Sport as a no-cost option) from $55,900 plus on-roads. But the only version available in Portugal to climb into and drive is the diesel all-paw xDrive 2.0d M Sport X version, which will arrive Down Under around mid-year.
Pricing is unconfirmed, but the smart money is around $60K for this oiler in a roughly similar spec to the well-equipped versions we tried overseas.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment would be that given the huge effort to separate X2 from X1 in appearance, it’d all turn out to simply be window dressing and nothing more. But there are other differences between SUV and the so-called SAC, even if the newcomer does feel more than familiar. And it starts on the inside.
Climb in and the distinctive sports seats are more purposeful than those in an X1, despite sharing the same shell and structure. Much of the effect is down to firmer padding and the fetching Alcantara and hexagonal-patterned fabric trim, complete with the same neat yellow double-stitching festooned around the rest of the cabin. These will be standard in the Oz-spec sDrive 20i, while Dakota leather is optional on the global menu.
Having a significantly lower roof, and ceiling, than the X1 is countered with a lower seat position that serves two benefits: not only is the head room very generous, the relationship between the seat and controls is emphatically sporty. It’s a theme that translates equally into the second row that feels to have lost little in the way of roominess to the already smartly packaged X1 twin. If there’s one minor gripe to be found thus far, it’s that the seatbelt’s exit point in the B-pillar is quite high, which might cause discomfort for, ahem, vertically challenged front occupants.
The conspicuous yet restrained sports theme extends beyond seats and yellow highlights. The central stack, including the excellent and now familiar 6.5-inch iDrive 6 infotainment system – 8.8-inch Touch Control is additionally available – is a straight X1 lift, but the driver’s instrumentation and the high-spec stitched dash panel are X2 exclusives that provide a nice premium lift in tandem with contrasting satin black and alloy-look trim inserts. There’s also six-colour LED mood lighting if that sort of thing floats your boat.
Much like the exterior, the cabin space is ‘activity themed’ with maturity, sporty if without boy- and girl-racer excess: a crossover, then, that doesn’t look like it’s crashed through a surf store en route to its place on the dealership floor.
The X2, with 470L, does lose 35 litres of cargo space to the X1 (505L), which has much more to do with its shorter rear overhang (on identical wheelbase) and generally uncompromised row-two accommodation than it does anything to do with the no-it’s-not-a-coupe roofline. The rear seating also offers proper 40:20:40 splitfold flexibility. Our car had no spare wheel, but instead a rather large and handy extra cargo space under the floor.
On the road, the X2 tracks a similar theme: the underpinnings are familiar X1 with enough massaging in the right places to prove a tangible tweak in character.
The 10mm-lowered Sport passive suspension is largely carried over with some changes in geometry (mostly negative camber) and anti-roll spec, and the passive Sport springs and dampers have been tuned for the X2’s more rigid body structure. The power steering, too, has been recalibrated.
Add the modest-width 225mm Pirelli P Zero 19-inch rubber and the X2 is generally sporty enough in vibe by means of a tautness, firmness and directness. The steering, in particular, is direct and accurate, if a little lacking in actual feel, but choose your trajectory through a corner and it tracks with confidence provided you don’t lean into those tyres too hard.
Push on and the X2 will relinquish adhesion with the road, though it does so safely and predictably erring toward mild understeer. It’s no performance car, nor does it pretend to be, but it’ll carry pace well beyond the posted Portuguese speed limits on challenging backroads and still remain confidently well within its abilities. In terms of purpose, cooperation and driver response, it’s perfectly fit for the buyers it aims to target, for those not wishing to drive it like they stole it.
The only notable chinks in the road-going armour are quite a bit of tyre rumble across coarse road surfaces and some conspicuous wind noise from the wing mirrors above 100km/h.
Unlike the seven-speed dual-clutch arrangement behind the petrol engine, the diesel versions, of which there are two, exclusively adopt a smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic and the transverse-style all-wheel drive. Our 20d tester uses the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel due for Oz that produces 140kW (4000rpm) – one kilowatt shy of the petrol 20i’s 141kW – if churning out a lusty 400Nm (1750–2500rpm) instead of 280Nm.
If there’s any difference to the 20d engine in the X1 it’s not noticeable. Still, it’s an excellent powertrain for the theme at hand. BMW makes a quiet, smooth-operating oiler, bereft of a decent soundtrack but shiny by most other measures.
Comfort mode really nails its namesake, though it can be a little hesitant off boost around town. Meanwhile, Sport does bring with it a heightened degree of response in throttle and transmission upchanges without spoiling the nice, inherent refinement.
Economical? Its maker claims a combined figure of 4.4–4.6L/100km, though even without wringing its neck, the dashboard readout tended to hover around the mid-six mark.
Quick? Like the dynamics package, it’s got enough up its stylish sleeves to satisfy. There is enough punch and response, be it on the motorway or swiftly dispatching slow-going Portuguese locals along the twisty byways, carrying a head of steam without requiring the right foot to be buried into the firewall. Ample poke, then, if not what you’d call fire-breathing.
A lustier, 25d-spec high-power diesel will arrive offering a more serious 170kW and 450Nm, complete with a 6.7sec 0–100km/h claim. But it wasn’t available to sample at the global launch and, further, isn’t slated for release in Oz says BMW Australia.
I’d suspect it’d also need to harness some more mechanical grip in the chassis to make best use of that extra squirt, presumably. That said, the 20d driving package as sampled is pretty decent and amply well rounded.
Value-wise, given the X2 will be priced just a few grand more than similarly powered X1 stablemates yet feature the full, undiluted M Sport/M Sport X addenda bodes well for its bang-for-buck quotient, even if the bang is mostly in appearance and vibe.
In fact, that BMW has layered on some extra sportiness in the mix – from the firmer seat padding to the taut suspension – serves positively in adding a little more spice to the sauce. And in a way that might otherwise impact negatively to, say, an SUV such as the X1 designed to serve a more evenly rounded, family-friendliness purpose. That the X2 tries to distance itself from pure SUV sensibility is no bad thing, then, while BMW offers the more sensible X1 alternative.