One of the nicest-looking BMWs of late also happens to be one of the most affordable, but despite its gorgeous design, it's far from perfect.
The BMW X2 is an answer to a question that no-one in particular has ever asked. But despite its peculiar position inside the already crowded SUV market, it represents a great offering from the Bavarian brand.
Here’s the thing, BMW sells a lot of SUVs. In fact, in 2017 the German brand sold more SUVs than passenger cars in the Australian market for the very first time. This is a reflection of the wider market trends, whereby SUVs are now outpacing passenger car sales for the first time in history.
With that in mind, it’s obvious why the brand has gone from X5 to X3 to X1 creating an SUV of every imaginable size, with the much larger X7 heading our way early next year. But between those odd-numbered SUVs, there is what BMW calls ‘sport activity coupes’, basically SUVs that have a coupe-like resemblance.
Those are evenly numbered and the first of which was the X6 – which proved to be such a big hit that arch-rival Mercedes-Benz copied it diligently with the GLE Coupe and consequently the X4 with the GLC Coupe – and now we are down to the X2.
Much like the X6 is based on the X5 and the X4 is based on the X3, the new BMW X2 is based on the X1. This has plenty of benefits – such as offering a starting price of $55,900, just $1300 more than the equivalent X1 yet with more equipment – but also some glaring disadvantages.
Firstly, compared to the X1, the X2 sits 69mm lower, measures 79mm shorter in length and is 3mm wider. It has a very reasonable boot capacity for its shape of between 470L to 1355L depending on rear seat configuration (505L and 1550L on X1 respectively).
Its front overhangs have been increased by 12mm, while the coupe silhouette has seen the rear overhang cut short by 91mm compared to the X1. Overall, the X2 may be based on the same architecture and carry the same wheelbase and track as the X1, but it looks a hell of a lot better. It’s the significantly more aesthetically pleasing sibling.
Therein lies the real crux of the X2’s appeal. BMW Australia is keen to point out that the X2 is likely to be the first BMW for 60–65 per cent of its buyers, making it a hugely successful conquest offering. It will appeal to younger buyers that may not have considered the X1, but see the X2 as a more lifestyle-oriented purchase that makes a far more dignified design statement.
It’s definitely a looker, both in the standard M Sport package, which sees a more sleek body colour to bumper combination, and the no-cost option M Sport X package that adds contrasting body-coloured bumpers to the front and rear as well as side cladding to help give it a more rugged SUV look, which it certainly doesn’t deserve on merit given it’s essentially – at launch at least – a raised front-wheel-drive hatch.
The first BMW X2 that goes on sale now is the sDrive20i, which is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque driving the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. BMW claims a 0–100km/h time of 7.7 seconds with an average fuel economy rating of 6L/100km.
In June that will be joined by the lower-spec sDrive18i (103kW, 220Nm) using a three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine and the same transmission as its more powerful petrol sibling. And, finally, the xDrive20d (140kW, 400Nm), a diesel offering that also brings four-wheel drive to give it some resemblance of off-roading credibility. That will see the brand ditch the dual-clutch transmission for a more conventional eight-speed auto that can manage the demands of an AWD system. Pricing and specifications for the other two models are yet to be confirmed.
For our review of the X2, BMW brought us to Canberra to put the sDrive20i to the test. All available cars were fitted with the optional Adaptive Suspension ($500) and riding on the standard 19-inch wheels, which can be upgraded to 20s for the brave.
Given its genuinely beautiful exterior, the X2’s interior struggles to match up, thanks in large part to the necessity of borrowing most of its design elements and parts from the X1. That’s not to say it's ordinary, far from it, except that it would have been refreshing to see something new from BMW to go along with its highly millennial-targeted offering.
Instead, we are presented with the same uniformity as most other BMWs. For some, this is a classic and timeless design that should never change. For others, it shows a lack of innovation or inability to take risk on the company’s behalf, and one only has to look at the interior of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class (and undoubtedly the upcoming GLA) to see what is truly possible in a vehicle of this size.
On the plus side, the iDrive system is typical BMW, smooth and easy to operate. It’s one of the best infotainment systems in the business, and whether you stick with the standard 6.5-inch screen or go for the larger 8.0-inch screen, it works just as well.
In saying that, we were rather disappointed that BMW has decided to make Apple CarPlay an option ($500) for three years and then around $150 a year going forward. This is at odds with other manufacturers that offer the smartphone integration as standard kit (on much cheaper cars) and for the life of the car. It’s also a big slap in the face to the apparent millennials that the system would mostly appeal to. To be fair to BMW, the company is currently the only one offering wireless CarPlay that no doubt adds some extra cost to the hardware.
There is a single USB port inside the centre compartment that fast-charges your phone, but there is also the availability of wireless inductive charging for the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X (plus supported Android models), which is also an option and would be hugely beneficial if you don’t like cables hanging about and consider how quickly wireless CarPlay sucks the battery life out of your iPhone.
Once we got over our lack of CarPlay shock, we sat inside and got comfortable in the highly supportive seats and the X2’s 20mm lower seat position compared to the X1 quickly became apparent. There is very little reason why this can’t be called a hatchback, because it certainly feels like one behind the wheel. It doesn’t have that commanding position one might expect from sitting in an SUV. In some ways this is a good thing, as the driving dynamics are first rate and a step forward over both the Audi Q2 and the current Mercedes-Benz GLA.
The front-wheel-drive model impressed us with its agility, cornering and grip levels. It also presented barely noticeable levels of torque-steer, proving to be a far more confidence-inspiring vehicle than we had anticipated. In that regard, it’s very much a BMW, even if it’s not rear-wheel drive.
There’s plenty of power from the 2.0-litre engine and never did it feel wanting for more grunt, either from a standstill or when attempting an overtaking manoeuvre on the highway. The steering is beautifully linear and provides ample feedback when presented with hard corners. It’s not a sports car, but as far as a small, stylish SUV goes, it’s pretty damn fun to drive at speed.
We were told the Adaptive Suspension’s Sport setting was roughly the same as the M Sport springs that come standard (and cannot be changed), and given how stiff we found the Sport setting, we would highly recommend ticking the box for Adaptive Suspension, which in Comfort mode provided a significantly smoother ride that is far better suited to the day-to-day requirements of Australia’s poorly surfaced roads. If you absolutely have to get the bigger sized 20-inch wheels, the Adaptive should be mandatory. We would go so far as to say BMW Australia should offer the Adaptive Suspension as standard fit. Either that or you should haggle it into the deal.
While it may look small from the outside, we found it easily able to accommodate four large adults in comfort. The second row has plenty of leg and head room for those measuring below 190cm, and can comfortably take two large child seats via ISOFIX ports if need be. It won’t handle five all too well, but since when did millennials have that many friends?
On the safety front, the X2 receives the full five-star rating but with an asterisk. It has carried over some of the results of the X1’s testing back from 2015, with the argument going that given it shares the same architecture it doesn’t require a full retest. That has given BMW an easy path to the five-star score without having to meet the tougher requirements for 2018. That’s not to say it wouldn’t get a five-star safety rating if tested today, it might, but it would be nice to know for sure.
The reason this is worth mentioning is that the X1 architecture doesn’t support full autonomous emergency braking (AEB), nor does it support blind spot monitoring or some other now common active safety features. So while BMW offers the X2 with a form of AEB – which only works at speeds below 50km/h and will only reduce the speed of the vehicle down to around 15km/h – it will never come to a full stop by itself, meaning it will only help mitigate an accident rather than prevent it in full. That’s a bit discouraging for BMW, considering the availability of more advanced active safety systems on far less expensive cars.
Overall, though, it’s hard not to walk away from the X2 feeling overwhelmingly impressed. This is a great car no matter how you look at it, albeit one that lacks a few key features with CarPlay and full AEB. No doubt it will appeal to the style-conscious that see it for what it is – a stylish BMW at an affordable price.