Hands up if you know the top 10 reasons people buy certain cars. In order. All the boring stuff – safety, fuel consumption, price, ride and handling – is way down the order. Leading the charge for buyers is perceived reliability, followed closely in position number two by styling. Yep, we want our cars to work, and work well, for a long time, and we want them to look good.
We eat with our eyes first, as the old saying goes, meaning a plate has to look appetising before we’ll even consider tasting the food on offer. Cars are no different, which is why styling departments the world over continue to search for a design, a styling language, that will appeal to consumers’ eyes first and foremost.
Enter the BMW X2, the stylish crossover the Bavarian brand is hoping will lure new buyers to the marque. BMW Australia has stated it believes around 60–65 per cent of X2 buyers will be first-time customers of the brand, luring a younger customer thanks to the X2’s stylish take on the crossover market.
On test we have the 2018 BMW X2 sDrive20i with the M Sport X package that rolls out of the showroom for $55,900 plus on-road costs. Of course, our test car didn't roll out of the showroom without a few slashes of the pen on the options list. With around $8K worth of red ink, the car we have on test here will set you back $63,490 plus on-road costs, which is starting to get up there.
It’s one of just three variants in the range, sitting between the front-wheel drive and petrol-powered sDrive18i ($49,900) and the all-wheel-drive xDrive20d ($59,900) that drinks diesel for its motivation. There’s a hi-po X2 M35i coming with a 2.0-litre turbo four-pot banging out 225kW and 450Nm, and capable of hurtling the puffed-up crossover from 0–100km/h in a claimed 4.9 seconds. But that’s not slated to join BMW’s ranks until the first half of 2019, so if you want to add ‘hot hatch-like performance’ to your top 10 list of reasons for buying a car, you’ll need a modicum of patience.
For now, the focus is on the sDrive20i and its 2.0-litre turbo-petrol with power outputs of 141kW (at 6000rpm) and 280Nm available between 1350–4600rpm. With a seven-speed dual-clutch auto sending drive exclusively to the front wheels, the X2 can scoot from 0–100km/h in a claimed 7.7 seconds – not the last word in acceleration, but not sloth-like either.
But first, that oh-so-subjective topic of styling. One person’s Aphrodite is another’s Medusa, so to emphatically declare the X2 is a looker is fraught with arguments waiting to happen. But there’s no question BMW’s designers have upped the ‘funk’ quotient with the X2; a swooping and lithe-looking crossover in stark contrast to the boxiness of its X1 small-SUV sibling with which it shares its underpinnings.
Built on the same platform, and sharing a wheelbase and track with the X1, the BMW X2 is noticeably shorter (by 69mm), lower (72mm), and a touch wider (3mm). Those measurements add up to an altogether sleeker take on the small SUV/crossover formula. Add in design elements like the upside-down trademark kidney grille and the subtle nod to BMWs of old with the brand’s roundel adorned on the C-pillar, and the overall impression is of a sporty-looking sports utility vehicle.
That design-led ethos continues inside. The cabin of the X2, when viewed holistically, errs on the side of youthful exuberance, especially when finished in the optional ($1950) Magma Red as fitted to our test car. It’s probably not to everyone’s tastes, but there’s no denying it’s eye-catching. We’d probably save the extra $2K and stick with the standard seat trim: black cloth with a hexagonal weave trimmed with Alcantara and highlighted by contrasting yellow stitching. It looks racy.
The rest of the cabin is standard BMW fare, with a smattering of M logos and trimmings underscoring its status as an M Sport X designation, including on the leather-wrapped steering wheel and the door sills.
A standard-fit 6.5-inch colour touchscreen anchors the X2’s BMW iDrive infotainment system. However, our test car was fitted with the $4000 optional Launch pack that ups the screen to 8.8 inches as well as adding a panoramic roof, head-up display, wireless phone charging, anti-dazzle interior and exterior mirrors, and Navigation Plus.
The Launch pack also adds wireless Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto), usually a $479 option on its own, for the first three years. After that, BMW rubs some salt into the Apple wound by asking for an annual subscription of $150. It remains a disappointment that some brands continue to offer smartphone mirroring only as an option, especially at this level of financial commitment. Still, BMW is not a lone wolf with this strategy, but it does remain a point of frustration.
UPDATE: A BMW Australia spokesperson confirmed some of the features of the optional $4000 Launch edition in the as-tested pre-October 2018-built X2 - Navigation Plus, head-up display, and 12 months of Apple CarPlay - now come standard.
BMW’s iDrive system remains intuitive with sharp reaction times and even sharper graphics via that 8.8-inch touchscreen, whether you’re going native or using your iPhone.
The second row doesn’t offer the same cushy comfort levels of the front row. The bench seat is an altogether firmer proposition, while that sloping roof line impacts on head room. There’s a decent amount of leg and knee room, but it’s not the last word in spaciousness. And there’s no USB charging point, with back seat passengers needing to squabble over a single 12V outlet.
Boot space is okay, with 470L to play with, expanding to a decent 1355L with the back seats folded. There’s no spare gobbling into the available space, the X2 instead strutting its stuff on run-flats. The standard tyre pressure monitor can keep you in the loop as to the state of that rubber, though.
While the pretty window dressing may be enough to get a certain type of buyer across the line – after all, as already pointed out, styling remains a key selling point for new car buyers – there are others who will demand a vehicle that lives up to its performance potential. And the news for the X2, in this sDrive20i guise, is good.
That 2.0-litre under the bonnet, with its 141kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 280Nm of torque available between 1350–4600rpm, is perfectly adept at hauling the relatively svelte 1429kg mass around. BMW claims a 0–100km/h dash of 7.7 seconds, which is handy, if not earth-shattering.
That power is transmitted to the front wheels via BMW’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and right off the bat it’s a decent application. There’s no lag or lurching from the DCT, the X2 just hunkering down and getting on with it. Power delivery is smooth and that 280Nm low down in the rev band is ample to get you moving briskly through town. It simply feels spritely and eager.
There are variable drive modes too – Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. Eco Pro dulls everything down to lethargic levels. We’d suggest that unless you’re trying to save a few litres and a few bucks as the end of your pay cycle nears and your bank account is looking desperately low on funds, don’t bother.
Comfort is perfectly adept at providing a general day-to-day driving experience – tame, but not sluggish. Ratcheting up to Sport adds some willingness to the DCT that happily holds on to revs longer and adds a hint of ‘gruff’ to the otherwise quiet and refined engine. There’s some extra heft to the steering wheel too.
Keeping things interesting, our tester came fitted with the optional $400 adaptive suspension, and we'd consider this a bargain. In Comfort mode, the usual iffy nature of our local roads is nicely isolated, the X2 absorbing imperfections with contempt despite riding on 19-inch alloys with low-profile rubber. The ride firms up in Sport mode, but not to the crazy levels of say, an M3 or M4, but it's certainly firmer. Uncomfortable, though? Not one bit. And that firmer setting also settles the X2 nicely when some playful fun around some enticing twisting and winding roads is in order, the BMW remaining nicely composed.
Using Sport mode probably a little more than is necessary comes at a cost at the pump. Against BMW’s claim of 6.0L/100km, we saw an indicated 9.4L during our week of mixed driving – a blend of weekday traffic snarls and weekend highway cruising.
In terms of ownership, BMW’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty is beginning to look lacklustre and below par in an environment increasingly home to five-year/unlimited-kay offerings as standard. You get three years’ roadside assistance too.
BMW does offer a generous five-year/80,000km prepaid servicing plan. There’s the Basic package that asks for $1395 and covers, well, the basics – annual vehicle check, oil service, oil top-up, filters, brake fluid and spark plugs. Opting for BMW’s ‘Plus’ plan adds some high-ticket items – replacing or renewing front and rear brake pads and discs, wiper blade rubbers and clutch disc and plate. That plan will set you back $4150. However, if you opt for the Basic package and then decide to upgrade to the Plus at a later date, the upgrade asks for $2550 making a total of $3945. Hmmm, we know what we’d do…
The X2 carries a five-star ANCAP rating, although it should be pointed out this was awarded in 2015 to the X1 with which it shares its underpinnings. It’s also worth pointing out the X2 misses out on some common 2018 active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring. The X2 is equipped with a rudimentary AEB system, but it only works below 50km/h and will not slow the vehicle to a stop, instead slowing it to around 15km/h. A bit disappointing considering this type of technology is available on much, much cheaper cars.
Overall, though, the BMW X2 lives up to its stylish and sleek design language. That it marries that design to what is a pretty decent drive experience should be applauded. Less worthy of applause are the X2’s lack of safety features and the sting-in-the-tail that is Apple CarPlay, especially considering the millennial market this vehicle is targeted at.
The counter argument to that, though, is that as market research has found, safety matters less to most new-car buyers than styling. And if that is the gauge by which buyers will measure the X2, then BMW is on to a winner.