2018 BMW X2 xDrive20d review

James Wong finds out whether the recently added top-spec diesel variant is the pick of the BMW X2 range.

The BMW X2 has only been on our shores for a few months, and the range has already grown from one to three variants since its original launch in March.

Joining the sDrive20i that was first to land in Australia are the new entry-level sDrive18i, and the model we have on test, the X2 xDrive20d. The latter is the flagship of the range, as well as being the only diesel and only all-wheel-drive X2 available in Australia at the moment. We'll talk more about the powertrain later.

Pricing for the top-shelf X2 kicks off at $59,900 before on-road costs, $5000 more than the sDrive20i, and a whole $10,000 more than the entry-level sDrive18i.

Headlining the specifications list are equipment items like 19-inch alloy wheels, Alcantara/cloth upholstery, front sports seats, LED headlights and fog-lights, M Sport suspension, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system running iDrive 6, dual-zone climate control, and an electric tailgate.

Other standard features include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, speed sign recognition, cruise control, and a rear-view camera.

The car on test was also fitted with the no-cost-option M Sport X package, which combines the athletic appearance of the M Sport pack with the rugged look of the X Line specification offered on other BMW X models. It basically adds some contrasting elements to the bodykit like faux skid plates and side skirt guards.

For those who don't like the contrasting accents, you can get the regular M Sport package as a no-cost option also.

In terms of optional extras fitted to our tester, the perforated black 'Dakota' leather you see here adds $1950, while the Black Sapphire metallic exterior finish asks for $1190 extra.

All up, the vehicle you see here is $63,040 plus ORCs as tested – which isn't exactly cheap for a small SUV.

Even at this price point, however, there are a lot of features still on the options list. For example, if you want electric seat adjustment and folding mirrors you'll need to spend $2700 for the Comfort Package (which also adds heated front pews and keyless entry).

Meanwhile, if you want adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, and a larger infotainment system, that's part of the $2600 Innovations Package. Apple CarPlay functionality asks for an extra $479 – though it is of the wireless variety – then there's the $400 charge for adaptive dampers, $423 for tyre pressure monitoring, and $3300 for the Style Plus Package if you want to bundle larger 20-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof and metallic paint.

In all seriousness, the list price can push well beyond $70,000 if you tick enough option boxes – you can get into the larger (and more premium) X3 from $65,900.

Sure, it's not cheap, but the X2 definitely looks the goods in the carpark. The low and wide stance make it look really aggressive, and the muscular rear haunches and low roof line give it a more pumped-up hatchback aesthetic than your run-of-the-mill SUV.

Personally, this reviewer is a big fan of the look, and the sexy design hasn't really impacted interior practicality, either.

Up front, the X2 has basically lifted its dashboard and controls from the related X1, meaning you won't feel out of place if you're already familiar with smaller members of the BMW stable.

The design itself is starting to look a little dated compared to the larger X3 and 5 Series, but it's been executed very well. Fit and finish are excellent, with an abundance of soft-touch and high-quality surfaces throughout the cabin.

Adding to the interior ambience is the beautiful M Sport leather steering wheel that feels great in the hand too, along with the configurable LED ambient cabin lighting that can be adjusted in several colours and levels of brightness.

However, the X2 can't be had with BMW's new digital instruments like other models in the stable, which is disappointing since rivals offer similar displays optionally or as standard.

The floating tablet-style iDrive display looks a little small at 6.5 inches, especially when rivals are offering displays measuring 8.0 inches and above, but the graphics are pretty good and the iDrive 6 interface continues to be one of the best in the business. You can option the larger 8.8-inch Navigation System Professional (part of the $2600 Innovations Package), though you really shouldn't have to at this price point.

Occupants can control the display either via touch inputs or using the rotary controller on the centre tunnel, which also has several shortcuts to functions like audio, navigation and phone.

The interface itself is great. iDrive is one of the better operating systems right now, but the diminutive display really detracts from the experience.

Rear seat comfort is pretty good, too. At just over six-foot-one, this reviewer can comfortably sit behind his own driving position, with ample head and leg room available for taller passengers.

The front seatbacks have been indented for extra knee room, and rear passengers get rear air vents as standard. Sitting three abreast is a bit of a squeeze, but two adults can fit in the back just fine over longer journeys.

Worth noting too is the fact the rear doors are trimmed with the same soft-touch plastics as the fronts; something various manufacturers are neglecting of late to reduce costs.

Behind the second row is a 470L load area, which is a little down on the related X1 (505L). With the back seats folded, the load area expands to a decent 1355L, while an adjustable floor panel in the boot allows for a flat loading bay with the rear seats down, or an under-floor storage cubby if desired.

Power in the xDrive20d comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel making 140kW of power (@4000rpm) and a meaty 400Nm of torque (@1750–2500rpm).

Drive is sent to a front-biased all-wheel-drive system via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic with paddle-shifters – unique amongst the local X2 range. It all sounds pretty good on paper, and in the real world, the X2 diesel is a strong performer in most aspects without being a standout.

The diesel's meaty low-down torque means there's plenty of shove for urban commuting, and the eight-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly – it's definitely one of the best in the business.

It won't blow your socks up with its acceleration – BMW claims a 0–100km/h time of 7.8 seconds – but it's more than enough for the average driver.

Higher up in the rev range, power delivery is nicely linear with almost no turbo lag, and once at cruising speeds the oiler sets into a quiet hum in eighth gear – ticking over well below 1800rpm.

Refinement is pretty good, too, with very little audible diesel rattle and engine noise levels kept to a minimum.

Meanwhile, the X2 feels more like a slightly raised hatchback to drive rather than a tall-riding SUV, and that's a good thing should you prefer a sporty drive. The steering is nicely direct and offers plenty of feedback through the wheel – even if it can feel a little light at times – though this can be adjusted by flicking the 'Sport' mode button, which firms up the steering weight and sharpens up throttle response.

The ride is quite firm, though, and while some may appreciate the more sporting feel, the lack of adaptive dampers (a $400 option) means that it's like this all the time.

On the freeway it's not a big deal, but around town – particularly Melbourne's poor inner-city roads we drove on – the X2 can feel unsettled and will often jar over sharper imperfections, not helped by the 19-inch rims and low-profile run-flat tyres, either.

Another gripe is the level of road noise that enters the cabin at just about any speed. For a 'premium' vehicle that will cost well over $60,000 on the road, the X2 lacks the refinement expected at this price point, and you don't have to look far in this segment to find vehicles that are much better at suppressing tyre roar.

This complaint was echoed by family members who accompanied me on a 140km return trip between Melbourne and Kilmore – including a decent stint on the Hume Highway, which offers a variety of road surfaces ranging from smooth to poor.

This same journey also made the lack of adaptive cruise control stand out as a glaring omission from the standard equipment list, particularly on a vehicle of this price.

Fuel economy was pretty good, though. Over some 650km of mixed driving favouring urban conditions, the X2 returned a respectable 6.6L/100km. Sure, BMW claims 5.1L on the combined cycle, but the skew towards urban environments and plenty of stop/start traffic make BMW's 5.7L/100km urban claim a more comparable figure.

In terms of ownership, the X2 is covered by the company's three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with three years of included roadside assistance. Like other BMW models, the X2 offers condition-based servicing, meaning the vehicle's various sensors will monitor fluid levels and the degree of wear and tear to analyse when the next service is due.

However, you can opt for the BMW Service Inclusive package, which covers your scheduled maintenance for five years or 80,000km, whichever comes first, and includes annual vehicle checks, oil changes, air filters, spark plugs and labour costs for the duration of the package.

For the X2, the 'BSI Basic' package costs $1395, equating to $279 per year over five years/80,000km and making it as affordable as most mainstream cars.

All told, the diesel-powered X2 is a good if slightly underwhelming option in the premium SUV segment.

It lacks any real standout quality that would urge us to recommend it above most other options within its competitive set, perhaps other than its sexy looks that will definitely appeal to style-focused buyers.

It’s not cheap to begin with, and you’ll need to tick a few options boxes to score some premium goodies that should, arguably, be included as standard. And those NVH niggles and that jittery ride around town aren’t befitting a vehicle playing in the ‘premium’ segment.

It does, however, offer a beautifully finished cabin and a sporty driving experience that many rivals still haven't mastered yet, while also being quite practical despite its more style-focused aesthetics.

Our pick of the range would probably be the sDrive20i petrol ($55,900), which offers similar performance from its 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and identical specification levels, while also costing some $4000 less – though you do go without all-wheel drive.

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