The BMW naming strategy isn’t always easy to follow. Odd-numbered cars are considered mainstream, and even numbers are targeted at lifestyled vehicles.
So, a 3 Series or X1 is the bread and butter, but an X2 or 4 Series is the jam on top. Apparently, more practical (and now discontinued in Aus) cars like the 2 Series Active Tourer and 6 Series GT also denote a ‘lifestyle’ of some sort, so be it then.
So then, the X2 SUV with its fastback/coupe styling is the aspirational cousin to the X1 SUV. Like an X4 or X6 and their relationship to the one-digit-lower X3 and X5, sheer space and practicality take a back seat to the form factor.
In the case of the 2020 BMW X2 sDrive18i, the form is a more raised hatchback, whereas the X1 betrays a taller and boxier shape, particularly as you head to the rear. There’s also the 1 Series actual hatchback, but with no raised version of it, the X2 is a bit of an in-betweener.
The entry-ticket into the X2 range is the sDrive18i. The sDrive part denotes a two-wheel-drive chassis (front-wheel drive in this instance), and the 18i part suggests where the engine sits in the hierarchy, not engine size specifically. The X2 shares its modular chassis system BMW uses for both its own-brand compact models and Mini vehicles.
Priced from $47,900 before on-road costs or options, the X2 is $1000 more than a matching X1 sDrive18i or $2000 more than the 118i hatch, all of which share the same basic mechanical package.
That’s a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Outputs are conservative with only 103kW at 6500rpm – less than you’d get in a basic Hyundai Kona at under half the price. With 220Nm between 1480 and 4200rpm, the X2’s turbocharged tractability makes up for any power deficit.
Less happy is the seven-speed automatic. On the go it’s a fine unit, but getting it up and down a steep driveway, or trying to shuffle out of a parking space, reveals a delay between pressing the accelerator and the car moving off.
At times the car will lurch into action as it sets off. Not smooth or sophisticated, and definitely not helpful if you’ve found yourself parked in by another car and need to very gently creep back and forth to extract yourself.
If you’re more used to trundling about on part throttle, the X2 feels incredibly timid and unwilling. It takes a resolute press of the accelerator to dig into its abilities, and the whole package – engine and transmission – becomes more fluid if you’re less shy about how you handle it.
There is a mixed bag of refinement. The engine has an off-beat idle and vibrates the whole car as it warms up. More concerning is the stop-start system re-fires the engine with a horrible grinding mechanical noise, the likes of which we’ve not encountered on other stop-start systems.
Then, as you get underway, the X2 settles into a much smoother, quieter groove.
There’s even a nice bit of heft to the steering, which feels connected and secure. There’s plenty of grip from the front wheels, and the X2 quite enjoys a series of corners if you head out of town and onto some more challenging roads.
The ride is certainly firm at times, but on city streets it’s not uncomfortable. Pick up the pace out of town, where the condition of road surfaces often deteriorates, and there’s a bit more crashing and fidgeting from the ride.
Road noise at freeway speeds is less than ideal, too, but if you don’t venture too far beyond the 80km/h zones that encircle major cities, it may never be an issue.
BMW’s claimed consumption is a light 6.3L/100km, but in a week of very city-centric driving that settled on 8.9L/100km. With movements restricted thanks to COVID-19 and minimal highway exposure, that figure is something of a worst-case outcome.
The interior is a mix of new and old from BMW’s style pages. In order to maximise the X2’s available space, the front seats mount lower than they would in an X1, but this leaves the dash feeling quite high.
Shallow side windows don’t do any favours for visibility either, though the glasshouse isn’t small, rather the beltline can feel high. A feeling that’s exaggerated for shorter occupants.
The rear seat is deceptively spacious, though. The X2’s compact dimensions suggest a snug fit in the rear, but in reality there’s plenty of leg and toe space. Only head room falls short of what you might expect.
Behind the tailgate you’ll find 470L of space with a two-level floor. There’s not a lot of depth to work with if you have the floor set high, and if you load something bulky, there’s a hard parcel shelf to accommodate instead of a roll-away blind.
The rear seats fold freeing up 1355L of space, plus there’s a pair of bag hooks and two tie-down points for added utility.
BMW does a good job of making the X2’s interior look sporty and upmarket. There’s a generous application of contrasting stitching across the dash and doors, along with judicious use of mesh and microfibre fabrics.
Look a little closer, though, and you can see the X2 sDrive18i lacks a few features. There’s no digital climate control, just manual AC dials, and there are no digital instruments, just analogue gauges.
The latter isn’t such a big issue really, seeing as BMW doesn’t offer a useful digital cluster anyway, but it paints the X2 as being a bit behind the times.
The lack of powered seat adjustment or auto air-con is a bigger worry, especially when forking out almost $50,000. For some of the equipment shortcomings, there’s still a decent list of standard items that make up for the absent equipment.
Things like a powered tailgate, colour head-up display, wireless phone charger, front and rear park sensors, push-button start (but not proximity entry), LED headlights and fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control with speed limiter, and leather-trimmed steering wheel are all part of the base model’s standard kit.
Infotainment is via a big 10.25-inch screen, with touch and iDrive controller inputs, factory navigation, real-time traffic info and online services (included at first and via subscription after three years), plus Apple CarPlay connectivity.
BMW’s M Sport styling package is a $2600 option adding a more sporty appearance package and big 19-inch wheels on the outside, plus those mesh and suede-look trims mentioned earlier. An M steering wheel, M Sport suspension, black window trims, front sport seats and a black headlining also add some visual appeal.
Really, isn’t maximum visual appeal the whole point of the X2? An X1 is more spacious, but also quite conservative. A 1 Series looks premium, but it doesn’t stand out in a crowd. An X2 has its own identity – aesthetic differences are what matters here.
Owners are offered pre-paid service pricing with scheduled maintenance up to five years or 80,000km (whichever comes first) available for $1650. BMW’s warranty remains at a below-industry-standard three years with no kilometre limit.
Under ANCAP safety ratings, the X2 wears an older 2015 time stamp but scored five stars. Autonomous emergency braking (5–80km/h) with pedestrian detection (10–60km/h) with light-braking intervention only, lane-departure warning, rear-view camera, six airbags, two ISOFIX child seat mounts, tyre pressure monitoring (and runflat tyres), and auto high beam are included as standard.
In terms of boosting safety equipment, adaptive cruise control is the only extra BMW has available. A more comprehensive AEB system, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts, and lane-centring assist systems, as available from rivals, aren't yet available for the X2.
There’s so much going on in the premium compact SUV space right now. The Audi Q3 Sportback and more practical Mercedes-Benz GLA are both fresher entrants to the segment with new tech and features to boot.
Audi in particular shows some sharp value, with the similarly style-focussed Q3 35 TFSI Sportback kicking off from a touch under $50K before options and on-road costs. Then there’s the broader segment, with lures from Jaguar, Lexus, Volvo, and BMW-owned Mini all vying for attention.
Unfortunately for BMW, there are a lot of sharp picks in its segment, and even within its own range. The newer 118i hatch is a better value proposition, while the X1 is far more practical.
The X2 leans heavily on its SUV stance and individual looks. It backs itself with a surprisingly roomy interior and a decent spread of standard features.
Ultimately, the entry-level X2 sDrive18i lacks some key features that should be included for the price. The far from perfect mechanical package does it no favours either; however, the interior is spacious and the handling is a hoot, so it’s not compromised enough to entirely overlook.