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2018 BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X review

By Tony O'Kane, 02 Mar 2018 Reviews

2018 BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X review

More hatchback than high-rider, the X2 is an X1 with flair

More hatchback than high-rider, the flamboyant BMW X2 is an X1 with flair - but is it right to think of it as an SUV?

WHAT IS IT?

Think of the X2 as an X1 with significantly more visual attitude, and you’re on the right track. Intended to compliment the X4 and X6 SUV ‘coupes’ in BMW’s showroom, the X2 is designed to appeal to a younger audience through more adventurous styling and a sportier driving experience.  

WHY ARE WE TESTING IT?

Although this is a well-trodden product development path for BMW - the X2 sharing its innards with the X1 SUV - BMW says it has imparted its newest X-car with a character that’s all its own. That surely warrants investigation.

MAIN RIVALS

Audi Q2, Infiniti QX30, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Range Rover Evoque. Later on, the Jaguar E-Pace, Volvo XC40 and Lexus UX will join the style-driven premium compact SUV fray.

THE WHEELS VERDICT

In a great many ways, the X2 makes more sense than its bigger, more sensible cousin, the X1. Its on-road handling is properly aligned with the sporty pretensions of its exterior styling, it’s genuinely good fun to steer and its head-turning design doesn’t fade into the background like its wagon-bodied relative. While stiff underpinnings penalise the family-oriented X1, they suit the X2 to a T - as long as you tick the box for the optional adaptive suspension.

PLUS: Sharp handling; eye-catching design; surprisingly few interior compromises
MINUS: Adaptive suspension is a must; cabin noise on coarse chip surfaces

THE WHEELS REVIEW

THIS is not merely an X1 with a backwards baseball cap. BMW wants to make that clear. Another message BMW wants to send is that the X2 is pitched heavily at millennials - presumably cashed-up ones that can afford to drop $50K-plus on a brand-new car.

But in reality, this is a car that could appeal to a broader church than the X1 that sits alongside it in BMW’s product hierarchy. With style on its side and packaging that’s more big-hatch than small-SUV, the X2 stands out from the crowd (in a good way), without being as compromised as you might expect. What’s more, the extra outlay required to step up to the arguably more desirable X2 is comparatively modest.

The X2’s platform and its mechanical innards are shared with the X1, though tweaked to suit the X2’s posture as a sportier, style-conscious offering. Wheelbase is identical, but compared to the X1 the X2’s overall length is trimmed by 79mm. The front overhang is increased by 12mm for a longer bonnet while the rear overhang is 91mm shorter, giving the X2 a more classically cab-back look than its SUV stablemate.

The prominent BMW roundels on the C-pillars may divide opinion - some may think the designer’s homage to the classic E9 3.0 CSL is gaudy, others may see it as classy - but the big picture looks handsome from most angles without suffering from the same ungainly proportions of the outgoing X4, nor the self-consciously butch styling of the X6. Don’t think of it as a coupe-styled SUV though: with no D-pillar and a fairly vertical tailgate, this one is more hatchback than anything else.

And that hatchback aesthetic is enhanced if you opt for the no-cost optional M Sport package, rather than the standard-issue M Sport X trim. The M Sport config replaces most of the contrast colourways on the arches, side skirts and bumpers with body colour to make the X2 look more even more like a swollen five-door instead of a bona-fide SUV. The M Sport X package is easily more handsome looking in the flesh.

Naturally the X2’s cabin length chop sees boot space fall from the X1’s 505 litres to 470 litres, but that’s still a genuinely useful volume. Seats down, there’s a handy 1355L of cargo capacity on offer. Passenger space sees even fewer compromises. Even with some extra cabin intrusion from the panoramic glass roof, there’s still sufficient headroom for anyone up to 6'2 on the back bench and enough cabin width to easily accommodate two fully-grown adults.

From the front seats you’ll notice dash and centre console furniture that’s largely the same as that found in the X1. It feels slightly different from the driver’s seat though, thanks to a 20mm lower hip point that puts you in a semi-sportscar posture behind the wheel.

Between that leather-clad wheel and the front tyres are more changes. The steering rack has changed from the X1’s variable-ratio unit to one with a constant 15:1 ratio, improving response around dead-centre and imparting a faster-reacting nature to the X2’s tiller. There’s also a smidge more negative camber on the front wheels to help the tyres bite into the road plus a more rigid chassis and 50kg weight reduction relative to a similarly-specced X1. The net effect is a front end that feels far more precise and willing to change direction than BMW’s entry-level SUV - though it’s still not exactly fizzing with feel.

Plenty of feedback is provided by the suspension, however, which in Australian-delivered cars is 10mm lower and stiffer than the standard European cars. All cars available at launch were also equipped with the optional adaptive damper setup, but with the Sport mode of said dampers tuned to be similar to the fixed-rate M Sport setup we can surmise that the standard suspension would be too firm for anything but the smoothest road. Comfort mode improves things markedly, though it’s still very much on the stiff end of the spectrum. Thankfully the adaptive dampers only cost a $400 premium, and in our opinion, are a must-tick option.

Until June, the only X2 variant in local showrooms will be the sDrive20i, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four that makes 141kW and 280Nm while burning 6.0L/100km of regular unleaded on average. Paired with BMW’s new smooth-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and sending power to the front wheels, it’s an agreeable and torquey powertrain - though a hotter ‘25i’ variant using the X1 xDrive25i’s 170kW/350Nm engine would make better use of the X2’s dynamic talents.

Sadly, that’s not on the cards as yet. A low-spec three-cylinder petrol sDrive18i and all-wheel drive xDrive20d will, however, join the range in June to add some diversity.

And diversity is arguably what the X2 is all about. It’s an emotionally engaging car that targets conquest sales for the marque. Its success hinges on BMW attracting those millennials whose line of credit hasn’t been ravaged by smashed avo purchases - which could prove risky - but in its bid to imbue a more fashionable flavour to the Munich brand, the X2 is one of BMW’s most intriguing cars in a long time.


SPECS
Model  BMW X2 sDrive 20i
Engine  1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power  141kW @ 5000-6000rpm
Max torque  280Nm @ 1350-4600rpm
Transmission  7-speed dual-clutch auto
Weight  1460kg
0-100km/h  7.7sec (claimed)
Economy  6.0L/100km (Europe Combined Cycle)
Price  $55,900
On sale  Now