TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
Car makers are offering evermore choice as the popularity of SUVs at the small end of the spectrum increases.
One such area of evolution is into vehicles offering more ground clearance and view of the surroundings afforded by a higher ride-height, but with a more elegant coupe profile.
Read next: BMW X2 review
BMW is often cited as starting the coupe SUV revolution with a reprofiled version of the X5 dubbed the X6 – and now the German manufacturer is at it again. Taking the X1 as its basis, the new X2 offers many of the virtues of the more wagon-shaped model wrapped up in a more style-focused and handsome body.
Three variants are on offer in the form of a pair of front-wheel-drive petrol-powered variants starting from $49,900, but we jumped into the flagship diesel, which adds xDrive all-wheel-drive traction into the mix for $59,900.
- In a word – looks. In full X1 wagon form, the smallest BMW SUV is no faceache. But with the X2 fettling, the aesthetics take on even more desirable proportions. With a falling roofline toward the rear, the X2 has a more athletic and confident stance complemented by design details such as the roundel badge on each C-pillar, which harks to the 1970s M1 just a little.
The transition from X1 to X2 did not just involve taking a plane to its roof and the newer model is 79mm shorter, 69mm lower, 3mm wider and has an extra 12mm of front overhang but 91mm less rear overhang. That’s quite a makeover.
Read next: 2018 BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X review
- While some BMWs of late have lost their way a little when it comes to steering feedback and feel, the X2 represents a delightful return to the dynamics of yesteryear. Its steering is highly responsive and offers a pin-sharp connection to the road, boosting driver enjoyment and handling.
- The excellent steering is complemented by an equally refined chassis. While the X1 is justifiably criticised for a firm ride, in a vehicle like the X2 that targets a younger, excitable audience, a stiffer ride is completely warranted. The sportier tune makes the X2 huge fun to drive without being punishingly hard when the driver and occupants just want to relax.
- Despite its compact size, the driver’s seat allows a comfortable, reclined position more akin to a larger drive-focused model.
- You might expect the second row of seating to be impacted by the sportier roofline but rear occupants still have a surprisingly roomy reception. Head room is less than you would find in an X1 but there’s still plenty of space. Second-row comfort is boosted further by a three-position adjustable back rest, air vents and a 12-volt power supply.
- Its 2.0-litre diesel engine is refined, quiet and provides lots of useful torque (400Nm) low in the rev range, allowing brisk progress but is frugal – it officially needs just 5.1 litres of diesel to travel 100km under combined driving conditions, says BMW.
- While the petrol varieties have to make do with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, the diesel gets an eight speed torque converter auto. The tighter ratios make the X2 really good fun to drive – click through the gears using the paddle shifters and the transmission is eager to punch the X2 off the line. Its operation is so aggressive under hard acceleration that it feels a lot like a dual-clutch auto.
- Our test vehicle was dressed up in the M Sport X package, which we wouldn’t be surprised to find on the options list but it is actually included in the standard equipment. You’ll have to pay more for it to add it to the entry-level X2, but the 19-inch wheels, M steering wheel, sports seats, black roof lining and exterior gloss touches look even better when you know you didn’t have to pay extra for them on the more premium variants.
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- At the moment, the most power you can have from an X2 is the 141kW X2 sDrive 20i but the excellent chassis has a lot of performance capacity left in it. We would love to see a 25i or even 30i hit the market, bringing the 175kW or 185kW that the 2.0-litre petrol engine is capable of pumping out in other models.
- While many manufacturers, including BMW, are migrating to digital instrument clusters, the X2 is sticking to traditional analogue dials. The needles are concealed behind a pane for a neat finish but the versatility of a digital display would suit the X2’s up-to-the-minute styling and technology. A head-up display is available for a touch more driver technology but as an option that adds to the bottom line.
- The optional adaptive damper suspension is essential for the best ride characteristics regardless of the driving style.
- Run-flat tyres are a good safety feature –allowing the car to be driven for a limited distance even when punctured, but they often can’t be repaired if you are unaware how far you have driven while underinflated. In this case, they also transmit a lot of road noise through to the cabin when driving on rougher road surfaces.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The Q2 is the equivalent small coupe-styled SUV from BMW’s arch rival, Audi. Similar to the X2, the Audi offers an excellent driver’s car as the flagship Sport Quattro variant, but unlike the BMW, you can have the all-wheel-drive version with either petrol or diesel powertrains.
If delightful styling touches are your thing in a small premium SUV, Volvo’s XC40 is definitely worth a look. It offers the same 140kW/400Nm output from the diesel version, or alternatively comes with a 185kW/350Nm petrol engine sending power through all four wheels. The Volvo is full of cool European design touches and clever functional innovations.