4.7 Stars

Words by Wayne Gorrett

 

A bit of an odd one this week – from my position, anyway.

When I tell you that compared with the X1, the new BMW X2 is smaller in length, shorter in height, isn’t quite as practical, rides 70mm lower, but costs over £2,000 more at their respective entry trim levels, you can perhaps begin to see the conundrum it faces.

Still, will buyers give a hoot? Probably not. It’s well-styled, classy inside and out, brimming with tech and high-spec features, is built with Germanic precision and best of all – displays warm hatch road manners that will make your smile linger long enough to make your neighbours wonder what you’ve been up to.

Mind you, success for the new X2 won’t come easily in one of Europe’s fastest-growing market segments. Too low-slung to be an SUV, the X2 enters a premium crossover class brimming with impressive, higher-riding contenders, a few of which include the Jaguar E-Pace, the Audi Q3, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the new Volvo XC40.

The original X2 concept was revealed in 2016 and this final production version is built alongside the X1 at BMW’s Regensburg plant in Bavaria, southern Germany.

Exterior Styling

The X2 dispenses with standard BMW convention and receives bold new styling treatment aimed squarly at a youthful market. In doing so, the German car maker hopes to win potential new customers from other car makers – collectively referred to as ‘brand conquests’ in industry speak. In the automotive world, they are one of the highest valued commodities.

The BMW X2 is designed to appeal to style-conscious customers who don’t mind sacrificing some interior space and outward visibility for a more engaging driving experience. It has an aggressively sloping roofline and those looking for the typically commanding, SUV-like view might be disappointed, because the X2 feels and drives more like a car.

If you look a little closely, you will spot that the trademark kidney grille on the X2 is wider at its bottom edge that the top and you can spot the new model by the placement of BMW roundel badges on the C-pillars – a first for the brand and a significant departure in conventional BMW styling.

The Interior

The interior is a bit BMW-perfunctory, but there’s enough richness, tech, and advanced safety features to win people over. The seats are big and supportive and the dashboard is trimmed in a variety of patterned plastics and brightly coloured accents depending on trim level chosen. It sits somewhere between the sobriety of an Audi cockpit and a bullish Mercedes-Benz cabin, with the ergonomics taking rightful priority over style.

As you’d expect from a driver-focused manufacturer, everything points towards the right hand seat. I’ve only had the pleasure of driving the M Sport model but was mightily impressed by the quality of the cabin materials. Mind you, I did find the black anthracite headlining to be quite oppressive (I’m not overly fond of dark, Gothic-like interiors).

The steering wheel and driver’s seat have plenty of adjustment, including a moveable thigh cushion for the latter. You can sink the driver’s seat low down for a near-hatchback feel, or boost it up to try and achieve an SUV altitude. Classic white-on-black dials are low set to afford a good view forward.

The only downsides to the lower and sloped roof line are reduced rear seat headroom and poor rear three-quarter visibility, something you really notice at offset road junctions and while parking. The big fat B-pillars don't help here, either. The rear window is noticeably small, too.

Boot capacity is 420 litres, which is down 35 litres from the X1. Flatten the rear seats and 1,355 litres of space becomes available, down a significant 195 litres on the X1.

Trim Grades and Equipment

At launch there's a choice of four trim levels: SE, Sport, M Sport and M Sport X. Standard equipment includes LED lighting, 17in alloys, a 6.5in touchscreen and sat-nav but, as usual for BMW, there are lots of optional extra packs to add desirable features like active cruise control.

Full-LED headlights are standard on Sport, M Sport and M Sport X models. The bi-LED light for low beam and high beam is highly effective at illuminating the road, while also accentuating the BMW X2’s sporty character. The headlights display precise detailing, achieved in part through 3D Icon LED daytime driving light and laser engraving.

The M Sport and M Sport X models are available with wheels in sizes up to 20-inch, a standout feature in this segment. As standard, both models are fitted with 19-inch wheels. The standard rims for the SE model are 17-inch V-Spoke style light alloy wheels, but ten other rim designs can be specified as an option.

Technology & Connectivity

Enabling connectivity anytime and anywhere are the optional WiFi hotspot preparation (available with the Tech Pack), which equips the BMW X2 to host a built-in WiFi hotspot with LTE speeds and the optional telephony with wireless charging for compatible smartphones. Apple CarPlay (available retrospectively from the BMW ConnectedDrive Store), enables easy wireless in-car use of selected iPhone functions. Oddly, you can’t get the X2 with Android Auto.

Go for the upgraded 8.8-inch infotainment screen and you won’t miss the standard 6.5-inch unit. It’s clear, colourful and slick to use, and recognises ‘pinch’ and ‘swipe’ hand gestures. However, to avoid those annoying finger marks, rather make use of the excellent iDrive control, located just under your resting left hand.

You can specify a head-up display which projects useful information such as speed, the speed limit and route guidance onto the windscreen directly into your eye line, minimising the time you take your eyes off the road.

 

Audiophiles will appreciate the optional (£600) Harman Kardon stereo that’s clear, crisp, but also powerful enough to make almost any music sound brilliant.

Engines and Drivetrains

There isn’t the usual array of BMW engines available for the X2 – just the one 20i petrol and one diesel which is available in two states of tune (18d and 20d). All are four-cylinder turbocharged units.

The most junior diesel engine (18d) is also the most flexible in terms of drivetrain choice – you can have it with front- or all-wheel drive, and with a six-speed manual or eight-speed auto gearbox. With 150hp and 350Nm of torque on tap, you can expect 0-62mph to take 9.3 seconds while the top speed is a whisker under 130mph.

Expected to be the best seller is the 20d motor with 190hp and 400Nm of torque. This means a 0-62mph time of 7.7 seconds. That wide spread of torque between 1,500 and 3,000rpm means the 20d feels strong and muscular, if a little breathless at higher revs. Thankfully, the eight-speed Getrag auto ‘box is impressively slick, quick to respond and always does what you expect.

I can’t help feeling that the sole petrol engine is just making up the numbers a bit here. The X2 20i offers roughly the same performance as the 20d version, thanks to 192hp and 280Nm of torque. It also takes 7.7 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph. This car is available as a manual, front-wheel drive only.

Advertised economy for the xDrive 20d as tested is 58.9mpg and 124g/km of CO2, while braked towing limits are a caravan friendly 2,000kg and the trailer nose weight is 80kg. During a week of mixed road driving, covering 453 miles, I achieved 46.8mpg (79%) at an average speed of 32.2mph.

Ride and Handling

Here is where the X2 really surprises and excels. Those familiar with the roly-poly, top-heavy handling characteristics of these inherently tall cars and the problems that chassis engineers have with tuning out that feeling – usually at the expense of ride quality – will appreciate the X2’s lower centre of gravity as an asset.

And it is. The X2 does not handle like a half-full bath on wheels. Sure, it's not as much fun as perhaps a Volkswagen Golf to chuck around in the twisty bits, but be assured it’s not too far off the mark.

The steering is accurate, nicely weighted and does a pretty good job of damping out any lateral movement over crusty surfaces. The well-engineered chassis and suspension offer excellent balance and isolate the cabin from road imperfections, but maintains body control when pushing on.

The M Sport diesel as tested does a good job at disguising its 1.6-tonne kerb weight. From the off there is almost instant torque on tap (which is why we love a torquey diesel) and, while it's not what you'd call fast, it always feels swift and eager.

Another X2 strong point is the refined NVH - noise, vibration and harshness. It's impressively quiet and refined on any surface at any speed.

Summary

After a week living with the new X2 in 20d XDrive M Sport guise, I came to like it more and more each passing day, but as a more interesting addition to the BMW X stable, the new X2 won’t be the best choice for all.

This style-oriented Beemer is unquestionably great to drive, feels high-brow inside and wears eye-catching looks. But it lacks the road-commanding gravitas and appeal of similarly priced rivals – including what may well turn out to be its in-house nemesis, the larger, loftier and more practical and less expensive BMW X1.

Time will tell, but I honestly hope the X2 succeeds in all its endeavours. It deserves to.

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