Car reviews - BMW - X2 - sDrive20i
Cabin ergonomics and quality, refined and punchy drivetrain, optional adaptive dampers are $400 well spent
Room for improvement
Road noise, wet-weather sketchiness, no proper AEB, Apple CarPlay should be standard, not really an SUV
BMW niche-filling continues with the X2, a competent and compact crossover coupe
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5 Jun 2018
FOR people who think the pint-sized BMW X1 SUV is a bit too straight-laced, the Munich-based luxury car brand has developed the edgier X2.
It’s not as obviously coupe-shaped as its larger X4 and X6 siblings, but there is no denying the X2 has a purposeful look about it that makes the X1 upon which it is based look positively sit-up-and-beg.
Our test car’s interior was configured to look and feel like that of a hot hatch, too, and the little X2 certainly responds well to a bit of enthusiastic driving.
Practicality is also pretty good and while it has obvious rivals from Audi and Mercedes, there’s nothing else out there quite like the X2.
At launch at the beginning of March 2018, BMW offered just one X2 variant, the sDrive20i tested here. Priced at $55,900 before on-roads, it carries a $1300 premium over the boxier X1 equivalent.
By the end of the same month, BMW had lowered the price of entry to $49,900 plus on-roads with the addition of a less powerful sDrive18i variant while adding a $59,900 (plus on-roads) range-topping xDrive20d with diesel power and all-wheel drive.
Our sDrive20i comes standard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen featuring BMW’s latest iDrive6 multimedia system, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB+ digital radio and reversing camera display with visuals for the front and rear parking sensors. The instrument cluster is a 5.7-inch digital screen too.
Also standard are LED headlights (with high-beam assist), LED tail-lights, an electrically operated tailgate, colour-configurable cabin lighting, a multi-function M Sport leather steering wheel and sports front seats.
Driver and safety aids comprise lane-departure warning, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking for low-speed pedestrian detection only. So you’re on your own if you didn’t respond to the alarm informing you of a vehicle stopped in your path.
Australian-delivered X2 sDrive20i variants also get the choice of rugged-looking M Sport X or M Sport styling packages.
Ours had the M Sport kit comprising 19-inch alloy wheels with runflat tyres, 10mm lower ride height, an aerodynamic bodykit with grey inserts and blue interior trim, including contrast stitching on the Alcantara upholstery.
BMW also added the $4000 Launch Package, comprising a panoramic glass roof, self-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, a head-up display, wireless smartphone charging and a sat-nav upgrade.
They also added a $2700 Comfort Package with keyless entry/start and electric front seat adjustment with lumbar support, position memory and heating.
Adaptive suspension ($400) was fitted as well, along with $500 worth of sun protection glazing.
With all options taken into account, our test vehicle was valued at $63,500 plus on-roads. Our Alpine White paintwork was a no-cost option but metallic hues cost at least $1140 extra.
The X2 we tested had quite the hot hatch vibe with its M Sport themed blue cabin trim highlights, contrast stitching and carpet mat edging and this carried through to the raucous rasping exhaust note on cold start. With modestly brisk acceleration, even in Comfort mode, upshifts from first-to-second-to-third are accompanied by the kind of evocative tailpipe blurting usually found on performance-oriented cars when set to one of their Sport modes.
Unfortunately not all sounds entering the X2 cabin were pleasant, with unacceptable levels of road noise making this a pretty exhausting car to get about in, especially at higher speeds.
But on a more positive note, it’s clear BMW has realised that buyers of its smallest models do not appreciate a cheap-feeling interior in return for the opportunity of having a relatively affordable Ultimate Driving Machine on their driveway. The company really has upped its game in this regard.
Gone is the disappointingly plastic fantastic cabin that blighted the original X1 crossover, 1 Series hatch and 2 Series coupe/convertible. The X2 feels positively polished and properly premium inside, with convincingly tactile and quality-feeling materials applied with precision and attention to detail.
For example, the asymmetrical centre console is open on the driver’s side and has a padded, upholstered separator on the passenger side on which they can rest their knee. The tightly quilted fabric finish on the door trims and seat centre panels is also a nice touch and compliments the pattern on the imitation machined metal trim inserts.
Even the lower hard plastics are made of the sturdy and pleasantly textured material found in larger, more expensive BMW models. The rear door trims get the same soft-touch finish as those at the front, too, and the liberal application of ambient lighting – configurable for colour and intensity – effectively enhances the upmarket feel throughout.
BMW’s excellent iDrive6 multimedia setup is present and correct, although our car lacked the stupidly expensive $429 Apple CarPlay option that costs even more if you option your X2 up into Luxury Car Tax territory. It did have the optional (and brilliant) head-up display to compliment BMW’s typically crisp hybrid digital-analogue instrument panel.
We found everything logically located and easy to familiarise with, although the blanked-off CD player slot, surrounded by typical BMW CD player controls, was amusing.
The X2 seating position is low enough for it to pass as a hatchback from inside the cabin, which is unsurprising as it is exterior resemblance to an SUV is tenuous at best. That said, the X2’s vast amount of seat height adjustment meant we could get that high-set SUV position if we wanted. Unusually for a BMW, we struggled to attain a truly comfortable driving position due to small-feeling front seats with odd-shaped leading edges to their extendable thigh supports.
It was much more pleasant to sit in the plush back seats, where there is just enough space for 186cm adults to sit in tandem. Overall, the cabin is not exactly cramped but it is cosy and rather narrow. Perhaps BMW tried unsuccessfully to cram full-featured front seats into this space and was forced to compromise.
Another comfort factor was air-conditioning. Again, typical of BMW the system was easy to use with logical buttons and rotary dials but it wasn’t the quickest system to cool the cabin of our white-painted example that had been optioned with sun protection glass in typical early autumn conditions of southeast Queensland. We laid part of the blame at the dark-coloured Alcantara upholstery that seemed to hold copious amounts of heat and then dissipate it through the bodies of occupants. The thin, porous fabric blind of our car’s optional panoramic glass sunroof didn’t help, either.
Visibility isn’t brilliant, with the X2’s sporty shape, upswept rear window line and small rear windscreen giving the driver a bit of tunnel vision.
Storage in the X2 is pretty good for such a compact car, with generous bottle-holding door bins and a glovebox that is supplemented by another smaller one by the driver’s right knee. Beneath a sliding enclosure ahead of the gear selector are two front cupholders, but they are a bit far forward and low down to be truly convenient. In front of those is a small space we used for storing sunglasses, as there is no glasses case in the ceiling.
The central armrest contains a phone holder and beneath that is an open tray big enough to accommodate a small takeaway food container or things such as wallets that are uncomfortable to have in your pockets while driving. Rear passengers also get a central fold-down armrest with a pop-up cup-holder tray, more big door bins and net-style map pockets.
Upon activating the powered tailgate, we were presented with a more generous than expected boot, which holds further surprises beneath its solidly constructed and chunkily hinged false floor that provides a seriously deep second storage space, or with the floor conveniently stashed flat against the back of the rear bench, adds a meaningful amount of overall boot space.
All up, the X2 boot is 470 litres in capacity, with a total of 1355L available with the split/fold rear backrests dropped. In typical BMW fashion there is a recess behind one of the wheelarches separated by a net for keeping small items in check and a thick elasticated securing strap on the opposite side.
Engine and transmission
The X2 sDrive20i tested here used a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that produces 141kW of power at 5000rpm and 280Nm of torque between 1350-4600rpm. These are middling outputs for an engine of this size, but having peak torque available across such a broad rev-range meant our 1485kg test car zipped along with a fair bit of verve and enthusiasm.
Between the engine and the front wheels is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters, from which we never suffered any round-town clunkiness or hesitation. It was a pleasure to use, with shifts that were crisp and quick using the manual paddles and calibration in both Comfort and Sport modes that was hard to fault when left to its own devices.
Unlike many cars – especially the larger X3 we drove recently – the X2 doesn’t feel laggy or compromised for urban driving in terms of driveline responsiveness with Comfort mode engaged. It really was a pleasure to punt around town right out of the box.
Similarly, progress was effortless and seamless at higher speeds, with terrific responsiveness to go with the impressive smoothness and refinement.
We were also pretty pleased with its efficiency, averaging 7.1 litres of 95 RON Premium Unleaded per 100 kilometres during our week-long test, matching the official urban use figure but significantly higher than the official combined-cycle fuel figure of 5.9L/100km. It consumed 5.3L/100km on a long motorway run, which was 0.2L/100km higher than the official highway cycle figure.
Ride and handling
According to BMW, the standard X2 suspension in M Sport configuration is about as firm as the sport mode setting of the optional adaptive dampers fitted to our test car. We’d struggle to tolerate the busy, jiggly ride if it was permanent, so being able to select Comfort mode’s much more compliant setup is clearly $400 well spent.
With the X2 in Comfort there is still a sporty, surefooted firmness to the ride and body control remains excellent, so the car continues to feel alert and agile in keeping with its looks and intention. At the same time, it successfully soaks up uneven road surfaces rather than transmit every shudder, bump, dip and ridge into the cabin.
Steering is delightfully sharp, but not to the point where it feels nervous and darty. The phrase that came to mind was go-kart, which is appropriate given the X2 shares its front-drive UKL platform with the latest crop of Mini models.
As such, we were looking forward to our fang along the dynamic test route. But despite our journey to the beginning of this network of curvaceous country lanes being completely dry, every kilometre of its length had copped a soaking just prior to our arrival.
In these wet conditions, the front-drive frailties of the X2 came into sharp focus. The steering wheel would tug and fight as the engine easily overcame the available traction and the electronics would cut power abruptly in an attempt to curtail wheelspin, often kicking in even before we could detect wheel slip through the steering and chassis. The wet roads would even cause it to intervene following full-throttle upshifts on straight stretches of bitumen.
Perhaps it was the 19-inch Pirelli tyres, but the overriding feeling was of severely limited traction and grip in the wet, making usually quick roads slow progress in the rain. Without pushing all that hard into a corner, the X2 would easily start to wash out into understeer and struggle to put power down on the way out. There was more squirming under hard braking as well.
We found this a disappointing show, as we’re sure the X2 would’ve performed well in the dry. On a couple of higher-grip surfaces, we were able to fling this little BMW into bends, so it’s a real shame its keen and feelsome front-end was so fussy about the availability of grip and traction.
Safety and servicing
ANCAP based the X2’s maximum five-star crash-test rating on the X1, which was tested in 2015. The safety watchdog conducted new side, pole and pedestrian impact tests, though, due to the sleeker body’s unique structure.
It scored 90 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 74 per cent for pedestrian protection and 70 per cent for safety assist technologies. These ratings apply to all front- and all-wheel-drive X2 variants.
Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain protection airbags are standard on the X2, along with traction and stability control, lane departure warning and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking for low-speed pedestrian detection only.
The standard warranty lasts three years and has no kilometre restriction (unless using the car for driving instruction, limousine or taxi duties, in which case it lasts for 150,000km).
BMW also includes three years of roadside assistance and the anti-corrosion warranty lasts 12 years.
In the hunkered-down M Sport trim of our test vehicle, the BMW X2 didn’t really resemble an SUV and barely qualified as a crossover – and it was a similar story inside, although we found it to be pretty practical for its size.
As a result, we reckon this car provides a pretty comprehensive preview of what the next 1 Series hatch will be like.
Our main disappointments with the X2 were road noise and wet-weather performance, both of which could well be addressed – at least in part – by fitting different tyres.
Apart from that, and the fact we’re going to keep giving BMW a hard time over charging for Apple CarPlay, the X2 was a pretty convincing package.
We’re not quite sure who it appeals to, but no doubt the X2 will find plenty of buyers in SUV-soaked Australia.
If you’re one of them, drive a hard bargain to get CarPlay and adaptive dampers thrown in then crank up the stereo and be careful when it rains.
But don’t commit until you’ve had a good look at Audi’s Q2.
Mini Countryman Cooper S from $48,200 plus on-road costs
Face it: The X2 is a Countryman underneath. It costs less than the X2, but do spend the change wisely on options because some of them extinguish what purity the big Mini has left. Even if the idea of a rather large Mini SUV makes your stomach do somersaults, this impressive machine is worth a look.
Audi Q2 2.0 TFSI quattro from $48,500 plus on-road costs
Just oozing with charm, the Audi Q2 is more practical than initial impressions would suggest. It also has an admirable ride/handling balance, but areas of cabin cheapness threaten Audi’s brand promise of classy interiors somewhat. That said, the sharp pricing leaves plenty of change against the X2 with which to spruce things up.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic from $60,700 plus on-road costs
Starting to feel a bit old and not as special inside as a Mercedes should be. It’s cramped inside and the ride’s a bit crashy too. But it’s comprehensively equipped and packs a peach of a drivetrain.
Range Rover Evoque 110TD4 Pure from $56,050 plus on-road costs
Might not have the concept car gravitas it once did, and for X2 money you are getting the poverty pack Evoque, but despite its age there remains plenty to like about the smallest Range Rover.
Model release date: 1 March 2018
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