When BMW already has a perfectly functional, and reasonably successful, compact SUV that comes with a degree of utility and interior flexibility, why should it need to introduce a second version which arguably does less for more money?
Because it can is the answer. And because as much as practical-minded consumers might baulk at the idea of paying more for the promise of prestige, the demand exists and any reasonable company (like BMW) should do its best to serve it.
Of course that’s a tale as old as time. Why buy a 4-Series coupe when BMW’s 3-Series sedan provides better back seat access? If the X4 and X6 before it are anything to by, the German brand’s track record of applying coupe-inspired lines to high-riding coupes seems to have real appeal with a growing number of style conscious buyers.
Vehicle Style: Prestige small SUV
Price: From $55,900 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 141kW/280Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.8 l/100km
When the X2 range arrives in Australia, despite its sporty positioning, there will be just one variant, the sDrive 20i, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 141kW and 280Nm driving the front wheels via a seven speed auto.
If the format sounds familiar, that’s because the X1 already exists with the same configuration. But where the X1 does magical things with interior space for a compact SUV and has family-friendly versatility in abundance, the X2 shuns spaciousness for an aesthetically driven tapered roofline.
It’s the designer label of BMW’s compact range then - one that potentially could have silenced critics of the company’s move to front-wheel drive based on its style-statement alone, but one (like any niche model) that had to wait for niche models like the 2 series Active Tourer and X1 to find their feet first.
- Standard Equipment: Dual-zone climate control, Alcantara cloth trim, front sports seats, black headlining, LED headlights, leather-clad M steering wheel, powered tailgate, cruise control with speed limiter, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, iDrive console-mounted control dial, voice recognition, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, USB and Aux input, Bluetooth connectivity
- Cargo Volume: 470 litres to rear seats
BMW plays up the sporty appeal of the X2 with a standard ‘M Sport X’ appearance package, a way of giving the SUV coupe a look, both inside and out, that conveys a kind of urban ruggedness accompanied by a sizzle of sportiness.
That means that even in its standard form the X2 bound for Australia gets an M steering wheel, big 19-inch alloy wheels, and an interior decorated with yellow contrast stitching and a black headlining.
The detail differences are important because, for the most part, the X2 carries over major interior components from the X1, with a familiar dash design, major controls and other select parts carried over from the donor car.
To imbue the X2 with a more sporting character the front seats are positioned 21mm lower compared to the X1, which not only provides a more low-slung driving position but also helps restore some of headroom that the 72mm lower roofline eliminates, ensuring the X2 feels far from claustrophobic.
Those that wish to amp up the sporty side of things even further can opt for an available M Sport package too, but unlike overseas markets the basic X2 with small diameter wheels and unpainted plastic body cladding won’t be seen in Australia.
The X2 also differs slightly from its even-numbered X siblings, the X4 and X6, with less of a fastback profile, taking its coupe cues instead from a less dramatically angled roof but a higher beltline and rising glasshouse to help preserve rear seat and boot space, which at 470 litres isn’t dramatically compromised compared to the the 505 litres of an X1.
Though the buyer profile for the X2 means its rear seats aren’t likely to be called into use very often, an unaltered 2760mm wheelbase means the rear seats still offer plenty of legroom, though slightly less headroom and reduced outward visibility.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 140kW @4000rpm, 400Nm @1750-2500rpm
- Transmission: Eight speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 11.3m turning circle
Although Australian X2’s will launch with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, front wheel drive, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, that particular configuration will have to wait for an Australian drive after the local launch of the sDrive 20i in March.
Instead first impressions of the X2 were via the xDrive 20d, which uses a 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic (a traditional torque converter kind, not a dual-clutch like the petrol model) which drives all four-wheels on demand.
The diesel engine's healthy 400Nm of torque makes for strong acceleration at any speed, and gives the xDrive 20d enough muscle to run up and down hills without feeling strained - though the lack of a revvy top end means the diesel X2 lacks a spirited hot hatch feel.
Under the skin, the X2 is based on BMW’s flexible UKL transverse chassis, which means that most of the mechanical bits are the same as found in the X1 and the range of vehicles from Mini, with the most obvious relative being the Countryman SUV.
The eight-speed automatic is a smooth operator, with gearshifts that are fast enough to convince you that it could be a dual-clutch transmission except for the distinct lack of low speed hesitation that usually defines that type of auto.
To stick with the X2’s sporting theme, chassis engineers have retuned the ride and handling, with slightly different spring and damper characteristics for a sportier, more agile feel.
With the standard M Sport X package, the ride translates to something akin to a lower-riding hatchback, but for buyers looking for an even more dynamic package there’s an optional M Sport (without the X - Confused yet?) suspension that’s 10mm lower and delivers a firmer ride.
As it stands, the ‘regular’ X2 manages a decent balance of agility, with connected and responsive steering, but a ride that’s forgiving enough to handle Portugal’s cobblestones and patchy sealed roads. However, the real test will come on Australian roads which tend to generate even more noise and vibration.
BMW also promises the X2 offers the same degree of off-road ability as an X1, though by its own admission that’s not a lot with 182mm of ground clearance - enough to endow the X2 with the ability to cross choppy gravel roads but not the right configuration for wild off-road adventures.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Loud colours, funky interior details, and a set of square shoulders that look like they’ve come straight from the set of Dynasty mark the Audi Q2 as fun and vibrant for young, adventurous buyers. The Q2 also comes with a hatch like driving feel and affordable entry pricing but as always options can soon drive up the entry ticket.
Looking more like a high-riding hatch than a blocky SUV, the Mercedes-Benz GLA unintentionally falls into the SUV-coupe category without knowing it. Rear space is tight in this one, but for singles or couples that’s unlikely to be a problem and a new-generation model due soon could potentially change that for the better too.
Aussie customers will have to wait a little longer to drive the Jaguar E-Pace, but early signs are promising that Jag’s small crossover does luxury well. Somehow though the E-Pace weighs in like a Sumo wrestler, with the extra weight sure to have an impact on everything from fuel consumption to brake and tyre wear.
BMW wants you to believe that this car is dynamic (and they use the word relentlessly in their press presentations) but also that it’s still an SUV with the same soft-road abilities as an X1.
Because of that soft roader status, the X2 can’t quite match the sharp handling of a regular hatch (though it does come quite close) and off road adventures are unlikely to involve much more than crossing a gravel car park or damp nature strip.
That’s okay. Sometimes an object can exist simply because its lovely to look at, and for the most part SUVs haven’t been particularly eye-catching for the right reasons, especially BMW's awkward X4 and X6. Finally BMW has tried to turn the tide, though there’s a strong reliance on fickle and fast-changing fashion rather than long-lived style.
Now that distractions like the eye-catching Audi Q2 and attention-seeking Jaguar E-Pace have arrived to challenge BMW, it stands to reason that the brand might fight back.
Even though the X2 lacks the crisp and purposeful rear-wheel drive dynamics the brand built its reputation on there’s more than enough driving joy to be found baked into the X2 - and it’s perfectly okay that most of it comes from catching a glimpse of yourself in the reflection of High Street shopfronts.
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