Review: The new BMW X2 - genuinely worthy of attention
Darren Cassey sees if the X2 is the missing link for the Germans.
What is it?
The X2 is a new model in the BMW range, with the German firm continuing its pursuit to fill every possible niche in the market.
Here, we have a small SUV with a coupe-like body shape, packaged in something that looks a bit like a hot hatch. And hot hatch is how a BMW rep described the way the X2 drives but - spoiler alert - it's about as hot as the lemon and herb sauce at Nando's.
That aside, it's pitched at "young people, or young at heart (because honestly, what young person could afford a £30k-plus BMW?)" and sees the Jaguar E-Pace as a rival.
Surprisingly, since this is a new model, there aren't as many new bits as you might think. It's based on the chassis of the X1, BMW's crossover with slightly less sporty looks, though the firm says that the chassis has been tweaked to make it more fun to drive.
The main changes are to the exterior styling. Purists will be sad to see another front wheel-drive BMW entering the ranks - even the four wheel-drive xDrive models are front-biased. But this new set-up means there's more space inside - noticeable for rear passenger legroom.
What's under the bonnet?
At launch, there's just the one engine option - xDrive20d. That means you get all wheel-drive, eight-speed automatic transmission and a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine.
Performance is adequate, if not electrifying at 187bhp and 400Nm of torque. There's less punch than that second figure implies, though.
As is generally the case, BMW's '20d' cars don't have the most characterful engines, but it's quiet and refined even out on the motorway, has enough performance to overtake when needed and returns low running costs.
Three more configurations will be made available later in 2018, all with the same diesel engine, bringing a manual transmission, lower power output and front wheel-drive to the line-up.
What's it like to drive?
Safe, predictable and capable is the simple way to describe the X2's driving experience. Any hint of sportiness the looks provide is quickly banished when you put your foot down. The engine does enough to not feel asthmatic, but there's nothing exhilarating about pinning the throttle.
Things improve marginally in corners, with an eager turn in and lack of body roll making B-road blasts in the X2 pretty satisfying but not particularly fun. There's no feedback through the steering wheel and the car remains stable through rough and off-camber corners, making the whole experience quite numb.
However, ignore any claims of hot hatch ability and the X2 makes more sense. The ride is superb, absorbing bumps and settling quickly even when our smooth Spanish test route started to crumble and remind us of home.
How does it look?
The first thing that strikes you is just how small it is. In pictures, it looks like a compact SUV, but in the metal the X2 looks more like a large hatchback. It's handsome too, particularly from the front, wearing the new upside-down kidney grille design and chunky bumpers well. The rear is a bit more of a struggle, but a particularly nice touch is the C-pillar-mounted BMW logo, which looks a bit awkward in photos but is actually a well-judged nod to models gone by - to our eyes, at least.
What's it like inside?
Don't let the surprisingly diminutive silhouette fool you, though - the X2 is decently spacious inside. For front passengers, you could be forgiven for thinking you're in a mid-sized SUV, while rear passengers get decent legroom and only a small compromise on head space thanks to that slightly sloping coupe-esque roofline.
We tested a high-spec M Sport model with optional full leather upholstery, and it was typically BMW - high quality and well put together. As rivals move away from dashboards full of buttons, the X2 is refreshingly slow to follow, but while this is a boon for usability, it does already feel rather dated inside.
What's the spec like?
As is often the case at premium manufacturer launches, we didn't get the chance to poke around an entry-level model. However, standard equipment appears pretty generous, with some basic safety assistance systems, smart 17-inch alloy wheels and BMW ConnectedDrive, which includes satnav, real-time traffic updates, a 'concierge' and various other services. For this, prices start at £33,980.
Our M Sport model was happily well-equipped, representing a £3,550 premium over the standard model. For the money, you get 19-inch alloy wheels, leather and Alcantara upholstery, LED lights all around and a sportier body kit. There's also a great range of colours, with the bright Misano Blue and Galvanic Gold really suiting the car's handsome looks.
The BMW X2 is, in so many ways, an utterly predictable car. Despite being a totally new model, it carries all of the characteristics we've come to know and appreciate from modern BMWs - an unflustered ride and safe if uninspiring handling. It's easy to become jaded by the constant influx of crossovers and newly created niche markets, but the X2 stands out for being genuinely worthy of attention. It looks good, has a Tardis-like cabin, and is decent to drive whether pootling around town or cruising on the motorway. The Jaguar E-Pace should be very concerned.
Facts at a glance:
Model: BMW X2 xDrive20d
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Max speed: 137mph
0-60mph: 7.5 seconds