X2 marks the spot, but has it struck gold? We evaluate the xDrive20d derivative...
In the natural kingdom, establishing a niche in your habitat is often a great strategy that can literally keep the wolves from the door, or your food source untouched by pickier competitors. It’s much the same in the automotive realm, where survival is also a case of occupying every niche conceivable in order to keep your rivals at bay.
But the niche into which this latest addition to BMW’s X family will bed down is already a crowded one, with the likes of Audi’s Q2, the striking Jaguar E-Pace, Mercedes-Benz’s GLA and Volvo’s impressive XC40 all vying for a place in the hearts of those in the market for a boutique midsize SUV/crossover.
When the X2 concept broke cover at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, we were both duly impressed with its sharp, futuristic styling, and somewhat sceptical regarding just how much of its design would survive homologation. Thankfully, many of the features that made the concept so appealing have managed to find their way onto the production X2. The result is a particularly handsome car, rendered especially eye-catching in our test unit’s metallic-orange hue, contrasted with the M Sport X package’s gunmetal lower-body trim.
Up front, the signature kidney grille has been flipped on its head and now tapers upwards. Allied with deep, sculpted bumpers and headlamps that – owing to their rising apexes – contrast with the grille, the X2’s aesthetic treatment is distinct from that of its peers. While it is undoubtedly stylish and touches such as the C-pillar-mounted roundels are neat, the car’s overall silhouette is more hatchback-restrained than SUV-chunky; something that may sit at odds with the lifestyle-reflecting image its potential buyers are after.
Compared with the bold exterior, the cabin is more reserved, but it is solidly constructed and the calibre of trim and soft-touch materials is of an expectedly high standard. The instrumentation layout is typically BMW-logical but things go somewhat awry in the X2’s packaging. Although the front of the cabin is spacious and the boot capacity is par for the segment’s course, the rear quarters are cramped, with meagre kneeroom and pinched access that makes the fitment of a child seat a proper squeeze. What’s more, the front seats are overly firm and narrow, leading a number of testers to complain of discomfort following a drive.
However, while the X2 may not be the last word in family practicality – and it arguably doesn’t need to be – it does stick to the BMW ethos of being involving to drive. There’s plenty of weight to the steering – some were taken aback by the effort this electrically assisted setup asked of them – but it is responsive to inputs and organic in its feel. Body control is similarly taut and conspires with the steering and the plentiful grip served up by the torque-apportioning AWD system to make the X2 a fun car to hustle.
The four-cylinder turbodiesel also fits neatly into the overall driving package; its 140 kW power output sits comfortably north of that of most rivals,
while the often-lauded eight-speed ZF transmission continues to impress in this application, swapping cogs in a smooth, measured fashion and making the most of the 400 N.m that chimes in at a low 1 750 r/min.
Our performance testing saw the car breach the 100 km/h mark from standstill in 8,36 seconds, while a frugal 6,1 L/100 km was attained on our 100 km fuel route. The only criticism that could be levelled at this powerplant is its clattery soundtrack at low speeds but it smoothens out once the pace picks up.
Even when suspended on M Sport springs and shod with big rims and low-profile rubber, most modern BMWs ride with a degree of pliancy. The X2, however, is decidedly crashy, with even modest road imperfections eliciting an awkward thud and shudder through the cabin. We’re not sure if the standard 19-inch alloys are more sympathetically shod, and therefore more forgiving, but the optional 20-inch items wrapped in 40-profile Pirellis do the X2’s ride no favours.
Perhaps more jarring is the R700 000-plus sticker price that this model wears, making it comfortably more expensive than the likes of the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. Standard specification is modest but BMW has thankfully put together a choice of four option packages with reduced prices for each feature. The R30 000 Convenience Package, featuring climate control, rear-view camera with PDC, power tailgate and extended exterior mirror and ambient light pack could be supplemented with the separate option of electrically adjustable seats to form a sweet spot that balances a bit of luxury with practicality.
While it is handsome, engaging to drive and feels tremendously well built, the X2's harsh ride and cramped innards detract from its appeal. The biggest criticism, however, centres on its pricing, which sees it occupying a no man's land between more competitively priced peers and such larger, more practical and similarly luxurious examples as Land Rover's Discovery Sport and Jaguar's E-Pace. It doesn't help the X2's cause that you can have a base X3 xDrive20d for less money, and that's a superior vehicle in nearly all respects...
*From the June 2018 issue of CAR magazine
See Full BMW X2 price and specs here