It’s quite possibly everything you want in a modern day BMW. That’s just one reason we’re betting on the X2 to be a winner in Singapore.
Pictures Fabian Kirchbauer and Tom Kirkpatrick
LISBON, PORTUGAL — Every once in a while, a car comes along that you can comfortably predict will be a big hit. I’ve named my share of duds, but I’d put good money down on a bet that the BMW X2 will be a monster seller in Singapore in 2018.
For one thing it’s a crossover (currently the market’s hottest segment), and for another, it’s got a BMW badge — in fact it has four (eight if you count the wheels). Need more? Read on…
What’s an X2, anyway?
In the context of BMW it’s the second-last member of the brand’s “X” family, a range of not-quite-sport-utility-vehicles that will be complete later this year when a massive, and massively expensive X7 joins the lineup.
These cars are already important for BMW, accounting for 34 percent of global sales last year, but their importance is growing. Their numbers were up 9.7 percent in 2017.
The odd numbers (X1, X3, X5) are more practical, and the even numbered-models are meant to be a bit more playful, so think of the X2 as a sexier, funner version of the X1, but still with five doors and five seats.
So it’s an X1 underneath?
Mechanically, sort of. There’s a bit of nuance to consider, but yes, like the X1, the X2 is built on BMW’s UKL platform, which underpins other models such as the 2 Series Active and Gran Tourer. Basically, it’s a member of the brand’s front wheel-drive vehicle family.
Er, but none of those BMWs are particularly good to drive.
Ah, but UKL also underpins the Mini range, and many of those are a blast. Besides, you can talk platforms all day, or you can jump in and drive, which is what we did. And what do you know, the X2 is, in a word, superlative.
BMW set us up with a turbodiesel version with all wheel-drive, the X2 xDrive20d, and pointed us in the direction of some roads more convoluted than the plot of a Scandinavian detective novel.
Corners — and good times — ahead
In that sort of setting, the X2’s handling is as engaging as your favourite hot hatch’s. It zips around corners with enthusiasm that borders on the breathtaking, and after a while you find yourself pushing harder and harder, as its zeal for a bit of hard charging starts to infect you.
The steering’s quick and meaty (in fact in Sport mode it’s downright heavy), and it’s accurate enough to make the X2 feel like a precision tool to carve bends with.
Grip levels are high, too, though not insanely so. Bound into a corner slightly too hot, and the worst you’ll get is a bit of mild understeer, from which you’ll recover in no time, ready to go after the next bend the way a cheerful pup goes for a ball.
Sounds good, but surely there are sins?
Of course, but not many. The way the car’s windscreen is raked, the A-pillar sometimes got in the way, obliging us to tiptoe a bit around left-hand turns sometimes for lack of visibility. Naturally you’ll have this problem on the opposite side.
And the ride is firm enough to be considered busy, but then again it’s by no means uncomfortable. Our test car rode on firmer M Sport suspension with lowered (by 10mm) springs, which is the spec that Singapore cars will be getting initially.
Surely M Sport suspension isn’t all it takes to turn an X1 into a fun car?
Of course not, but the X2 has a couple of other things going for it. It has a bit less height (the X1 is 9mm taller, or 19mm if you take the lowered suspension into account) so the centre of gravity is lower, which keeps body roll in check.
There are also stiffer anti-roll bar bushings, which apparently takes a bit of slack out of the steering response, even though the anti-roll bars themselves are a little less stiff, so as not to kill the ride quality over uneven tarmac.
Bumpy road? You won’t mind, really.
The steering rack is slightly quicker too, with a 16:1 ratio instead of the X1’s 15:1, which adds agility.
And there front wheels have a bit of negative camber, in order to smear a bit more rubber onto the road when you turn in, improving the front end’s bite at the expense of some longevity.
So yes, it’s based on X1 running gear but the setup differences make a world of difference.
Who would have thought? Does it have the X1’s practicality, then?
Well, some. Naturally, the boot is smaller, but it isn’t small — there’s 470 litres to start with, and you can of course fold them if you’re friends with a mountain bike or some other lifestyle accompaniment. There’s a useful compartment under the floor, too.
Surprisingly, the rear seating isn’t claustrophobic the way it is in, say, a Range Rover Evoque, even though the windows look slim. You don’t feel shut in back there, and there’s still a decent amount of light pouring into the cabin.
Unlike in the X1 (or the Mini Countryman) the rear seats don’t slide fore-and-aft to let you play with legroom and boot space, though you can make them a bit more upright; the car’s project leader Julius Schulppkotten told us it just wasn’t a priority with the X2’s target buyer. Fair enough. In their fixed positions, the rear seats offer lots of legroom anyway.
Does it look nicer inside than an X1?
There are three trim levels for the X2, and the one you see here is the snazzy M Sport X version. The “X” adds exterior bits (more on which later) but the M Sport cars will come with a cloth upholstery in Anthracite with a hexagonal pattern, alongside Alcantara, with the whole lot held together by contrast stitching.
Contrast stitching for the dashboard and centre console add a nice flourish, too, and the hexagonal pattern continues on the interior trim, so it all looks very sporty and fetching in a modern sort of way.
It’s actually hard to tell, but the dashboard is the same as the X1’s. The ambience is somehow altogether different in the X2.
And the bodywork?
Well, on the exterior, the X2 shares a grand total of two parts with the X1: the fin antenna and the door handles. Every other body panel is different, and that’s to the X2’s benefit, really.
The front end has a low-slung and wide aspect to it, and the car it belongs to ought to be instantly recognisable, if not for the slick silhouette, then for the front grille that’s wider at the bottom than at the top, a first for BMW.
The press material makes a big deal out of the fact that the twin tailpipes are the same diameter as those of an X6 M (at 90mm), because it’s just that important to have to big tailpipes in this segment, presumably.
But it’s the side of the car that is the most interesting, with a coupe-like profile for the roofline, and an interesting bit of visual elongation courtesy of the rear roof spoiler. If you’re wondering about the BMW badge on the C-pillar, that’s there to pay homage to some of the brand’s classic coupes (think 3.0 CSL, if you’re old enough), but Schulppkotten insists that the car would also look radically different without it.
The X2’s wheelarches are also distinctively squared-off in places, and if you’re wondering about the bits of trim in Frozen Grey, they’re a part of the M Sport X line. Pretty natty, but we’ve seen the car without them and it doesn’t lose all that much visual punch.
When can I see for myself?
If all goes to plan, the X2 will be here by April, and we hear tell that it might sneak under the S$200,000 mark for an X2 sDrive20i model. If that’s too rich for your blood, it’ll be joined later in the year by a cheaper, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder sDrive18i.
That brings us to an important caveat…
Which is that we only drove the diesel, while you’ll be getting a petrol. No matter, if you ask us; the xDrive20d felt like it could use a better engine, since we found the diesel’s clatter and narrow powerband fairly off-putting at the car’s launch. That better engine is the 2.0-litre petrol turbo you’ll be getting.
The petrol engine will be paired with a new seven-speed, twin clutch auto as well, which we’ve never tried, so that’s another unknown. From our impressions with the xDrive20d, however, we reckon the X2 is actually the best X car to drive of them all.
Ok, but what about its rivals?
The official BMW line is that it has none, but we’re not copping out: this will join the shopping list of anyone in the market for aVolvo XC40, a Lexus NX 200t, maybe a Mercedes GLA or even a Toyota Harrier. It’ll certainly save you money over an Evoque.
But heck, it’s easy to see someone trading in a 3 Series for one of these, simply because it’s novel and new, and because crossovers are hot. And this one’s hotter than most. It’s a car we wouldn’t bet against, but for BMW itself, the X2 doesn’t look like a gamble at all.
NEED TO KNOW BMW X2 xDrive20d (as tested)
Engine 1,995cc, 16V, turbodiesel in-line four
Power 190hp at 4,000rpm
Torque 400Nm at 1,750 to 2,500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 221km/h
0-100km/h 7.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 4.8 to 4.6L/100km
CO2 126 to 121g/km
NEED TO KNOW BMW X2 sDrive20i (coming to Singapore)
Engine 1,998cc, 16V, turbo in-line four
Power 192hp at 5,000 to 6,000rpm
Torque 280Nm at 1,350 to 4,600rpm
Gearbox 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
Top Speed 227km/h
0-100km/h 7.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.9 to 5.5L/100km
CO2 134 to 126g/km
Price $200,000 with Certificate Of Entitlement (estimated)
Agent Performance Motors Limited
Available April 2018 (estimated)