BMW’s X2 brings proper driving fun to the small crossover segment, at long last
It’s only the end of Q1 2018 and I’m already sick of crossovers, just like the rest of the CarBuyer team.“I’ve been sick of crossovers, since much earlier. Probably ever since I gained higher reasoning faculties,” claims managing editor Ju-Len.
“I’ve been sick of crossovers since I was born!” says staff writer Jon Lim.
So since 2015 at least, we’ve been sick of small sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
It’s not that there are so darn many of them, but that they all drive exactly the same way: They thump and lump across bad tarmac, they’re hard to see out of because of thick pillars and tiny windows.
So when BMW announced the X2 last year, I was about excited as Garfield on valium. It’s also BMW that kicked off the whole ‘SUV-that’s-also-a-coupe’ thing with the X6 in 2008, adding the smaller X4 in 2014.
While the even-numbered-X cars have gotten better to drive over the years, let’s not kid anybody: They’re obviously not better for a eager pilot than a 4 Series or 6 Series.
We didn’t expect the X2 to buck this driving trend, and it doesn’t: It’s not better to drive than a 2 Series coupe.
But it is, in its own unique way, very entertaining to drive – and that already sets it apart from the vast majority of crossovers.
The X2 is closely related to the X1, both are the smallest cars of their respective lineups, both utilise the BMW Group’s UKL platform.
They also have the same engine choice rollout: The sDrive20i model at launch, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and near identical specs, and a 1.5-litre X2 sDrive18i model will arrive in the near future.
In our review, we said that the X1 does “a pretty good impression of a hot hatch”. In the X2’s case, it basically is a hot hatch in coupe-crossover clothing.
The X2 feels as if it’s born to go around corners, it lunges towards apexes like a hyperactive puppy: Not exactly the most accurate or mature, but there’s no doubting its spirit or enthusiasm.
Despite the huge 19-inch rollers, there’s still a good amount of steering feel, and just like a hot hatch, it’s vastly entertaining to tackle the same set of bends just to see how much speed you can carry though (a lot) before things start to go off.
Even when you do start over-driving, the X2 manages to elicit smiles, squealing with confidence on the way in, then mashing the throttle makes for torque steer tug on the way out.
It’s also fun to lean on the gas and eke out near-200hp from the gutsy 2.0-litre turbocharged engine – unlike the X1 at debut, there’s a seven-speed dual-clutch box, which adds a bit more performance sparkle to the drivetrain.
It’s all very Mini-like, actually, and we’d be surprised if the car’s setup isn’t similar to a Mini’s – like a Cooper, the X2 needs ‘minding’ in a straight line or it’ll wander.
If all crossovers drove like this, instead of droning, crashing and being remote, we’d be much more enthusiastic about them.
Which isn’t to say the X2 is faultless either – there’ still the ‘crossover crash’ and busy ride, the windows are small, the A-pillars thick, and it’s not particularly quiet nor refined – but at least a driver clearly knows the positives he or she receives as a trade-off.
Note that this model, the sDrive20i, is currently only available in M Sport X trim – that accounts for the ‘Frozen Grey’ contrast bodywork, large wheels and M-themed bits. The future sDrive18i variants with possible Basic and M Sport trims will cost quite a bit less, a be more comfortable too.
In this trim anyway, the X2 looks very on-point and in-fashion, perhaps even more so than its larger siblings with less of the fastback-slope of the roof.
BMW’s also done other things to up the coupe-coefficient: The kidney grilles are a novel inverted design, and the X2 is the first BMW to receive them.
BMW fans will also enjoy two nods to famous coupe history:
The first is the yellow paintwork, and while it’s not quite green-yellow seen on famous cars like the 2002 Coupe, 3.0 CSL and E46 M3, it’s still very eye-catching. This one’s called ‘Galvanic Gold’, it looks dull in the shade, but in full sunlight it’s quite lovely, and brings the car’s contours to life.
Second is the c-pillar mounted BMW badge, again another nod to the 3.0 CSL and, in a more oblique way, the BMW M1.
What’s just as enticing is that the eye-candy has been achieved without impinging too much on practicality. Rear seat passengers still have a good amount of room, while heads don’t scrape the ceiling despite the car being approximately 70mm lower than the X1.
The seats don’t adjust fore and aft, and there is no remote seatback release, but the boot space is almost the same (470-litres versus the X1’s 505-litres) and the automatic tailgate with kick-to-open function is present.
The X2’s interior also feels more posh than the X1’s: Satin chrome, adjustable mood lighting, contrast stitching, hexagon-themed interior bits (trim panels, upholstery and half-alcantara sport seats), new ‘Black Panel’ instruments look far more classy than the dark plastic of before.
If the cost of cars here didn’t clue you into it, then coupe-crossovers will have: Car buying can be a very emotional process, and everyone gets misty eyed about different things.
But here at least is a small crossover that can also offer delight from behind the wheel and if it’s managed to tickle us the cross-over-crossover crowd, then we can only imagine how it’ll be received by the crossover crazy.
|Engine||1,998cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||192bhp at 5000-6000rpm|
|Torque||280Nm at 1250-4600rpm|
|Price||$193,888 with COE|
|Availability||March 23 2018|