Fun, yet practical, the BMW X2 remains a good all-rounder wrapped in appealing bodywork
What we liked:
• Refined performance
• Cornering composure
• Excellent front seats
Not so much:
• Ride comfort is lacking
• Road noise
• No spare wheel
Two times you
The evolution of the SUV continues apace, with small, sporty SUVs now offering buyers… hang on – haven’t we been here before? It’s groundhog day, again. Doesn’t seem that long since it last came around.
I’m back in a BMW X2, the car I reviewed for its local launch less than a month earlier, which might explain why some of the text in this review looks vaguely familiar.
I believe it’s road test editor Matt Brogan’s nefarious plan to punish some of his recalcitrant reviewers by subjecting them to the same vehicles over and over until they get it right.
But in the immortal words of Bill Cosby: “Why me?! I’ve been good…”
Actually, as it turns out, it appears Bill may not have been telling the full truth.
In the spirit of self-criticism tacitly foisted upon me, I pondered whether I had previously been hard on BMW’s stylish X2. I had driven it around Canberra for the local launch, reporting at the time that it was hard-riding and the road noise was excessive.
Perhaps on roads known to me I could work out whether I had got it wrong; perhaps the X2 would fare better on Melbourne’s well sealed inner-suburban roads.
Unfortunately, my hopes looked forlorn.
On Mont Albert Road, that carefully manicured conduit through the leafiest of Melbourne’s leafy green eastern suburbs, our sDrive20i M Sport X’s tyres droned and moaned at speeds of 60km/h or less. You can picture it now: the trophy wives of Kew and Camberwell being told by their feng shui expert in a hands-free tete-a-tete that their car’s ‘qi’ is all out of whack (That a self-description Ken? Ed).
Was I still being too hard, I reconsidered? Perhaps I’m just acutely sensitive to the wailing and moaning of the original-equipment Pirellis?
Or, just as likely, the BMW X2 is actually a very quiet car overall, in counterpoint to the relatively noisy tyres.
Time for a quick run up the country to put my theory to the test.
Sure enough, the tyre noise, on roads I know quite well, was no worse than many other cars around the same price point tested in the past.
Cars we once built in Australia tend to be much better at suppressing road noise than many imports from Europe and Asia. That’s by the by, of course, since this country no longer builds cars to suit local roads. We no longer build cars at all, in fact.
So maybe it’s appropriate to temper my previous comments about the BMW X2’s road noise, while also making the observation that occasional noise from the suspension – over bumps – and rattles and squeaks within the cabin still hold true.
Dynamically adept, but uncompliant
What else did I learn from seven days with the BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X – things that weren’t obvious at the launch?
Well, there was the car’s cornering ability. I actually pitched the front-wheel driver into a few bends at speed to learn something about its dynamics – and on that front the X2 is a pretty effective device.
In Sport mode the car provides better steering feedback than many rivals also equipped with electric power steering. It turns in promptly and precisely, even when the power is applied heavily. There’s little in the way of lift-off oversteer – which the stability control system will iron out anyway.
On the subject of the BMW X2’s stability control, it works hard holding things together without being too pro-active. If you tramp the accelerator mid-corner, the stability control – which is dealing with excessive front wheel drive torque – will keep the X2 tracking in the right direction, but with enough retardation to avoid wheel spin, axle tramp and power-induced understeer. On balance, and given the inherent weakness of front-wheel drives in this sort of scenario, the stability control is fine.
Steering is very light in Eco-Pro and Comfort modes, with the latter slightly more tactile and probably the sweet spot for most owners. Handling is consistent, safe and reasonably involving – and the road-holding is certainly beyond significant reproach. The X2 is – not surprisingly – as close as you’ll get to a MINI in the BMW range. Although the underpinnings are tuned differently, it’s built on the same platform after all.
You can roll onto the brake pedal for very progressive stopping. The system felt dependable and capable, on one occasion pulling up the X2 swiftly from 60km/h as a rabbit ran across the road from the right.
One might ask why brake for a rabbit? There are plenty of points to be scored by not doing so. But there are many other fast-moving furry animals that tend to gather by the side of that particular test road, and most are much larger and heavier than a rabbit – and equally as stupid. Braking for any sudden flash of fur is therefore a good habit to nurture.
Ride comfort remains a sticking point for the BME X2. It doesn’t really matter which of the three driving modes you select, there’s always some initial harshness over bumps and potholes. Eco-Pro and Comfort modes are nevertheless distinctly better than Sport mode.
The run-flat Pirellis are likely the problem here. On uneven country roads where trucks have punished the underlying road bed, Sport mode does provide the BMW X2 with a strong level of control and dynamic ability, but it does tend to follow the contours and ridges of the road.
Powertrain performance is a plus
From a personal point of view, I feel the X2’s engine is the highlight of the car. It’s quick and velvety smooth, with a subtle rasp from the exhaust, although not as explicitly sporty as a MINI engine. There’s torque available in more or less equal measure right across the rev range, the engine will hold speed on steep hills without kicking down more than one gear and there’s little in the way of obvious turbo lag. Over the course of a week the X2 consumed fuel at the rate of 9.2L/100km, helped by a mix of Eco-Pro mode and the idle-stop system which restarts the engine immediately and smoothly.
The dual-clutch transmission is a great partner for the engine. Unlike some transmissions that are reluctant to hand you a lower gear if the engine looks likely to rev close to the red line, the BMW X2’s box was properly subservient to the driver. It’s also smooth, responsive and competent, whether operated manually – with shift paddles – or left in auto mode.
For packaging and value, the launch review covers most aspects, but as a final note, the X2’s standard LED headlights are excellent. They’re bright and adaptive – with intelligent high-beam assist that is generally right on the money when it comes to dipping for oncoming cars. Even on low beam, the headlights dispelled the shadows a long way ahead.
Despite any misgivings about ride comfort and road noise, the X2 is large enough for a small family, most will find it attractive looking and it certainly drives well. It won’t necessarily sell in huge numbers, but within a niche sector of the market it should be – as I noted previously – a nice little earner for BMW.
2018 BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X pricing and specifications:
Price: $66,860 (as tested, plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Fuel: 6.0L/100km (ADR Combined)
Safety Rating: Five-star (Euro NCAP, based on X1)