New BMW X2 & Jaguar E-Pace vs Volvo XC40 Comparison

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The BMW X2 and Jaguar E-Pace both look great and promise a sporty drive. But can they topple our reigning Family SUV of the Year, the Volvo XC40?

The contenders

*** Note : £1 = $1.36 (correct at time of post)
BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport
  • List price £37,530
  • Target Price £37,530

Based on the four-star X1 but swaps some practicality for a larger dose of style.

Jaguar E-Pace D180 AWD SE auto
  • List price £39,400
  • Target Price £39,014

This is Jaguar’s second stab at an SUV and is smaller than the first. Will this cub be victorious?

Volvo XC40 D4 R-Design Pro
  • List price £36,870
  • Target Price £35,036

Our 2018 Car of the Year is practical, plush, comfortable and good to drive.

New BMW X2 and Jaguar E-Pace with Volvo XC40

Style is a funny old thing. Fashions that just a few months ago would have seemed years out of date can suddenly become all the rage again. You might have thought pastels were put out to pasture in the late 1980s and sequins a decade earlier, but you’ll find both on the catwalks of London, Milan and Paris in 2018.

Naturally, today’s designers haven’t just been to their local charity shop; they’ve given their work a modern twist to make it feel fresh and new. That brings us on to the BMW X2, a car that takes the traditional coupé formula and shakes it to its very core.

The need for only two doors goes out of the window, and so does a ground-hugging stance. Yes, there’s still a swooping roofline that’ll make you stand out in a car park, but here it’s attached to a (fairly) high-rise family SUV.

But the X2 isn’t the only new motor that splices SUV and coupé DNA; there’s also the Jaguar E-Pace. It promises plenty of practicality with a healthy helping of F-Type funk. That means an upswept windowline, aggressive front-end styling and powerful haunches, just like its sports car stablemate.

However, our reigning Car of the Year proves that it’s cool to be square. The Volvo XC40 may not have a swooping roofline or look particularly sporty, but it still manages to be eye-catching.

So, which of these contenders best mixes style with substance?

Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement

At first glance, you’d think there would be very little to separate our three protagonists for performance. After all, they all have 2.0-litre diesel engines with similar muscle, they all send drive to all four wheels via an automatic gearbox and they’re all about the same size.

However, there is, in fact, a gaping chasm between the fastest and slowest of our trio. At the pointy end of things is the X2, a car that can sprint from 0-60mph in a hot hatch-rivalling 7.6sec. Next fastest is the XC40, which manages the dash in a very respectable 8.4sec, while the E-Pace takes a rather tardy 9.2sec. That same order is repeated in rolling acceleration tests (30-70mph), with the XC40 being not too far behind the X2 and the E-Pace bringing up the rear.

So, why is this leaping cat more like a snoozing moggy? A look at the weight of the three cars tells you all you need to know: the E-Pace is over 200kg heavier than the relatively lightweight X2, with the XC40 splitting the difference.

Not helping matters is the E-Pace’s nine-speed automatic gearbox. All those cogs should theoretically mean the engine is always spinning away in its sweet spot, but the ’box is very dim-witted when you need to pull away in a hurry. The XC40 can also be a bit dithery when you initially push the accelerator pedal, while the X2 responds much more quickly and really thumps up through the gears in Sport mode. The X2’s gearbox is the smoothest in more relaxed driving, too, even though the XC40 and E-Pace also slur pleasingly between ratios.

It isn’t just straight-line performance that’s affected by obesity; it also has an affect on how a car corners. Again, the X2 is head, shoulders and a good bit of torso above its rivals. Its steering weights up nicely at all speeds, so it’s easy to place the car’s nose precisely. Pitch it into a corner with gusto and there’s a small amount of body roll before it settles and sails around with ease.

Indeed, the way the X2’s front end hangs onto your line through corners genuinely puts a smile on your face; it’s more akin to a sporty hatchback than a family SUV. That said, it is a good few inches lower than the other two SUVs in this test, giving it a big advantage.

You might expect the XC40 to handle a twisting stretch of road more adroitly than the portlier E-Pace, but actually it doesn’t. Even on the less grippy all-season tyres (a no-cost option) fitted to our car, the E-Pace is more enjoyable to hustle along than the XC40 and rolls a bit less.

The E-Pace also has pleasantly meaty steering that makes it easy to guide along a winding road. As for the XC40, it’s very grippy but isn’t much fun to drive briskly, due in part to its light steering, which gives the least sense of connection to the front wheels. Still, it’s safe and secure, with no nasty vices.

There’s a high price to pay for the E-Pace’s handling prowess, though: ride quality. Making such a tall, heavy car go around corners with conviction either takes some devilishly clever (read expensive) suspension or really stiff springs. Jaguar has gone for the latter.

Drive along what appears to be a smooth section of road and you’re jiggled around in your seat. Throw in a few undulations and your head is tossed from side to side, while potholes generate a thump. Put simply, along any road that isn’t perfectly smooth, the E-Pace is really quite annoying.

Not that the X2 is any better. Even with its optional (£150) switchable dampers set to their most comfortable setting, it crashes over imperfections on urban roads. At least things improve at higher speeds; although the ride remains firm, you’re not thrown around as much as you are in the E-Pace.

As for the XC40, it’s the most comfortable car in the family SUV class, smothering potholes well in town and staying composed on the motorway – a remarkable achievement, given that it comes on big 20in wheels as standard.

The penalty for those big rims is a fair bit of road noise at 70mph, although the XC40 is the quietest of our trio at 30mph. The E-Pace is slightly quieter than the XC40 overall at 70mph, even if it generates more engine and wind noise. The X2 is the noisiest at all speeds, with constant tyre roar over all road surfaces.

As for braking performance, the E-Pace takes the longest to stop, probably not helped by those all-season tyres, while the X2 pulls up in the shortest distance.

BMW X2 dashboard

Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality

Remember that we mentioned the X2 feels more like a sporty hatchback than a proper SUV? Well, that’s how it feels from behind the wheel, too. Yes, it has a slightly raised ride height and the option of jacking the seat right up, but the only people you tower over are those driving sports cars.

The XC40 and E-Pace are somewhat different; both have their seats mounted much farther from the ground beneath loftier rooflines, giving you a towering view of the road. Okay, you won’t be fooled into thinking you’re in a Range Rover, but you at least feel like you’re driving a proper SUV.

It isn’t just the X2’s low stance that leaves a black mark against it; its sloping roof, chunky rear pillars and tiny rear screen make reversing tricky, too, even with standard rear parking sensors. A rear-view camera is optional, but you can’t get a 360deg camera, whereas you’ll find one on the E-Pace and XC40’s options lists.

The XC40 scores for having much bigger windows and slimmer rear pillars, but again it has only rear sensors as standard. That leaves the E-Pace on top for visibility, thanks to its standard rear sensors and rear-view camera.

When night falls, you’ll be pleased to find that all three cars have powerful LED headlights as standard. Our only complaint is that the E-Pace’s automatic main beams are sometimes too keen to engage, giving oncoming drivers a blast of high-intensity light.

In theory, getting comfortable should be easiest in the E-Pace. SE-spec cars get 14-way electric front seats with memory as standard – especially useful if you share a car with someone much taller or shorter than yourself.

The low-slung X2 does without the electric seat and lumbar adjustment of the others, but most of our testers were still able to find a reasonably comfortable driving position. That said, our shortest testers found the adjustable under-thigh support didn’t go in far enough, leaving the seat base digging into the backs of their knees. There are no such issues in the XC40; its electric seat doesn’t have quite as many adjustments as the E-Pace’s, but it’s even comfier.

Although the X2 clearly isn’t perfect, you won’t hear us grumbling about how its interior looks and feels. It’s clearly based on the X1’s – no bad thing – but BMW has introduced some even more expensive-looking trims, a gear selector that looks like it’s from the 5 Series and contrasting stitching on the dashboard. There are also plenty of soft-touch plastics and some seriously high-quality switches and stalks. However, it’s disappointing that the X2 is the only car that doesn’t have leather seats as standard.

As good as the X2 is, the XC40 runs it exceedingly close. Although there are a few more hard plastics inside and some of the switches aren’t quite as precise, we’re splitting hairs – and many will prefer the XC40’s more minimalist interior design.

In comparison, the E-Pace’s interior feels like it came out of a Kinder Surprise. Initial impressions are favourable, thanks to leather seats, metal-effect trims and digital displays in the heating controls, but closer inspection reveals a surprising number of hard plastics, cheap-feeling switches on the seats and steering wheel and play in the gear selector. In short, it feels like the cheapest of our contenders.

Infotainment systems

BMW X2

As standard, you get a 6.5in screen that’s controlled by a rotary dial. This makes it easy to select what you want, even on a bumpy road. Although the screen is a little small, the menus are easy to fathom and you get 12 months’ worth of online services bundled in. We’d recommend upgrading to the 8.8in system pictured, because it’s easier to read and has better sat-nav. The only disappointment is that you’ll have to pay a fee for Apple CarPlay every three years.

Jaguar E-Pace

There’s no need to upgrade here; all E-Paces get a 10.0in touchscreen loaded with most of the features you’d want. It’s not the most responsive and some icons are small, but the menus aren’t too hard to work out. You can’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although Jaguar has its own app for phone connectivity. Digital TV is an option, as is a function called Dual View that divides the screen in half to let the passenger and driver see different things.

Volvo XC40

The XC40 does things differently, with its touchscreen in portrait orientation. Some of its menus are bemusing at first, but at least the icons are a decent size. We don’t like the fact that there are no physical controls for the climate control, though. Instead, you have to go into the touchscreen or use the (effective) voice control to change temperature or fiddle with the heated seats. Smartphone connectivity costs extra but does at least add an extra USB port up front.

BMW X2 rear seats

Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

We doubt anyone will have any issues with the space in the front of any of these cars. All are within a couple of centimetres of each other for shoulder room, no one is likely to find their head brushing the ceiling and the front seats slide back a long way to accommodate longer legs. Although the XC40 has the least front head room by some margin, this is largely down to the presence of the optional panoramic sunroof.

Those in the rear will notice more of a difference. The X2’s roofline makes it the worst for rear head room, and rear leg room isn’t wonderful, either. There’s no more space for knees in the back of the E-Pace, although head room is better. So that leaves the XC40; it’s the best for head and leg room and has the widest rear seat area.

The X2 has the least storage for your odds and ends. There are a couple of cupholders in front of the gear selector, plus a tiny shelf. Look under the central armrest and you’ll find a shelf for your phone, while underneath that is another cubby with a USB port.

The XC40 is better. It has much bigger door pockets up front and there’s more space for oddments around the gear selector. Between the front seats is a bigger cubby that even has a removable bin with a spring-loaded lid. The rear door pockets are less impressive, but there are trays between the outer rear seats and the doors.

But it’s the E-Pace that comes out on top, thanks to the largest cubby beneath the front armrest, big cupholders, a handy shelf in front of the gear selector and decent door pockets front and rear.

The X2’s boot may look relatively small, but it has a huge underfloor storage area that can (just) swallow a couple of carry-on suitcases. The downside is that there’s a sizeable lip to contend with at its entrance, and there are no buttons or levers to fold the rear seats from the boot.

The E-Pace has the smallest boot. Although its load lip is low, it has much less underfloor storage, so it can accommodate the fewest suitcases. The load area is at least fairly square, with lashing points, a net and an elasticated strap.

Even with a spare wheel fitted, the XC40’s boot can accommodate seven cases with ease. It also has storage cubbies to stop your stuff from rolling around, plus the option of a pop-up divider to hang shopping bags from. Factor in a low load lip and it’s easily the best boot here, even if Volvo is alone in charging for a powered tailgate.

BMW X2

Including underfloor storage, the X2’s boot is deceptively big; it can take seven carry-on suitcases. Plus, it has a netted area and tie-downs to hold items in place.

  • Boot 470-1355 litres
  • Suitcases 7
Jaguar E-Pace

E-Pace can hold the fewest cases, but it does have four hefty lashing points, a netted area and an elasticated strap. Underfloor storage is limited, though.

  • Boot 577-1234 litres
  • Suitcases 6
Volvo XC40

The XC40’s boot is well thought out, with recessed areas to hold small items and an elasticated strap. Optional Convenience Pack is worth it for power-folding seats.

  • Boot 460-1336 litres
  • Suitcases 7

BMW X2 side

Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

Less than £3000 separates the list prices of these three SUVs, with the XC40 the cheapest and the E-Pace the priciest. The E-Pace comes loaded to the ceiling with equipment, while the XC40 also gets plenty of toys, leaving the X2 looking pretty stingily equipped.

The X2 is likely to cost you the least to fuel (followed closely by the XC40), but it’ll still be the priciest to run for a private buyer by a country mile. Hefty insurance and servicing costs don’t help, but it’s the depreciation that takes the biggest toll. The XC40 works out more than £4600 cheaper to run over three years, and is more than £800 cheaper than the E-Pace.

If you’re buying on PCP finance, the XC40 again works out the cheapest, with the X2 costing £13 more and the E-Pace £60 per month.

Things are very different for company car drivers. Although the E-Pace will keep fleet managers happy with the cheapest monthly leasing rate (the others are about £50 more), choosing the relatively low CO2-emitting X2 will mean sacrificing the least of your salary in benefit-in-kind tax. The XC40 isn’t much more expensive, but running the E-Pace as a company car will cost a 40% taxpayer nearly £2500 more over three years.

All three cars get automatic emergency braking as standard, with the XC40 adding lane departure warning. The E-Pace gets these features plus blindspot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.

Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the XC40 yet, but the rating of Volvo’s larger XC60 suggests it could be the safest car in the class. The others both scored five stars, with the X2 doing marginally better in the individual categories.

BMW X2, Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC60

verdict

Despite the best efforts of BMW and Jaguar, the Volvo XC40 triumphs once again. Considering these SUVs will mostly be bought as family cars, it’s hard to ignore the extra space you get inside for people and luggage. Real thought has gone into the layout of the interior, and it’s really well screwed together.

But the XC40 isn’t just a big box; it’s also a fantastically comfortable and refined way of getting from A to B in a totally unflustered manner.

But what if you want to get your blood pumping a little faster on your daily slog? Then it’s worth looking at the X2. It may be pricier and less practical than the X1 on which it’s based, but there’s no finer-handling car in this class. It’s also pretty rapid in a straight line and has class-leading infotainment.

So that leaves the E-Pace in last place. It’s very well equipped, but its fidgety ride, sluggish performance and below-par interior quality prevent it from standing out.

1st – Volvo XC40

  • For Roomiest; best boot; decent performance; well equipped; comfiest
  • Against Average infotainment; seats could be more flexible
  • Recommended options Metallic paint (£575), keyless entry (£350), Convenience Pack (£350)
Specifications: Volvo XC40 D4 R-Design Pro
  • Engine size 4cyl, 1969cc, diesel
  • List price £36,870
  • Target Price £35,036
  • Power 187bhp @ 4000rpm
  • Torque 295Ib ft @ 1750-3000rpm
  • Gearbox 8-spd automatic
  • 0-60mph 8.4sec
  • Top speed 130mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 56.5mpg
  • CO2 emissions 133g/km
2nd – BMW X2

  • For Quick; sharp handling; high-quality interior; top infotainment
  • Against Cramped rear; least re¬fined at all speeds; stiff ride; expensive to run; poor visibility
  • Recommended options Metallic paint (£550), Tech Pack (£1260)
Specifications: BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport
  • Engine size 4cyl, 1995cc, diesel
  • List price £37,530
  • Target Price £37,530
  • Power 187bhp @ 4000rpm
  • Torque 295Ib ft @ 1750-2500rpm
  • Gearbox 8-spd automatic
  • 0-60mph 7.6sec
  • Top speed 137mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 58.9mpg
  • CO2 emissions 126g/km
3rd – Jaguar E-Pace

  • For Lots of safety kit; well equipped; good driving position
  • Against Jittery ride; sluggish performance; expensive to buy and run; poor interior quality
  • Recommended options Metallic paint (£615)
Specifications: Jaguar E-Pace D180 AWD SE auto
  • Engine size 4cyl, 1999cc, diesel
  • List price £39,400
  • Target Price £39,014
  • Power 178bhp @ 4000rpm
  • Torque 317Ib ft @ 1750rpm
  • Gearbox 9-spd automatic
  • 0-60mph 9.2sec
  • Top speed 127mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 50.4mpg
  • CO2 emissions 147g/km

(whatcar.com, http://bit.ly/2IaQoxd)

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