Road Tests

First Drive: All-new arrival with the (2018) BMW X2

This is a new name, and an additional model in the BMW range, without a direct predecessor. Even so, it’s hard to imagine a new arrival that needs less explaining than the BMW X2.

It’s a lower, sleeker, sportier and slightly less roomy counterpart to the X1. You know, like the X4 is to the X3, or the X6 to the X5.

So it’s a crossover for people who are willing to compromise on back-seat and boot space (though not that much). In return they get sleeker looks and a slightly sportier drive.

Rivals? Well since the X1 faces up to all those Audi Q3s, Mercedes GLAs and indeed the new Jagaur E-Pace, then BMW’s official hype talks of this being the vanguard in some sort of new category. But ask the man who led the project and he’s candid: it’s the Ranger Rover Evoque. A vehicle that the Germans were surprisingly slow in challenging.

It’ll BMW X2 will be bought on style, so let’s talk about that. It doesn’t look like a shrunken X4 or X6, which to most eyes is a mercy. The tail is shorter and more vertical than theirs, to make it more parkable because it’s aimed at urban people. BMW has simplified the surfaces along the sides. If you like designer-speak, the BMW pencil-operatives call it ‘precision with poetry’. Whereas the more frantic creases of the X4 were ‘romantic’. Ah, remember ‘flame surfacing’?

As it’s based on the X1, this means BMW’s transverse-engined platform. All very familiar stuff. Mostly four-cylinder engines (one petrol three-cyl later, no sixes ever), some AWD but front-wheel drive for the base cars.

The same platform also resides under the Mini Countryman, but the engineer who led both the Countryman and BMW X2 projects says they feel very different, thanks to different springs, dampers, roll-bars, bushes, steering racks, etc. .

From the start the BMW X2 selection box has 20i petrol and 20d. They both make about 140kW. The petrol is FWD, the diesel all-wheel drive and eight-speed auto as standard.

Drive

Let’s get the one honkingly obvious thing out of the way first. We’re in the BMW X2 20d xDrive. If we were in a 320d Sedan we’d be having more fun.

It feels a bit heavy in a succession of tight bends, and gives you precious little of the steering feedback or sense of playfulness. That said, for a crossover, the BMW X2 is really very agreeable.

For a start most of the small diesel crossovers have raucous engines, but this one shows how it ought to be done, beavering away in decent quietness both when mooching in town and when you give it an open-road overtake to do. As usual, BMW has got the eight-speed autobox just right too. That’s what you get on the xDrive cars. The FWD ones, called sDrive, get a new seven-speed DCT.

The suspension is on the firmish side, but doesn’t upset you. Our test car ran the slightly lowered and stiffened M Sport suspension. Its motions are progressive rather than jarring. Many tall cars have over-stiff anti-roll bars, causing lateral rocking over one-sided bumps in a straight line. Not the BMW X2, which stays pretty serene.

Driver-assist options include radar cruise and low-speed traffic jam assist – lane following and stop-go. As usual, keep a wary eye on what it’s up to.

Interior

Though the lead-in version comes with more conventional black cloth or a couple of shades of leather, the Sport, M Sport and especially M Sport X trims have more colourful clothes. It’s the latter that’s in the photos.

The dashboard is a model of clarity and lush materials: situation BMW normal. The standard infotainment has all you need, including detailed live traffic and connected services. It’s now touch-sensitive but the iDrive hardware controller remains the best in the business and that’s how we tend to make our inputs.

The top-ender has a bigger screen. Want Apple CarPlay? You have to pay extra, but when you do the integration is brilliant; it even works over bluetooth if you’re wire-averse.

The driving position likewise is well-arranged and adjustable, if not very high off the ground. Is this really an SUV? The M Sport’s seats have vivid and firm side bolstering, which is great if you’re not too broad.

Rear room is surprisingly useful. Grown-ups can go there. In fact it’s kids who might object, as they try to peer out through the high and shallow windows. Still, it’s no prison cell – they get vents, a 12V outlet, decent speakers and an armrest.

The boot’s pretty good too, with a deepish belly below the floor adding to its gulp. Instead of a roller blind there’s a hard tray. That’s less of a faff then a blind when it’s in place, but then when you fold the seats there’s nowhere to put it. Swings and roundabouts.

Basically then, there’s scarcely any practicality deficit to choosing this over the X1. Main issues are the visibility from the rear, and the smaller tailgate aperture which hinders loading bulky stuff.

Verdict

Even at a time when new smallish premium crossovers are cascading onto the market, this one makes a case for itself. It’s refined, as good to drive as any of them and decently made and equipped.

On top of that it manages to serve up a zingy new style that hardly compromises its space or usefulness.

Pricing: BMW X2 South Africa

  • sDrive20i R644 262
  • xDrive20d R694 154

Original content: https://www.topgear.com/car-reviews/bmw/x2

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