Departing somewhat from the company's existing formula, the new BMW X2 crossover brings a new look to its SUV range. In addition to more stylish looks, some clever engineering gives it a more balanced driving experience that is perfectly complemented by the xDrive all-wheel-drive transmission. Our first taste of the new X2 is with the turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine, which provides plenty of punch mixed with decent fuel efficiency.
In the metal
Since 1999, BMW has sold more than five and a half million models beginning with an X. Hardly surprising then that, in the last number of years, the company has plugged gaps in the line-up with models like the BMW X1 and X4. Now there's the new X2, which conveniently slots in just below the BMW X3. Unlike the other even-numbered X models, this compact 'Sports Activity Coupe' (SAC), as BMW refers to it, doesn't have a sloping coupe-like roofline. It just wouldn't work with a car of this size. Instead, it breaks the mould and takes on a new type of look for BMW, one that remains true to the original concept.
For fans of BMW design, there are numerous new interesting features on the X2. The company's signature kidney grilles are, for the first time, wider at the base than the top, to emphasise the car's surefooted nature, apparently. There are plenty of curves along the side, something that is made more apparent in the Galvanic Gold paint you see on our test car. Contrasting with that are matt grey inserts on the lower front bumper, side skirts, wheel arches and on the rear diffuser. These parts are specific to the M Sport X specification, and we think they positively add to the car's chunky image. Standard X2 models get a more subdued exterior design, while the regular M Sport version looks beefier, but is all one colour.
Not everyone is going to be a fan of BMW's decision to affix its company roundels to the C-pillars of the X2. It brings the logo count to nine if you include the one on the steering wheel. As they are set flush into the panel, there isn't an option to delete them. Some will call it overkill, but we're okay with it. Depending on which engine your X2 is powered by, it will come with either one or two exhaust outlets. Not usually something we'd mention, but on the X2 they are big - 90 millimetres in diameter in fact.
In the M Sport X version, the supportive front seats are clad in a mix of Micro Hexagon fabric and Alcantara Anthracite with yellow contrast stitching - and they're very comfortable. These are new sports seats, and they provide decent levels of support without pinching. The yellow stitching runs through the dashboard and other parts of the cabin, as well. Visually, there isn't a great deal of difference between the X2 and more practical X1 inside. Some different fascia inserts give a more design-focused feel to things and overall the cabin is roomy enough. Rear passenger headroom isn't compromised thanks to the car having a more conventional roofline, but it is better suited to having two adults in the rear than three. At 470 litres the boot is deep, if compromised in its shape. This design causes the parcel shelf to sit at a lower height, making it ideal for hitting your forehead off when reaching deeper into the boot... An owner will adapt, of course.
If you're expecting something that drives much like a re-bodied X1, you will be in for a surprise. The boffins in BMW have come up with some interesting tweaks to the suspension setup that results in a car that is genuinely good fun to drive. The new suspension bushings have a plastic insert that reacts better and allows for anti-roll bars to be softer initially. To translate that into reality, the car soaks up the bumps very well without you having the sensation of being moved sideways as you sit in the cabin.
The all-wheel-drive system provides ample levels of traction and, in combination with the firmer M Sport suspension (which lowers the car's ride height by 10mm), allows you to drive in a more spirited fashion, should you so wish. Both M Sport variants get slightly quicker steering with just enough resistance to give you a good feel for what the front end is doing. You can add to this by selecting the Sport mode, which reduces power steering assistance further.
Using Sport mode keeps the turbocharged four-cylinder engine spinning faster as the eight-speed automatic transmission holds its gears longer to increase response. You can opt to shift gears manually via the paddles on the back of the thick steering wheel, too, and these changes happen almost instantly. With 190hp the xDrive20d isn't a slouch, and the eight-speed auto makes good use of the engine's 400Nm of torque despite its relatively narrow power band. The X2 can move along comfortably at pace, reaching 100km/h from rest in a respectable 7.7 seconds.
One other positive aspect of the X2 on the road is its sound insulation. Some of BMW's diesel engines can sound quite coarse, especially when you try to extract most of their performance, yet this time around there is a less intrusive rumble from the engine.
What you get for your money
The BMW X2 range kicks off at with the xDrive20d from launch, with a starting price of €50,749 for the SE specification. This model features 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery with Oxide silver trim, 6.5-inch infotainment display, air conditioning, multifunction steering wheel, cruise control and reversing sensors.
For the sportier looking X2 xDrive20d M Sport, prices begin at €56,376. This specification features 19-inch alloy wheels and a different body kit. Inside, you get Alcantara upholstery with blue M Sport stitching on the heated sports seats. LED headlights and fog lights give it a sharper look at the front, too. The range-topping M Sport X variant, as tested here, carries a premium that gives it a starting price of €57,325 in xDrive20d guise. In addition to the grey body kit, the interior features different yellow stitching as an option. The 6.5-inch infotainment screen is upgradable to a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen unit, as well.
On looks alone, the BMW X2 will score well with buyers in a segment where kerbside appeal seems to be as vital as any perceived off-road ability. Unlike the slightly inert X1, this is a car that's surprisingly fun and involving to drive, too.