A new member has joined the BMW X family. It's called the X2 and we drove it at its local launch in Cape Town. The SUV market has exploded over the past few years and brands are trying to cash in on the crossover/off-roader craze by creating niches, and niches within niches. The X2 may be BMW's latest SUV, but it won't be its last: the flagship X7 will be revealed in production form in 2018.
The BMW X2 elbows its way into a slot between the X1 and X3. It rides on the X1 platform, but interestingly, it's physically lower and shorter than the vehicle upon which it's based. At first glance, the combination of sportier coupe/hatchback looks and lower-than-expected ground clearance gives the impression that it's not an SUV.
BMW's SUV strategy is an interesting one. Whereas X1, X3 and X5 are packaged as largely conventional SUV offerings, the even-numbered X2, X4 and X6 appeal to different audiences. These, the Munich-based manufacturer contends, are the SACs (Sport Activity Coupes), which offer the same practicality and driving traits of their odd-numbered relatives, but with generous extra dollops of style. Style? Well, yes, the BMW X2 has it in boatloads. It's a bold and svelte little number, especially in the breathtakingly vibrant Misano blue finish you see in pictures. There's a BMW roundel logo on both its C-pillars, which is a tribute to the iconic 2002 from the Seventies.
Inside, the BMW X2 offers a claimed 470 litres of luggage space and the rear seats fold down in a 40/20/40 split for additional cargo-carrying capacity. The cabin doesn't bring anything groundbreaking to the party and the general ergonomics and switchgear are typical of compact BMWs. There's a classy feel to the BMW's interior from behind the wheel and you can go to town on the options. The demonstration units on the launch featured head-up display and BMW ConnectedDrive, for example.
It's more big hatchback than SUV, and we're okay with that. In the right colour, the BMW X2 is an attractive vehicle.
Engines and transmissions
Locally, BMW has opted for a range of 4-cylinder engines, with the choice of either turbopetrol or turbodiesel powerplants. From launch, you can opt for the sDrive20i which pushes out peak outputs of 141 kW and 280 Nm of torque or the xDrive 20d with its 140 kW and 400 Nm. The petrol powered X2 will reach 100 kph from standstill in a claimed 7.7 seconds, while its 'diesel sibling is said to achieve the same benchmark in a fractionally slower time of 7.8 seconds.
The turbodiesel model features all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission, while the petrol model features a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and power is directed to the front wheels. The range will be expanded shortly, with the addition of a 1.5-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder engine doing duty in the X2 sDrive18i, which is also front-wheel driven. We've had some experience with this engine before as it does duty in some Mini products. Power is rated at 103 kW and 220 Nm.
BMW's new X2 SAV is available in two levels of trim; M Sport and M Sport X. The former (basic) version, which was unveiled internationally 2 months ago, will not be making its way here. The BMW X2 comes standard with 19-inch wheels (20-inch items are optional).
Nothing groundbreaking in terms of cabin, but the perceived quality is good while ergonomics are top notch.
What's the drive like?
We had the chance to put both turbopetrol and -diesel derivatives through their paces on an extended drive around the Cape Peninsula. Our first choice (and favourite set of wheels of the day) was the petrol and front-wheel drive X2. Gone are the days where every BMW had to be rear-wheel-driven; the front-wheel-drive platform acquitted itself quite well. Our South African-spec BMW X2s come standard with the sportier M suspension, which we were keen to put to the test. We're thankful that the car was riding on the standard 19-inch wheels as certain sections of our route were undergoing maintenance and the uneven tarmac sent jolts through the suspension.
When the road surface improved to a smoother state, we were impressed with the lack of road- and wind noise; the car felt refined for what is essentially a compact crossover. Commit the newcomer to some challenging corners (such as those of the Franschhoek Pass) and you can certainly press on with a level of confidence that the majority of small family cars cannot instil. In many ways, the X2 drives much like a BMW 1 Series hatchback, although the laws of physics do apply and the taller X2 exhibited a touch of body roll on some of the tighter bends. As far as body control goes, it manages to keep things taut and composed. The damping is firm, we grant that, but only noticeable upon rougher tarmac, such as the work-in-progress roads we mentioned earlier.
It not only looks good, it also is enjoyable to drive. We preferred the fast-shifting dual-clutch petrol model.
The steering has a reassuring heft and direct feel to it and you'll enjoy wielding the tiller through twistier sectors of asphalt. From behind the wheel, the driving position is a blend of hatchback and SUV and is good, once you've found the right settings. Despite it being a front-wheel drive vehicle and some spirited driving on spectacular roads, the car remained firmly glued to the road and only once did we hear the tyres chirp in protest.
The petrol engine and 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox make for a marvellous combination. Not only is the engine smooth and eager to pile on the power, but the 'box offers lightning-quick upshifts and is just as eager to shift down. It'll go from 7th to 3rd without any hesitation whatsoever and that level of mechanical smoothness is notable.
After changing into the turbodiesel, all-wheel-drive combination, we came away with a similar conclusion. It's firm and sportier, but not at the expense of ride comfort, unless you were traversing some awful quality tarmac. The 8-speed automatic transmission, to which the motor is mated, is more than adequate for the task.
We predict the stylish X2 will outsell its more conventional X1 sibling. Granted they are targetting different customers, but in our opinion, this is the prettiest BMW SUV on sale
The new BMW X2 undoubtedly brings style and personality to the lower end of the SUV family. If people shun the traditional X1, but want something that does almost the same job, then the X2 is your port of call. The X1 is a tad cheaper and offers a touch more practicality, however, but we'd argue the X2 is more enjoyable to drive and knocks its sibling out the park for sheer presence. We're happy with recommending either engine as they're both acceptable, both in terms of performance and efficiency. We'd lean towards the turbopetrol model, based purely on value for money and how excellent that gearbox is.
The premium compact crossover market is becoming ever more congested. The Audi Q2 arrived last year, Jaguar's E-Pace recently arrived and the local launch of the Volvo XC40 is imminent. We're going to have quite a battle on our hands and, let's not forget Mercedes-Benz either, who'll have a similar product on the market soon.
BMW X2 Price in South Africa
sDrive18i M Sport R 572 666
sDrive18i M Sport auto R 593 922
sDrive20i M Sport auto R 644 252
sDrive20i M Sport sports-auto R 646 652
xDrive20d M Sport auto R 694 154
xDrive20d M Sport sports-auto R 696 554