First Drive: 2018 BMW X2

First Drive: 2018 BMW X2

In a world where many manufacturers are going back to that 1980s Russian Doll jelly mould thing of making all models look similar with a family resemblance, it is great to see that BMW has taken a new direction with its X2.

Usually a car maker reveals a concept and then makes it look like its other models when it goes into production, but not in this case. It represents the start of some major changes at BMW when it comes to design. Chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk has told Motor News previously he plans to bring more differentiation into the line-up, a big change given that only in 2016 he was telling us that he doesn’t think people mind if the 3 Series looks like the 5 that looks like the 7. We are eagerly anticipating some radical changes with BMW’s sedan line-up in their next generations.

But back to the X2. First, it might not be a coupe version of the X1 to the marketing people, but it is really. Beneath that design departure sits BMW’s UKL platform that underpins not just the X1 but the Mini Countryman. The xDrive all-wheel drive system is the same as both of them too (where equipped) and so are the engine choices.

However it is the body design that really differentiates it. Up front the famous kidney grille has been turned upside down, there are sportier air intakes in the front bumper and it has standard LED daytime running lights with the option of full-LED headlights. The side profile features that raked coupe-like roofline together with a narrow rear passenger window, but it is the inclusion of the BMW roundel on the C-pillar that really stands out. It last appeared like this in the design of the famous 3.0 CSL, a sports GT we admit, but its return marks a nice nod to heritage.

The rear features a narrow window in the style of the Evoque but beneath that are narrow LED tail lights, much like those in larger models such as the outgoing 6 Series. Two exhausts give the four-cylinder models a sporty look and there is diffuser.

There are two trim levels available: M Sport and M Sport X. Internationally there is a Basic trim level too, but while Audi, BMW and Mercedes have tried over the years to bring base-trim models to SA to reduce the price, bizarrely the South African consumer just won’t buy them. It seems we want our goodies and would rather pay the extra price, even when times are tough.

Choose the M Sport and you can have 19 or 20-inch wheels, a body coloured body kit and an interior trim in Dakota leather with M styling bits. Opt for the M Sport X and you get Frozen Grey body inserts. The interior has Micro Hexagon cloth and Alcantara seats and there are some model-specify trim inserts.

Currently there are only two engine choices available in the form of the 20i petrol and the 20d diesel, but May will see the arrival of an entry-level 18i which with its manual gearbox will kick off the range at a price of R572 666.

That’s not cheap but neither are rivals like the Countryman and the Audi Q2. Choose the current range-topping 20d xDrive M-Sport and you are looking at a list price of R694 154 but you can easily add at least a hundred grand’s worth of accessories to reach and even exceed R800 000.

We drove the 20i and 20d around the Western Cape and it was clear early on that BMW has delivered on its promise with the X2. The ride is comfortable without being overly firm, even though the model sits lower than its X1 sibling and on standard M Suspension with Dynamic Damping Control.

The steering feels good and well weighted and the manual gearbox was a cinch to use.

The other model we drove had the usual BMW Steptronic automatic transmission. It has paddles but, at this level, who on earth ever uses them? Stick in Drive and go, occasionally choosing to switch between Eco Pro, Comfort or Sport modes. That model was also the 20i sDrive, signalling that it is two-wheel drive, the same front-wheel drive set-up as in the Mini and X1. It still felt well sorted with hardly a hint of understeer or torquesteer.

Both engines delivered good response, although the diesel occasionally ran out of puff when the need to overtake swiftly was required. The petrol had no such issues and benefited more from the lack of additional weight required by the all-wheel drive system.

BMW has done a great job with the X2. We are impressed by the change in design direction, not least because BMW has done it — but because it works. – Mark Smyth