Distinctive looks that hardly hurt space. Refined powertrains. Strong cornering/ride compromise. Well-executed interior
Cornering isn't as much fun as you'd hope from a BMW. No AWD on the petrol version at launch.
What is it?
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 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.
Since the Evoque's sales have put a vast amount of butter on Land Rover's bread, you can assume the X2 will do the same for BMW. Talking of sales, in 2017 the X-prefixed models accounted for one in three of all the BMWs flogged around the world. That's only going to grow, as in 2018 the X7 launches, as well as this X2.
It'll 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'?
It's not just surfacing that's new. The wheel arches have gone a little Countach on us. The absence of a window behind the rear door leaves space for a wide pillar punctuated by a BMW badge. They say this alludes to classic BMW coupes including the 3.0CSL Batmobile. Could it also be because otherwise you might not, from the side, immediately recognise it as a BMW at all?
At the back, an outer plastic skin on the tailgate allows its surface to be flush with the bumper. Insurance companies don't like vulnerable steel to come out flush. The tail-lamps have a new-to-BMW bordering crease – see the Ford Ecosport for details.
Up front, the kidney grilles have been effectively inverted, wider at the base than the top to make the thing apparently sniff the road. The version in these shots, with M Sport X trim, is rocking a load of grey plastic around the lower grille as well as down the sides.
Kidneys, a gaping mouth below, triangle recesses to the sides, angular lights, round fogs? It's bedlam. The base version has a simpler lower nose without all those clashing shapes.
Inside, you can have plain cloth or leather, or go all rucksack with mesh fabrics, suede inserts and contrast stitching.
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 X2 projects says they feel very different, thanks to different springs, dampers, roll-bars, bushes, steering racks, etc. He also points out that every visible interior part is different between BMW and Mini – except the boot-opening switch in the driver's door.
From the start the X2 selection box has 20i petrol and 20d. They both make about 190bhp. The petrol is FWD, the diesel all-wheel drive and eight-speed auto as standard. A 18d can be had with AWD or, at £1,500 saving, FWD.
Our choice from the range
What's the 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. OK, so we'd still have a 320i Touring, but the rest of the world can't get enough of BMW's crossovers and this shows why.