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, showing its age a bit now
What is it?
It's hard to imagine a car 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.
Gotcha. What's it up against?
Well since the X1 faces up to the likes of the Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA and indeed the Jaguar 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: its main rival is the Ranger Rover Evoque. A vehicle that the Germans were surprisingly slow in challenging.
The Evoque's sales have put a vast amount of butter on Land Rover's bread, and the X2’s haven’t been too shabby for BMW either. In 2021, it shifted 311,928 versions of the X1 and X2 across the globe, which puts the little X just behind the 5 Series and 6 Series (326k), big brothers X3 and X4 (414k), and the 3 Series and 4 Series (just under half a million).
This'll be bought on style though, right?
Indeed. 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 3.0 CSL 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. A 2020 update refined the sides and ditched the round fog lights that sat just underneath the LEDs.
What about the interior?
Inside, you can have plain cloth or leather, or go all rucksack with mesh fabrics, suede inserts and contrast stitching. We've saved the full breakdown for the Interior tab, so head this way if it's those details you're after.
Copy that. What's going on underneath?
It sits on BMW's transverse-engined platform. All very familiar stuff. Mostly four-cylinder engines (including one petrol three-cylinder hybrid, no sixes ever) and 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. An 18d can be had with AWD or FWD.
Further up there’s a 25e hybrid that pairs a 1.5-litre triple with an electric motor and AWD, or the range topping M35i that takes the familiar 2.0-litre and Very Turbocharges it up to 302bhp.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
It's getting on a bit now and due an update, and the lack of a fully electrified version makes the case for this even harder. That said, it's still good to drive, 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.