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New Cars Review: 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i is a more ‘spirited’ and sportier version of the X1

ROAD TEST

The 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i is a more 'spirited' and sportier version of the X1

The X2 shares its platform with the X1, and also with all the Minis, but it's the first iteration of BMW's new design language

The X2’s unique styling makes it come across as more of a hot hatch than a crossover.

BMW's brand-new X2 isn't really supposed to be an off-roader, but here I am, high up on a gravel road that only an SUV should reach, admiring the view of the valley. And the view is fine.

Nobody suggested I come up here. They suggested I go for a rip along the Box Canyon Road, which winds its twisty course down in the valley. I saw this track off to the left that seems to go up to some sort of communications tower and couldn't resist, so here I am.

It was probably foolhardy to drive on the rocks and gravel of this road. The $42,250 X2 is a lower and sportier version of BMW's compact X1 SUV – sorry, BMW lingo calls these things SAVs, for Sport Activity Vehicles – and the oil pan is probably as vulnerable as it would be on a 2-Series sedan. The tires aren't too chunky, either, but they've scrambled their way this far and I hope they'll find their way down again without bursting on a razor-sharp stone.

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The X2 is actually a little smaller than the X1, being 8 cm shorter and 7 cm lower but with the same wheelbase. It shares its platform with the X1, and also with all the Minis, but it's the first iteration of BMW's new design language. Shallow windows and a long roofline add a coupe dimension to its compact shape. Think of it as a more "spirited" X1, with its own unique styling that comes across as more hot hatch than crossover.

For all that, the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive is pretty much identical to the X1, with a zero-to-100 km/h time of 6.5 seconds.

There’s full connectivity in the X2, but like all BMWs, only Apple CarPlay is offered, not Android Auto.

Down on the Box Canyon Road, the little Bimmer swung happily back and forth through the curves with nary a trace of slippage, thanks to the good tires, excellent traction control, and the optional $6,000 M Sport X suspension. I set the Drive to Sport and flipped the paddles through the gears and had a great time. Peak torque of 258 lbs.-ft. starts at just 1,450 rpm, so it pulled strongly out of the corners.

And then I came up here and I'm feeling nervous for the undercarriage. If there was snow on the ground, I'd never have tried it, but these low desert hills haven't seen snow in a million years. Even so, this isn't what an X2 is supposed to do. It's meant to look good on the paved roads of the valley, not lord it over the hills on the dirt.

Inside, there's plenty of legroom and headroom for four passengers, and five if they don't mind squeezing hips on the back seat. As you'd expect, there's full connectivity, but like all BMWs, only Apple CarPlay is offered, not Android Auto. (In Canada, BMW used to charge a one-time sign-up fee for Apple CarPlay, but this is changing to an annual $100 subscription.)

This is good to know – I may have to call for a rescue.

[Ed. note: Mark Richardson made it back down the road slowly and comfortably, and no BMW was hurt in the making of this review.]

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The X2 is 8 cm shorter and 7 cm lower than the X1.

Tech specs

  • Base price/as tested: $42,250/ $56,050
  • Engine: 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo i4
  • Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.0 City, 7.7 Hwy
  • Alternatives: Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Infiniti QX30, Jaguar E-Pace

Looks

This new approach is undeniably good-looking. No more practical, but it "fuses the fast-moving forms of a coupe with the robust volumes of an X Model," says its head of design, Thomas Sycha. What he means is it looks fast even when it's standing still, which is every designer's goal. The kidney grille is redesigned for the first time in years and now is slightly wider at the base than at the top. You probably don't care, but this is a big deal for BMW.

Interior

There’s plenty of space for everyone and rear-seat passengers don’t need to hunch.

Nothing special but nothing wrong, either. Everything falls instinctively to hand, and it feels premium, as it should. Most important, there's plenty of space for everyone and rear-seat passengers don't need to hunch.

Performance

It drives well, really well, but no better than the X1. A car that looks this sporty really should have something extra on hand. There's probably an M version coming down the pipe soon, though there's already an optional M Sport X suspension package available that lowers everything an additional 10 mm.

Technology

All the clever stuff from the more expensive cars is working its way down to the smaller, more accessible models, so that even the X2 offers lane guidance assistance and a central touchscreen. BMW's iDrive is now in its sixth generation, so it's finally simple and intuitive to use. It's too bad there's no Android Auto, though, and a charge for Apple CarPlay.

Cargo

There are 470 litres of space behind the rear seats, and 1,355 litres if you fold down the rear seats.

There are 470 litres of space behind the rear seats, and 1,355 litres if you fold down the rear seats. This loses about 300 litres from the more practical X1, but at least the seats fold in a 40/20/40 pattern, so there's no problem carrying skis or hockey sticks. It's a fairly low rear bed, too, so your dog will appreciate it for the easy jump in and out.

Verdict

8.0

Just like an X1, but looks a bit sportier. If that's your thing, you'll love it.

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