It takes a special kind of Bimmer to pull off an extra pair of BMW logos on the sides. We’re talking 3.0 CSL and Z8 kinds of special, which the new BMW X2 clearly isn’t. So when Munich first released pictures of its silkier-framed X1 in all its quirky glory, we weren’t immediately impressed.
We are known to approach every even-numbered X model with caution ever since the controversially styled X6 came to be. And while the X2 is visually audacious in a fashion much easier to swallow than the first-generation X6, the additional branding on the C-pillar sticks out like a sore thumb, especially against the Galvanic Gold paintjob you’ve probably seen in ads and videos.
It’s a good thing BMW Malaysia chose to loan us a Misano Blue unit instead. Maybe it’s the way the blue propellers blend with the candy-hued exterior. Maybe bold works best when you take it to the limit, which, in the X2’s case, is the most eye-catching colour in the catalogue with which to showcase its equally daring styling. Either way, the X2 certainly commands more attention in the metal, in a good way. And there’s still a Bavarian swagger to its playful persona to charm even the staunchest of traditionalists.
They’ll be ticked, however, if you pop the hood open. There, you’ll find the BMW Group’s ubiquitous B48 engine mounted horizontally as it would be in a MINI. In the sole sDrive20i variant available here, the two-litre turbo delivers 192bhp and 280Nm exclusively to the front wheels – cue heated fan club debate. We’ve seen this architecture before in the F48 X1, but what’s new is a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox occupying the space where ZF’s 8-speed automatic normally sits. Not everyone’s going to be happy with that either.
We’re also fans of the old 8-speed, but we’ll be the first to admit BMW’s new wet-clutch DCT is one of the slickest units in the market today. It facilitates low rpm, low speed cruises with the linearity of a torque converter and rises to the occasion when pressured, not that the X2 is a particularly spirited Bimmer. It’s rewarding to drive, like most of its stablemates, but outright power on the straights isn’t the X2’s forte, even if its M Sport steering wheel suggests otherwise.
Then again, a steering wheel steers. And the X2 is surprisingly nimble on the turn despite measuring 1,526mm tall – an F30 3er is a whole 98mm shorter. The steering ratio in the X2 is supposedly quicker than the X1’s. There’s a torque vectoring system BMW calls Performance Control in place to regulate engine output and brakes on individual wheels while turning.
Fret not. You won’t feel it intervening with your inputs. In fact, the X2’s steering responsiveness, artificial or not, complements its M Sport suspension which pulls the car 10mm closer to the ground. The chassis is apparently 10 percent stiffer than the X1 too. So even though the purity of RWD has been compromised, you can still expect driving dynamics befitting a compact BMW when you get into the driver’s seat of this allegedly front-heavy crossover.
Naturally, the X2’s sporty setup means it’s not going to be the comfiest BMW you’ve ever experienced. The ride leans on the firm side, but the good thing is it’s never jarring. In fact, few cars riding on 19-inch alloys wrapped in hard, run-flat tyres are this pliant. Low profile run-flats are also notorious for generating noise within the arches, but the cabin is expertly insulated from external sounds, slight exhaust burble included – it’s a strange trait, but the X2’s pipes can get talkative at times.
For a car that can be easily stereotyped for dishing out style over substance, the X2 exceeds expectations in comfort and NVH. Completing the trifecta of practical characteristics is its stellar packaging which amps up space to rationalise the use of a coupe-like roofline. Three average-sized adults can fill the rear bench comfortably on short journeys while the 470-litre boot will happily swallow a full day’s worth of festive shopping. Storage volume can be raised to 1,355 litres with all three seats folded down, so it’s furniture-friendly to some extent too.
What seems to be a little hostile is the X2’s selling price. At RM302,686, with the current tax break factored in, the fully imported X2 costs just as much as the bigger and equally fresh BMW X3. Sure, it’s a CBU-versus-CKD situation, but the locally assembled X3 xDrive30i packs a substantially punchier engine and all-wheel-drive to boot. So you must really want an X2 and like everything it stands for before you can even consider buying one.
Then again, it’s hard not to be smitten by the X2, especially after basking in its ironically uplifting blueness for a couple of days. In adopting the volume-getting recipe of the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR and dressing it to the nines, BMW has engineered the most original crossover it has ever launched since the X5 started this charade back in 1999. It’s still hard to justify the X2’s case in value for money, but you do get oodles of charisma and aesthetic value to sort of balance things out.
For as long as it stays within the X3’s price bracket, the X2 will be a car you purchase for emotional reasons. And for that, maybe the propellers on the side can stay…
X3-equalling price aside, BMW’s zesty, new crossover is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly predictable segment. A bit more power would be nice.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200
The three-pointed star’s similarly charismatic compact crossover that’s much easier on the wallet.
|Engine||1,998cc, 4-cylinder turbo, 192bhp, 280Nm, FWD|
|Performance||0-100kph in 7.7 secs, 227kph|
|Economy||5.9L/100km, 134g/km CO2|