“Subcompact SUV” sounds like an oxymoron in the same class as “jumbo shrimp” or “open secret,” but it’s a booming segment of the American automotive market. And with BMW keen on having an option in just about every sub-segment of the vehicle-buying public, the BMW X2 makes sense. But like the BMW 640i xDrive GT I reviewed earlier this year, the X2 seems awfully similar to another car in the German automaker’s lineup.
In the case of the new-for-2018 X2, its doppelgänger is the X1. Given the moniker, one would expect it to fall between the X1 and the X3 in size and shape. Instead, at 172″ x 72″ x 60″ (437cm x 183cm x 152cm), the X2 “sports activity coupe” is almost three inches shorter in length and height than the X1 “sports activity vehicle.” It shares its underlying platform not only with the X1 but the Mini Countryman as well.
BMW’s entry in the luxury subcompact crossover market starts at $38,400, but the BMW X2 xDrive 28i I drove for a week has a sticker price of $50,920. That extra $12,000+ buys you the Driving Assistance Package (lane-departure and front collision warning, $700), Premium Package (heated front seats, navigation touch pad, and heads-up display for $2,600), and the M SportX Package (19″ wheels, sport seats, and panoramic moonroof for $4,650). Then add in Park Distance Control for $800, wireless CarPlay support for $300 (sorry, Android owners), and a premium sound system for $875. After all that, if you want adaptive cruise control, add $1,000 to the sticker price. At that point, you’re within shouting distance of a similarly specced X3.
Under the hood is the same engine that powers the BMW X1: a 2.0-liter twin-turbo, four-cylinder power plant capable of 228hp (170kW) with 258lb-ft (349Nm) of torque paired with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. The X2 comes standard with all-wheel drive. The M Sport and M Sport X also come with dynamic damper control and the M Suspension, which sits about four inches lower than the standard X2 suspension.
Roomy and comfortable enough
The X2 has a sportier-looking profile than other subcompact crossovers like the Audi Q3. It has a more coupe-looking roofline and the iconic BMW roundel on the C-pillar, which is meant to evoke the old-school 2000 C and CS from a few decades ago. From the front, the car is definitely a BMW, with the pair of kidney grilles forming a gently rounded trapezoid perched above the bumper. Below the LED headlights are a pair of massive air intakes, which are meant to reinforce the sporty nature of the X2. If you want a rear spoiler, you’ll need to go with the M Sport or M Sport X.
The interior is classic BMW. LED accent lighting—pick your own color via the settings menu—runs along the door trim. The X2’s familiar HD 8.8-inch display obscures the curved line of the dashboard and its contrast stitching. And the cupholders sit so far forward in the center console that my favorite travel mug wouldn’t fit properly. An unnecessarily tall gear selector doesn’t help things. The adjustable center armrest holds a surprise inside: a dedicated spot for your cell phone, complete with an optional $500 wireless charging pad. Unfortunately, BMW didn’t leave enough room for my iPhone 8+, even outside of the case. I suspect something like a Samsung Galaxy S9+ or other similarly sized Android phone would have the same problem.
The optional panoramic moonroof lets plenty of light in, but the three headrests for the back seat obstruct much of the view out the rear window.
Once perched behind the steering wheel, you’ll appreciate the solid yet comfortable seats. They’re bolstered, but not aggressively so, and there are buttons to widen or narrow the bolsters to your preference. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels a bit thick for a car of this size, but the 15.9:1 steering ratio feels right when on the road. There are no surprises in the instrument cluster—it’s the familiar combination of an HD display with an analog outline. BMW’s excellent heads-up display is present if you opt for the Premium Package.
For a car of its size, the backseat is surprisingly reasonable for an adult. It’s not as roomy as an X3, but passengers under 6’2″ should have adequate legroom under most circumstances. It’s technically a five-seater, but the center position in the back seat is best reserved for the fold-down armrest/cupholder combo. Backseat passengers also have access to a 12V outlet (no USB ports) and get a pair of vents for their trouble. There are 21.6ft3 (611.6L) of cargo area (compare that to 27.1ft3 in the X1) with the back row up and 50.1ft3 (1,419L) with the back row down. That’s enough room for a couple suitcases, several bags of groceries or, in my case, a lawn chair and my rugby kit bag.
Nimble but noisy
On the road, the X2 offers few surprises. The 2.0-liter twin-turbo engine is fast enough, although the turbo lag is noticeable when you put your right foot down. Acceleration is average in normal mode, and the sport mode gives you many more rpm before gear shifts. For maximum enjoyment, pair sport mode with the paddle shifters.
In traffic, the X2 is nimble. Its small size and peppy engine make it easy for you to be “that guy” weaving in and out of traffic. Driving the X2 is more rewarding on winding roads than on the highway, and I was able to lean into curves with a fair bit of aggression—not as much as I would in my Audi TT, but enough to make for an enjoyable drive.
The suspension does leave something to be desired. The ride is stiffer than I would have liked, and if you’re driving on a rough road—or a newly resurfaced and grooved concrete expressway—you’ll notice a good amount of noise. You will also hear the engine working hard when accelerating, and it’s not the pleasant (and piped-in) timbre that comes from a 640i, either.
The amount of driver-assistance tech on offer at this model’s $50,000 price point is disappointing as well. Adaptive cruise control costs $1,000. Lane-keep assist does not appear to be an option, although the steering wheel does vibrate angrily when you start to wander into another lane.
If you love the BMW marquee and want to see what the whole subcompact crossover thing is all about, definitely take a look at the X2. But the Audi Q3 offers a quieter and more comfortable ride. And the Volvo XC40—which we will be driving in the next few weeks—looks like another intriguing option in this segment. The X2 handles nicely and is sporty enough, but there’s too much road noise and the driving experience is further sullied by some odd ergonomic choices. At the $50,000 price point, it’s worth checking out if you love the BMW roundel and want a sporty little crossover. But with the $38,400 base model lacking many of the features that make the X2 a fun drive, you can find better value elsewhere.