What Car? says...
How do you stand out from a rapidly growing crowd? One approach is to be individual, in both the way you look and the way you act. The BMW X2 does just this; refusing to be lost in a sea of compact SUVS by channeling the spirit of a sporty coupé.
BMW has trod this course many times, of course, with considerable success. A decade ago, the bigger BMW X6 was born when the BMW X5 was given a coupé makeover, and its smaller BMW X3 sister received a similar treatment, emerging as the svelte BMW X4.
When BMW’s smallest SUV, the BMW X1, donned a dressier set of clothes, the X2 was the very striking result; by adopting a lower roofline and shorter overall length, the X2 trades a little practicality for looks. Even so, it still needs to function as a Family SUV, and BMW promises there’s room for you, your friends and all the lifestyle equipment you’re likely to want to carry.
There’s a range of frugal yet punchy engines: including petrols, diesels and a plug-in hybrid, with front wheel drive and BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system available on certain versions. Choosing a trim level is also simple, with Sport, M Sport and the high performance M35i model.
Keep reading to find out which is our favourite version and how it stacks up against rivals such as the Jaguar E-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3. And, whichever model you choose, be sure to visit our New Car Buying pages for a great deal without haggling.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The X2 offers a choice of six engines that will be familiar to anyone who has pored over an X1 brochure. The petrol options are the sDrive18i or sDrive20i, with 136bhp and 178bhp respectively. The former is front wheel drive only, but can be had with a manual or a responsive seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The more powerful engine is automatic-only, but can be had with four wheel drive as an option.
Conversely, the most powerful 187bhp diesel engine is only available with four-wheel drive as the xDrive20d, but you can choose the 148bhp diesel as a four-wheel drive xDrive18d or a front-wheel drive sDrive18d. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard on the more powerful model; sDrive18d buyers can choose to add it at extra cost, or stick with the standard six-speed manual.
Neither the 20i nor 20d engines disappoint when it comes to performance. In fact, both are able to accelerate at a rate that could embarrass more than a few junior hot hatches. The diesel stumps up all its power from lower revs, which makes it easier to whizz up to motorway speeds without having to thrash the engine to within an inch of its life. This is made even easier by an eight-speed automatic gearbox that responds swiftly when you take control using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The 20i petrol engine’s revvier nature means it doesn’t have quite the low-end urge of the diesel, but it still pulls well in every gear, with its sharpest response above 2000rpm.
Suspension and ride comfort
The BMW X1 isn’t the most supple of cars, and its coupé sister is even firmer. The X2 range offers three suspension set-ups: a comfort-oriented system on Sport models, a lower and stiffer version on M Sport and an adaptable version of the M Sport set-up that you can choose as an optional extra.
The X2s we’ve driven so far have been M Sport models, which come with 19in wheels, low-profile run-flat tyres and M Sport suspension. Smoothness isn’t their forte; rough road surfaces and sharp-edged bumps will see passengers bouncing around in their seats uncomfortably, especially at low speeds.
Comfort improves at speed, but you can still feel road vibrations through the seat and steering wheel. Meanwhile, we reserve judgement on the Sport’s ride comfort until we’ve tried it.
The four-wheel drive set-up found on diesel models has steering that feels nicely weighted. It allows you to accurately place the nose of the X2 on the road and attack a B-road with gusto.
The sDrive petrol models may have to drag themselves around by the front wheels alone, but in general use it’s unlikely that you’ll miss having four-wheel drive. They can struggle to put their power down quite as securely as the xDrive models, and there’s a little steering fight under hard acceleration.
With both set-ups, you’ll notice there’s a bit of initial body lean when cornering enthusiastically, but X2 soon regains its composure and grips tenaciously. It certainly feels more agile than the Volvo XC40 and much lighter than the Jaguar E-Pace. In fact, the X2’s low height and relatively low weight help it feel more like a junior hot hatchback than a chunky SUV.
Noise and vibration
Petrol-engined X2s have a sporty engine note, but this might not be appreciated by passengers who simply want to relax. At motorway speeds, the wide, run-flat tyres of M-Sport models throw up a constant buzz on any surface but freshly-laid Tarmac. There’s a lot of wind noise, too, and this unwanted chorus might become grating on long distance trips, so expect to be cranking up the stereo regularly.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
One thing we must mention is the height of the driving position; you’re not much higher off the ground than in a regular hatchback, and you might be disappointed If you’re expecting a truly commanding view of the road.
Look past this and the driving position is actually a good one. The steering wheel has lots of adjustment for both reach and rake, and you can move the seat in several planes. It doesn’t matter if you’re over six foot or barely over five; you’ll be able to get comfortable.
Adjustable lumbar support may only be offered optionally, but it’s reasonably priced and fitted to both the driver and passenger seat.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
As mentioned above, although the X2 is an SUV, occupants sit much lower than in many rivals. The low stance might add sporty appeal, but it robs the driver and passengers of a commanding view of the road ahead, which for many is the big draw of an SUV.
There’s a pair of large, high-set wing mirrors, but those drivers who have to sit close to the wheel may find that they join forces with the bulky windscreen pillars to block your view when pulling out of junctions.
The upswept rear window line, small rear window and thick rear pillars can also be a hindrance when reversing, although rear parking sensors are standard on all models. A reversing camera is optional, but only as part of an expensive pack.
Sat nav and infotainment
By family SUV standards, the X2 has a fantastic infotainment system. All versions come with a DAB radio, CD player, USB socket, Bluetooth and satellite navigation with traffic information. The screen is a rather small 6.5in, but the interface – a rotary selector dial surrounded by a handful of shortcut buttons – is wonderfully intuitive and conveniently positioned between the front seats.
Upgrade to the Navigation Plus package and you gain an 8.8in display, wireless charging for compatible devices and a touch-sensitive pad on top of the rotary dial controller that allows you to input addresses using handwriting. You also get a full-colour head-up display that projects information, such as your speed and navigation directions, onto the windscreen in your line of sight, so you don’t need to take your eyes off the road. Although this system is pretty pricey, it is worth considering given the ease it brings.
Although the overall layout of the dash is much the same as you’d find in an X1, BMW has made efforts to make it look and feel noticeably snazzier. Overall, the changes, which include decorative trim sections, contrast stitching on the seats and a faux-leather finish to the dash, make it feel even higher quality than the X1 – no mean feat as that’s one of the best-screwed-together family SUV interiors out there.
There’s no doubt that the X2 is well ahead of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Jaguar E-Pace here. In fact, it just about beats our current class favourite, the Volvo XC40, albeit by the thinnest of margins.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The X2 may have a lower roof compared with the X1, but there’s still enough head room for six-foot-plus adults. However, the interior isn't much wider than that of many standard family hatchbacks, such as the Volkswagen Golf, so don’t expect the X2 to feel as airy inside as the Volvo XC40.
There’s a pair of cupholders up front that are deep enough to hold large takeaway cups, while the cubby in front of the gearlever makes a convenient spot to store smaller items. The centre armrest is a handy place to hide your phone and connect it to the USB input, plus you can stow a 500ml bottle in there, too.
While front-seat passengers aren’t too affected by the lower coupé roof, those in the back certainly are. Head room is noticeably tighter than in the X1, so taller adults will find their head rather close to the ceiling. We suspect this will be even more of a problem should you tick the box for the optional panoramic roof.
In fact, even without the panoramic roof, head room is significantly less generous than you’ll find in a Volvo XC40 and there’s less rear leg room, too. The X2 is also rather narrow in the back compared to its rivals, making it a real squeeze for three adults on the rear bench. In addition, the middle occupant will find foot space tight, no thanks to a big hump in the floor.
Seat folding and flexibility
Although the X1 has an impressive array of practical touches, the X2 is rather less generously provisioned. For instance, there’s no option for sliding rear seats to prioritise either leg room or boot space; instead, you have to make do with just a two-position reclining backrest.
What you do get is a standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear bench, so you can carry long loads and still fit four people comfortably. The manual release catches are mounted on the rear bench, and there’s no option of an electric folding mechanism.
The front passenger seat has a wide range of adjustments, and you can add electric driver and passenger seat operation and variable lumbar support, by adding the optional Comfort pack.
All X2 models have a powered tailgate that makes life that bit easier.The boot is also a usefully square shape and has handy nets, underfloor storage, elasticated straps and a 12V socket.
Its shorter rear overhang does reduce boot space by 35 litres compared with the X1, but there’s still 470 litres in total. However, that’s a fair bit less than you’ll find in an XC40 – and those in search of a versatile SUV might not want to sacrifice useable space for that stylishly sweeping roofline. Saying that, we did manage to fit one more carry-on suitcase in the X2 than the six we could fit in the Jaguar E-Pace.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Despite costing more than the equivalent X1 on a model-for-model basis, the X2 doesn’t offer any additional equipment. That’s disappointing given that you miss out on a sliding rear bench and there isn’t as much space for people or luggage. It seems even worse when you compare it with the Volvo XC40, a larger car with much more standard equipment for similar money.
However, even the four-wheel-drive xDrive20d model is competitive on CO2 emissions, and this helps to minimise benefit-in-kind tax for company car users. It can also boast better fuel economy and lower CO2 output than the similarly powerful Audi Q3 40 TDI. The petrol sDrive20i’s running costs aren’t massively worse either – fuel economy drops by about 10mpg and emissions rise by fewer than 10g/km of CO2. Factor in a price that’s around £2,500 cheaper, and we reckon it’s worth going without four-wheel drive and opting for the petrol.
If you’re thinking of buying one outright, it’s worth noting that the X2 loses value more quickly than other premium rivals. As a private buy, higher depreciation means it’ll cost more to run than a similarly priced XC40 or Jaguar E-Pace, even accounting for its impressive fuel economy. Many will buy their X2 on PCP finance, though, and it’s disappointing to find a distinct lack of attractive deals on the model. You can drive a very well-equipped Volvo XC40 for a much cheaper monthly payment under the same terms.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level Sport trim has 18in alloy wheels as well as attractive contrast stitching on the dashboard, LED headlights, ambient LED lighting and body-coloured roof trims.
M Sport is a popular choice, but the 19in wheels and stiffer suspension don’t do the ride any favours. Although its heated front seats appeal, you are mainly paying for a sporty bodykit and racier interior trim. M Sport X only really adds leather seats and a few bits of silver exterior trim that give the X2 a little more of an off-road flavour.
All things considered, we’d stick with Sport trim and then spend a bit of cash on a few choice options. Metallic paint will contribute towards resale value, and the heated front seats found on one of the Comfort Packs are a worthwhile extra on cold mornings. We’d also contemplate adding front seat lumbar support. Other kit available includes adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof (which comes at the expense of head room), a rear-view camera, electric seat adjustment and a heated steering wheel.
The X2 is one of the most reliable family SUVs available, scoring an impressive 97.7% in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey.
BMW’s three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty also edges ahead of the three-year/60,000-mile warranties offered by some rivals, including Audi and Volvo.
Safety and security
Euro NCAP has given the X2 five stars for crash test safety. It has automatic emergency braking up to 35mph and the usual selection of airbags, traction control and stability control. Lane-keeping assistance, lane-change assist and pedestrian detection are all optional.
Although the X2 is better than the Jaguar E-Pace in protecting adults in the event of a crash and has better safety equipment (such as automatic emergency braking), the Volvo XC40 is even better.
Meanwhile, security is impressive. An alarm, engine immobiliser and remote central locking are fitted to every X2.
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Yes. The BMW X2 finished joint fourth (with the Dacia Duster) in the family SUV class of our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey with an impressive 97.7% score. However, BMW wasn’t one of the strongest brands for reliability, coming 13th out of 30 car makers and scoring 94.7%. Read more here
The BMW X2 is not available as an electric car but it is available as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The PHEV produces 217bhp and has an official electric-only range of around 30 miles (the exact figure depends on the trim you choose). That’s on a par with the plug-in versions of the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA but falls short of the 43-mile official range of the Kia Sportage. Read more here
The BMW X2 with the sDrive20i petrol engine offers the best compromise between pace and efficiency, returning 43.5mpg officially, while also embarrassing some junior hot hatches for performance in a straight line. We recommend matching that engine with entry-level Sport trim, which keeps the cost down while still getting you 18in alloy wheels, LED headlights, ambient interior lighting and other luxuries. Read more here
Sport is the entry point in the BMW X2 line-up, and includes 18in alloy wheels, LED headlights and ambient interior lighting, plus rugged-looking black plastic cladding around the exterior. The more expensive M Sport replaces the cladding with a chunky bodykit and adds 19in alloy wheels plus heated front seats. Read more here
The BMW X2 earned the maximum five-star safety rating when it was tested by the independent experts at Euro NCAP in 2015, but this rating has now expired. It was found to be better at protecting adult passengers in a crash than the Jaguar E-Pace but the Volvo XC40 scored even higher. Automatic emergency braking (AEB) – an important modern safety feature – is fitted to the X2 as standard. Read more here
The BMW X2 has a boot capacity of 470 litres (or 410 litres for the PHEV version). We were able to fit seven carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf, which is one more than we were able to get into the Jaguar E-Pace. The X2’s boot is a useful square shape and comes with cargo nets, under-floor compartments and elasticated straps, which make it easier to secure loose items. Read more here