What Car? says...
Despite the ever increasing price of fuel, many of us still love our big wheels, flashy bodykits and wannabe performance car badging. If you fancy a bit more subtlety with your M badge, the BMW X2 M35i sports SUV might be your kind of car.
Although it might not look that different from the regular BMW X2 M Sport to the untrained eye, those in the know will spot the Cerium Grey surrounds for the air intake, mirror caps, exhaust pipes and badges, lower ride height and standard 20in wheels. It’s what’s under the bonnet that counts, though – and the M35i certainly doesn’t disappoint on paper.
Its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is related to the one found in the X2 20i, but BMW has given it a bigger turbo, new pistons and a raft of other changes take the power output to a muscular 302bhp. That’s fed to a four-wheel-drive system with a traction-boosting limited-slip differential up front, via an eight-speed automatic gearbox with standard paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
To help you negotiate corners as rapidly as you can munch through straights, there’s also a more powerful ‘M’ specific braking system with snazzy blue calipers along with stiffer springs and revised dampers. All that performance garnish puts it into direct competition with the Audi SQ2, the Cupra Ateca and the entry-level Porsche Macan.
Over the next few pages of this review, we'll tell you everything you need to know about the X2 M35i, including what the performance is like, whether it's a practical choice and how much it will cost to run. We'll also compare it with its rivals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
When you thumb the starter button and the BMW X2 M35i parps into life, it leaves you in no doubt that there’s something potent under the bonnet.
In Comfort mode, you’ll find it’s a little more vocal than the regular BMW X2 without being too intrusive. Flick to Sport mode and a flap opens in the left-hand exhaust tip to give a bit more volume, and even a few pops and bangs to satisfy your inner hooligan. Whichever mode you’re in, any ‘natural’ engine and exhaust noise is augmented (not very convincingly) by the sound system.
Performance is predictably rapid, with 0-62mph taking just 4.9sec (if you have launch control engaged). Although the rapid shifts of the automatic gearbox help, it’s the incredible traction the limited-slip differential (LSD) and four-wheel-drive system have that really fire it away from the line. Even with 302bhp, wheelspin is a rare and fleeting intrusion on a dry road.
Despite the BMW M Performance division’s tweaking, this is an effective rather than effervescent engine. Sure, it‘ll pootle around happily with the engine spinning well below 2000rpm and has a broad, muscular midrange, but it's not an engine that relishes being revved to the redline. Still, that’s a criticism that we’d also level at the Audi SQ2 and Cupra Ateca.
The biggest problem you’ll have exploiting the M35i’s power, though, is with the automatic gearbox. There’s a considerable delay when you put your foot down, which halts progress, especially when trying to gain some pace from the mid range. When it finally kicks in, there’s a sudden lurch of power that throws you forward in your seat. This is equally as frustrating when pulling on to city roundabouts or accelerating for a motorway overtake.
Putting the gearbox into Sport mode helps considerably, although the needle on the fuel gauge won’t thank you for it. Using the manual gearchange paddles on the steering wheel also take away a lot of the delay, although the transition between gears isn’t particularly smooth.
When you show the M35i a series of corners, there’s very little body lean, grip levels are high and it doesn't struggle for traction in the dry, even when exiting the tightest of bends. That combination makes it easy to cover ground rapidly with very little effort.
The trouble is that it's just not that much fun, with lifeless steering that feels as if the front wheels are mired in treacle and a handling balance that can be described as stable but not particularly playful. Despite having an LSD, you don’t feel the front of the car being pulled towards the apex of a bend when you get on the power. The cheaper Cupra Ateca is undoubtedly more fun.
Impressively, the Ateca manages to be comfier, too. Even in Comfort mode, the X2 fidgets even on smooth surfaces and thuds over urban imperfections. All M35i cars get bit 20in wheels, and knowing how firm X2s are on regular M Sport suspension, we’d advise calling your chiropractor now if you’re placing an order.
The interior layout, fit and finish
If you’re opting for a sports SUV with a view to lording it over fellow drivers, the BMW X2 M35i might be something of a disappointment. You’re really not much higher off the ground in it than when driving a regular hatchback.
Still, the driving position is good, with plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel and the front seats, especially with the optional electrically adjustable sports seats fitted. It really doesn’t matter if you’re more than six feet tall or barely over five – you should be able to get comfortable. It's disappointing that lumbar support is only available as an option, though.
Even with front and rear parking sensors as standard, visibility out of the X2 M35i isn’t great. The front pillars are thick and the large door mirrors can block your view forward. The upswept rear window line, small rear window and thick rear pillars can also be a hindrance when reversing, although a reversing camera is on the options list.
BMW has always had one of the best infotainment systems on the market with its iDrive system. With a rotary selector dial conveniently positioned between the front seats and a handful of shortcut buttons, it’s wonderfully intuitive.
The system is displayed on an 8.8in touchscreen, and comes with built-in sat-nav as standard plus DAB radio, Bluetooth and a touch-sensitive pad on top of the dial controller that allows you to input addresses using handwriting. You also get Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, but not Android Auto.
There is also a colour head-up display that projects information, such as your speed and navigation directions, on to the windscreen in your line of sight, so you don’t smash through the speed limit launching away from the lights.
As with the regular BMW X2 the interior quality is impressive, with plenty of soft plastics, classy trims, precise-feeling switches and leather or leather-effect materials. The M35i adds part-Alcantara suede seats, M Sport stripes on the seatbelts and M35i logos on the door-sill finishers and driver’s display.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The BMW X2 M35i has a lower roof compared with the more upright BMW X1 but there’s still plenty of head room. However, the interior is not much wider than that of many family hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf so don’t expect the X2 to feel as airy inside as the Cupra Ateca.
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 coupé-style roof, those in the back will certainly notice the difference. Head room is significantly less generous than you’ll find in the Cupra Ateca and there’s also less rear leg room. Being rather narrow in the back compared with many similarly priced rivals also makes it a real squeeze for three adults to sit side by side on the rear bench. In addition, the middle occupant will find foot space tight, no thanks to a big hump in the floor.
There’s no option for sliding rear seats to prioritise either leg room or boot space. You have to make do with a two-position reclining backrest. You do get a powered tailgate, and the boot is a usefully square shape with handy nets, underfloor storage, elasticated straps and a 12V socket.
The rear seat bench splits and fold 40/20/40 so you can carry long loads and still fit two passengers in the back. The manual release catches are mounted on the back seats, and there’s no option of an electric folding mechanism.
The X2 M35i’s boot gives you 470 litres of storage in total, which is enough for a big weekly shop. It’s much larger than the space you’ll find in the back of the Audi SQ2 but can’t compete with the 485-litre boot in the Cupra Ateca.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
No BMW X2 is exactly what you’d call a bargain and the M35i costs a rather hefty chunky more dosh still, with its price beginning with a four. That means it’s a few thousand pounds more than the admittedly smaller Audi SQ2 but the Cupra Ateca is cheaper still and far bigger inside.
Like its competitors, it won’t be particularly cheap to run, either. Official economy figures suggest it’ll do 36mpg combined, but expect that to drop deep into the twenties whenever you decide to exercise all the 302 horses under the bonnet. Then there’s the additional car tax for it costing over £40,000 and, of course, it’s in a high insurance group (40 to be exact).
Good luck trying to get the bosses to sign one off as a company car – high CO2 emissions (177g/km) and the big list price mean you’ll be paying plenty of benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax.
Equipment levels do look a little stingy given the price. You get heated front seats, two-zone climate control, cruise control and front and rear parking sensors, but the options list is long and includes many things you’ll want to add. Those include adjustable lumbar support and metallic paint.
A three-year unlimited mileage warranty is a welcome addition, but you might need it because BMW as a manufacturer finished mid-table in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey. Better news is that the X2 itself claimed a spot near the very top of the family SUV table.
Euro NCAP gave the X2 five stars for safety, but that was back in 2015 and the rating has since expired because the tests have become more stringent. That makes it difficult to compare the X2 M35i with rivals that have been tested more recently.
At least you can rest assured that the M35i comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB) that works up to 35mph, and the usual selection of airbags, traction control and stability control. Lane-keeping assistance, lane-change assistance and pedestrian detection are all optional.
Security is par for the course, with an alarm, engine immobiliser and remote central locking are fitted to every X2.
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