Behind the wheel
Driving position, visibility, build quality
Remember that we mentioned the X2 feels more like a sporty hatchback than a proper SUV? Well, that’s how it feels from behind the wheel, too. Yes, it has a slightly raised ride height and the option of jacking the seat right up, but the only people you tower over are those driving sports cars.
The XC40 and E-Pace are somewhat different; both have their seats mounted much farther from the ground beneath loftier rooflines, giving you a towering view of the road. Okay, you won’t be fooled into thinking you’re in a Range Rover, but you at least feel like you’re driving a proper SUV.
It isn’t just the X2’s low stance that leaves a black mark against it; its sloping roof, chunky rear pillars and tiny rear screen make reversing tricky, too, even with standard rear parking sensors. A rear-view camera is optional, but you can’t get a 360deg camera, whereas you’ll find one on the E-Pace and XC40’s options lists.
The XC40 scores for having much bigger windows and slimmer rear pillars, but again it has only rear sensors as standard. That leaves the E-Pace on top for visibility, thanks to its standard rear sensors and rear-view camera.
When night falls, you’ll be pleased to find that all three cars have powerful LED headlights as standard. Our only complaint is that the E-Pace’s automatic main beams are sometimes too keen to engage, giving oncoming drivers a blast of high-intensity light.
In theory, getting comfortable should be easiest in the E-Pace. SE-spec cars get 14-way electric front seats with memory as standard – especially useful if you share a car with someone much taller or shorter than yourself.
The low-slung X2 does without the electric seat and lumbar adjustment of the others, but most of our testers were still able to find a reasonably comfortable driving position. That said, our shortest testers found the adjustable under-thigh support didn’t go in far enough, leaving the seat base digging into the backs of their knees. There are no such issues in the XC40; its electric seat doesn’t have quite as many adjustments as the E-Pace’s, but it’s even comfier.
Although the X2 clearly isn’t perfect, you won’t hear us grumbling about how its interior looks and feels. It’s clearly based on the X1’s – no bad thing – but BMW has introduced some even more expensive-looking trims, a gear selector that looks like it’s from the 5 Series and contrasting stitching on the dashboard. There are also plenty of soft-touch plastics and some seriously high-quality switches and stalks. However, it’s disappointing that the X2 is the only car that doesn’t have leather seats as standard.
As good as the X2 is, the XC40 runs it exceedingly close. Although there are a few more hard plastics inside and some of the switches aren’t quite as precise, we’re splitting hairs – and many will prefer the XC40’s more minimalist interior design.
In comparison, the E-Pace’s interior feels like it came out of a Kinder Surprise. Initial impressions are favourable, thanks to leather seats, metal-effect trims and digital displays in the heating controls, but closer inspection reveals a surprising number of hard plastics, cheap-feeling switches on the seats and steering wheel and play in the gear selector. In short, it feels like the cheapest of our contenders.
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