2021 BMW X2 M35i review

The M Performance version of the X2 pulls hard and sounds ace, but is lacking in refinement and on-board technology.

Comments
James Wong
James Wong
Production Editor
PROS
  • 450Nm is a lot of torque for a little car
  • Characterful soundtrack
  • Big boot
CONS
  • Lazy diffs make it feel clumsy in bends
  • Adaptive cruise optional, no blind-spot or rear cross-traffic alert
  • Stiff ride can be a pain in town

The BMW X2 was born as something of a baby SUV coupe, a miniature interpretation of the concept pioneered by the larger X6 and X4.

While more of a ‘sportback’ than a crossover coupe, the X2 didn’t launch with a drivetrain punchy enough to match its sporty looks. That changed at the end of 2018 with the launch of the BMW X2 M35i.

Powered by a 2.0-litre turbo coupled with variable all-wheel drive, the X2 M35i combines the power and performance of established premium hot hatches like the Audi S3 and BMW M135i with the practicality and raised height of the in-vogue crossover.

It should be a recipe for success, but is it any good three years on?

How much does the BMW X2 M35i cost?

On test we have the X2 M35i xDrive, which is priced from $73,900 plus on-road costs.

The full price list for the 2021 BMW X2 line-up is below:

  • 2021 BMW X2 sDrive18i: $49,900
  • 2021 BMW X2 sDrive18i M Sport: $52,600
  • 2021 BMW X2 sDrive18i M Sport X: $52,600
  • 2021 BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport: $60,900
  • 2021 BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X: $60,900
  • 2021 BMW X2 M35i Pure: $68,900
  • 2021 BMW X2 M35i: $73,900

All prices exclude on-road costs

Our tester also came with the following options:

  • Mineral Grey metallic paint: $1700
  • Black high-gloss interior trim with Pearl Chrome finisher: $NCO

As tested, the X2 M35i you see here is $75,600 before on-road costs. That’s about par for the high-performance premium small crossover class, which spreads from about $65,000 to $80,000 before on-roads and options.

Key rivals for the BMW X2 M35i include:

What do you get?

The M35i Pure gets the following equipment over lower X2 grades:

  • M Sport steering
  • M Sport locking front differential
  • M Sport brakes
  • M Sport seats
  • 20-inch M light alloy wheels
  • M aerodynamics package
  • Exhaust pipe, mirror caps, and grille finished in Cerium Grey

The top-spec M35i on test adds:

  • Adaptive LED headlights
  • Panoramic glass sunroof
  • ‘Dakota’ leather upholstery
  • 12-speaker 360W Harman Kardon sound system

Specification carried over from lesser variants includes:

  • 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • 5.7-inch instrument cluster display screen
  • DAB+ radio
  • Apple CarPlay (wireless)
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Power tailgate
  • Automatic high-beam
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Head-up display
  • Keyless start
  • Semi-autonomous parking assist
  • M Sport suspension
  • Lighting package with X2 logo projection
  • M leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Hands-free power tailgate
  • Comfort Access keyless entry
  • Front sports seats
  • Power front seats with memory
  • Heated front seats

While the standard equipment list seems relatively long, there’s still a number of items that are optional or missing altogether which you’d really expect of a premium vehicle at this price point.

You want adaptive cruise control with stop/go? That’ll be $800 for a package that also includes tyre pressure monitoring – it’s not available on the M35i Pure, either. Privacy glass is optional ($750), as is a heated steering wheel ($350) and M seat belts with the performance division’s tri-stripe motif ($560).

There’s also no Android Auto compatibility, as the X2 is running the older iDrive 6 system, no digital instrument cluster, nor are there active safety and assistance features like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert or lane keep assist, despite the latest 1 Series offering such tech on the same ‘UKL’ architecture. As you can see, the rear pillars create a huge blind spot.

So it’s decently equipped, but with some glaring omissions.

Is the BMW X2 M35i safe?

The BMW X2 scored a five-star rating from ANCAP in 2018, based on testing carried out on the mechanically similar X1 by Euro NCAP in 2015.

It scored 90 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 74 per cent for pedestrian protection and 70 per cent for safety assist.

Standard safety equipment on all 2021 BMW X2 models includes:

  • Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection
  • Front, front-side and curtain airbags
  • Lane departure warning
  • Reversing camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Traffic sign recognition

What is the BMW X2 M35i like on the inside?

Hopping into the X2’s cabin is like taking a step back in time, as its cabin is very last year’s BMW. If you’ve sat in a previous-generation 1 Series, you’ll know what I mean.

Unlike the entry-level X2 sDrive18i we reviewed recently, the M35i at least has automatic climate control, but otherwise the cabin presents like any other X2 – which in some ways is good, and others not so good.

The X1 and X2 are yet to make the move to BMW’s latest interior design like the brand’s wider SUV line-up, as well as the related 1 Series. What does this mean? It’s well-made and ergonomically sound, but it’s quite dated in design and function.

While the iDrive 6 infotainment system still is attractive, snappy and offers a high-resolution display, it’s a generation behind the BMW OS7.0 system used in just about everything else the company offers at the moment, and will be left even further behind when the new iX electric SUV debuts iDrive 8.0.

iDrive 6 also lacks Android Auto compatibility, and there’s no 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster with extended menus like you’ll find in the latest 1 Series.

The M Sport steering wheel is likewise a generation old but looks and feels great. It has a chunky rim and a cool three-spoke design that’s still one of my favourites, and the analogue instruments with 5.7-inch display are clear and easy to read.

Adjustment in the front seats is good, with a wide range of movement in the driver’s seat and steering wheel so you can have either a more sporty, car-like pilot’s chair or a more elevated SUV one. Personally, I prefer the former.

Storage, however, is a bit hit and miss. The door pockets are decently sized with bottle holders, and there’s two cupholders ahead of the shifter with small cubby for your keys or wallet.

While BMW advertises a wireless phone charger, it’s mounted in the front centre armrest, and is incapable of holding a larger phone like my iPhone 12 Pro Max. My old XS Max didn’t fit in these either.

The cubby under that armrest is likewise on the smaller side, but can hold a phone, wallet, and keys so they’re relatively out of sight.

Build quality is up there with the best, though, which really is to be expected of BMW. Materials at the upper and middle tiers of the dashboard and doors are soft to touch, and feel of a high quality.

Everything in general feels well-made and solidly built.

The second row isn’t really much more spacious than your average hatchback, not helped by the M35i’s M Sport seats with integrated headrests, which eat into rear knee and legroom as well as obstructing forward view for rear passengers.

I found it pretty tight behind my own driving position (I’m 6’1-ish) though the seats themselves are good enough – especially in the more yielding suede/fabric trim optioned on our tester.

The X2 brings rear amenities that aren’t always included in similarly-sized crossovers too, like rear air vents, a pair of USB-C charge points, and a fold-down centre armrest with cup holders.

Materials in the rear don’t suffer either, which is becoming increasingly common in the compact segments, with soft-touch doors matching the fronts. There’s also map pockets behind both front seats, and ISOFIX mounts on the outboard positions.

Behind the second row, the BMW X2 quotes a healthy 470L of luggage volume, expanding to a maximum of 1355L with the rear seats folded.

That’s more than the Audi SQ2 (355L/1000L) and Mercedes-AMG GLA35 (435L/1430L), but less than the bulkier Jaguar E-Pace (601L/1386L). It’s also marginally more accommodating than its Mini Countryman twin (450L/1390L).

Boot features include an adjustable floor, bag hooks, a small netted cubby, as well as 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats.

As the X2 wears run-flat tyres, there’s no spare wheel under the boot floor.

What’s under the bonnet?

Power in the X2 M35i comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, developing a meaty 225kW (6250rpm) and 450Nm (1750-4500rpm).

Drive is sent to an xDrive on-demand all-wheel drive system via an eight-speed sports automatic (supplied by Aisin) with paddle shifters, as well as a front mechanical limited-slip differential.

It’s essentially the same drivetrain as the smaller M135i xDrive, as well as the Mini JCW Clubman and JCW Countryman. A front-drive version of this setup is also used in the wild Mini JCW GP hatchback.

BMW claims both the X2 M35i Pure and M35i can dash from 0-100 in 4.9 seconds, well within reach of establish all-paw hot hatches and mid-tier premium performance sedans.

Fuel use, meanwhile, is quoted at 7.4L/100km for the M35i range. There’s a 61-litre fuel tank and idle stop/start, while 98RON premium juice is required, naturally.

How does the BMW X2 M35i drive?

The shared mechanicals with the Mini JCW Countryman I reviewed recently meant in many ways the X2 M35i feels quite familiar.

Highlights include a torquey, enthusiastic powertrain with slick-shifting eight-speed auto, a rorty, raspy exhaust note in any drive mode, quick and accurate steering, as well as a firm, connected ride.

With all 450Nm from just 1750rpm, the X2 M35i has plenty of go in town and on the highway, even if there’s a bit of lag off idle as you rev towards the lower end of that peak torque band.

Like I found with the Mini, there’s an odd hesitation from the drivetrain off the line and at low speeds. It’s almost as if BMW has dulled throttle response to limit a boosty jerk but in doing so has exacerbated the turbo lag. My DSG-equipped VW Golf GTI is more natural and responsive off the line.

The exhaust note also feels louder than the latest Mini – perhaps something to do with the Countryman being a facelift with a new exhaust system to meet stringent WLTP European emissions and noise restrictions – so there’s a bit more bark as you accelerate. It’s quite characterful.

Flick it into Sport or Sport Plus when warm and you’ll get some nice pops and bangs out the back on overrun, really adding to the M Performance feel. The soundtrack is probably the most likeable aspect of driving this car.

The steering is fast and a bit heavy, again playing to the performance and engagement-focused consumer, but at times the X2 can be caught out when driving a little hard once you’re beyond the confines of the city.

During a more spirited run through some winding B-roads, we found the M Sport front differential as well as the variable all-wheel drive system to be slow and disjointed. You could actually feel the delay as the diff belatedly reacted to limited grip in a corner, only catching the X2 right before it was too late.

It’s a very odd, even clumsy feeling, and it’s a bit disappointing given BMW’s driver focus. The Haldex-style AWD system from Audi/VW products is far more resolved, as is the AMG GLA35’s 4Matic+ system.

The firm ride also is a bit hit and miss, bordering on too firm for daily duties whether you’re in Comfort or Sport, though it’s not crashy or unrefined. It’s still well-damped but you’ll constantly be jiggling in your seat – much like the previous-generation Ford Focus RS.

It sorts itself out on the freeway, and brings the benefit of relatively flat cornering and tight body control, but for the average buyer (even of an M35i) it’s likely going to be an adjustment or deal-breaker if you plan on driving into the CBD most days.

General on-road refinement is decent but still could use some improvement. As we found with the X2 sDrive18i, as well as the Mini JCW Countryman, the cabin feels well insulated from ambient wind noise but the run-flat tyres transmit quite a bit of noise into the cabin on anything but fresh, smooth tarmac.

I also had complaints from friends that rode in the back, who said the road noise was even worse in the rear and echoed throughout the second row and boot area. This isn’t just confined to the X2 – I found the GLA to be noisy on large wheels and run-flats – but given BMW has made such inroads in NVH of late, it’s another reason why the X2 feels a generation behind.

The limited set of assistance systems may please purists, but the tech head in me lamented the absence of adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist during my time with the X2, especially during my 24km commute each way to and from the CarExpert Melbourne office in heavy traffic.

Again, the target buyer will likely daily this car. Missing the convenience of the semi-autonomous systems prevalent across industry is yet another dated aspect of the X2 experience.

How much does the BMW X2 M35i cost to run?

All BMW X2s come with the standard BMW three-year/unlimited-kilometre factory warranty.

BMW offers a pre-paid Service Inclusive Basic plan covering the five years or 80,000km. For the X2 range, this package costs $1750.

While BMW claims combined fuel use of 7.4L/100km, we couldn’t get close to that in our week of mixed driving, including peak-hour commuting.

The trip computer read between low nines and mid-tens – it’ll only get higher if you’re enthusiastic with the throttle.

CarExpert’s Take on the BMW X2 M35i

I came away rather disappointed with the X2 M35i. For a vehicle with all the right ingredients, what’s been served up is lacking.

The interior looks and feels old despite being well built, the drivetrain doesn’t feel polished, and the ride is just far too firm in its Comfort setting for daily duties.

It’s also missing a number of features you’d expect of a premium-badged vehicle in 2021, and at nearly $75,000 plus on-road costs it hardly screams ‘value’ when the Audi SQ2 is some $10,000 cheaper with more equipment.

So, the Audi is better value, the Mercedes-AMG has better tech, and its Mini twin has more character and kit. It’s hard to recommend, unless you really like the X2 – in which case I’d say buy the M135i xDrive for $8000 less.

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Ratings
OVERALL7.3
Show Breakdown
Cost of Ownership 8
Ride Comfort 6.5
Safety 8.6
Fit for Purpose 7
Handling Dynamics 7.5
Interior Practicality and Space 7.5
Fuel Efficiency 7
Value for Money 6.5
Performance 8
Technology Infotainment 6.5
Pricing
A$69,900 MRLP
Specs
7.4L
225kW
168g
5 ★
View full specifications