Forget big sedans and performance cars, luxury brands in Australia are all about SUVs.
Although it combines the coveted BMW badge with a fashionable small SUV body, the X2 remains a niche seller in Australia.
With an engine and chassis borrowed from Mini, and an interior that’s tough to distinguish from the more practical X1, it aims to take relatively humble bones and make them fashionable and desirable.
Does the cheapest 2021 BMW X2 have the substance to back up its premium pricing and coupe-ish style?
With a sticker price of $51,600 before on-road costs, the 2021 BMW X2 sDrive18i is the second-cheapest BMW SUV money can buy in Australia behind only the entry-level X1.
Jumping to the four-cylinder X2 sDrive20i bumps the price to $59,900 before on-roads, and the range tops out with the X2 M35i at $72,900 before on-roads.
Its most logical rival is the Audi Q2, a similarly compact and style-oriented city SUV.
The Q2 35 TFSI is priced from $42,900 before on-roads with front-wheel drive, while the more powerful, all-wheel drive 40 TFSI wears a sticker price of $49,990 before on-roads.
Standard equipment in the entry-level X2 includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and fog lights, auto headlights and windscreen wipers, and a powered tailgate.
There are parking sensors and a reversing camera, cloth/faux leather combination interior, a sports steering wheel, and the Driving Assistant package (speed limit information, lane-departure warning, and forward collision warning).
Infotainment comes courtesy of an 10.25-inch display running the older iDrive software, although it still has factory satellite navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay.
A colour head-up display and wireless phone charger are both standard, along with push-button start.
There are a number of notable omissions though. What’s the point of push-button start if you still need to whip the key out of your pocket?
That the cheapest BMW X2 has old-fashioned manual air-conditioning and lacks adaptive cruise borders on offensive, especially when you consider what $50,000 buys you at Volvo, let alone Mazda or Hyundai.
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 with front and rear parking sensors
- Traffic sign recognition
The X1 and X2 are the only BMW models that haven’t transitioned (at least partially) to the brand’s latest infotainment technology and interior layout.
Even the X3 was updated before its big mid-life facelift to give it the same BMW OS7.0 interface as the bigger X5.
That doesn’t take into account what Audi and Mercedes-Benz, both of which have overhauled their compact crossovers since the X2 launches, have been doing. In practice, that makes the X2 feel old behind the wheel.
The angled centre stack and matte black buttons will be familiar to anyone with a previous 1 Series, and the analogue dials feel like a throwback in 2021.
Storage is limited to an odd-shaped bin beneath the dashboard, cupholders, and an unenclosed space under the central armrest, while the wireless phone charger won’t hold a plus-sized smartphone – even if you take the case off.
The seating position is good, as is usually the case with BMW interiors, and there’s plenty of adjustment for leggy drivers. The chubby steering wheel might not be to everyone’s tastes though – it’s just so fat.
Although it’s a generation old, the iDrive system is still up with the times. It’s fast to respond, has wireless Apple CarPlay, and packs all the same features as more recent BMW systems.
As plenty of rivals move to touch-only systems it’s great to see BMW sticking with its rotary controller. It’s a shame Apple CarPlay is windowed, and doesn’t take up the whole screen.
Rear seat space is surprisingly good for what is a compact crossover. Legroom is acceptable for adults sitting behind adults, and headroom is better than you’d expect for a small car with a sloping roofline.
There are no air vents back there, but there is a USB port for device power.
Each of the rear seats folds individually, which is a real win if you’re into carrying skis or bikes around.
Boot space is 470L with the rear seats in place thanks to the low-set boot floor, expanding to 1355L with them folded.
There is no spare wheel, space saver or otherwise.
The entry-level BMW X2 sDrive18i is fitted with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine producing 103kW of power and 220Nm of torque.
It’s mated to a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, and BMW claims a 0-100km/h time of 9.6 seconds.
Claimed fuel economy is 6.3L/100km on the combined cycle, we saw low in the 8.0L/100km range in a week skewed to city driving.
A lot about the way the X2 drives will be familiar to anyone who’s driven an entry-level Mini.
The three-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission are shared with the base ‘Cooper’ grades of various Mini models. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s a characterful little powertrain.
The engine has small outputs on paper, but the way it’s tuned makes it feel more muscular in the real world.
Peak torque comes on tap at just 1480rpm and hangs around past 4000rpm, so it doesn’t need to be worked too hard to get rolling at city speeds.
It makes a distinctive three-cylinder sound, but it’s never unrefined or buzzy in the cabin. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is smooth off the mark, and shifts quickly on the move.
The stop/start system is quite intrusive, though. It cuts in just before you come to a standstill on light brake applications, jerking the car sharply, and brings the car back to life with a noticeable shudder.
It’s fine if the traffic is more stop than stop/start, but otherwise the system is best turned off.
Despite its entry-level billing the X2 ticks along nicely enough at highway speeds, settling down in seventh gear at a cruise. Ask it to overtake and it needs to drop one, two, three gears to really chase the redline, though.
There’s also plenty of road noise in the cabin on anything other than perfect tarmac, a flaw common in entry-level European cars.
The engine revels in being worked hard, a trait that makes it a perfect fit for the Mini range. Do BMW owners want to wring the next of their $50,000 crossovers all the time, though? That’s a slightly different question.
The biggest gripe with how the X2 drives isn’t the engine, though.
With weighty steering and solid body control, the X2 feels like a small SUV you can really throw around. The trade-off is that it doesn’t ride with anywhere near the refinement you’d expect of a BMW.
It crashes over potholes and speed bumps at low speeds, and is always fidgeting at higher speeds on what look like smooth surfaces. It just never settles down.
BMW offers a Service Inclusive package for the X2 range that covers five years or 80,000km of maintenance, priced at $1750.
Disappointingly, BMW hasn’t followed Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Genesis in offering a five-year warranty.
Instead, it offers just a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia.
BMW knows how to make a desirable crossover, but the entry-level X2 isn’t its finest work.
There are flashes of brilliance there. The handling is excellent, and the unique looks grew on me during my time behind the wheel.
Its let down by an unresolved engine and transmission at low speeds, not to mention some egregious omissions from the standard equipment list.
Similar money gets you significantly more value in cars wearing less desirable badges, or a more premium experience in a huge crowd of premium SUV rivals from Germany, Japan, and Sweden.
MORE: BMW X2 news and reviews