There is a significant step between comfort and sport modes, though neither of them crosses the line into being too firm. Or, indeed, too sporty. Secure, stable and composed, yes, but you’d never mistake it for an athlete in its own right.
It defaults to comfort when the car starts, but sport delivers sharper response from the throttle, tighter steering, more freedom from the skid-control systems and quicker gearshifts at higher engine speeds.
There’s an Eco Pro mode, which short-shifts gears, stiffens the throttle to encourage you not to use too much of it and does a host of small software tricks to minimise consumption.
On the dynamic suspension, it also changes the suspension settings to suit whatever button you’ve pushed.
The steering works seamlessly and accurately and seems to fit whatever mood you’ve asked the car to be in, which is unusual for a modern BMW.
Unfortunately, there’s now so much refinement in the chassis and suspension setups that the 2.0l, four-cylinder turbodiesel can’t keep up. It’s the primary source of unwanted vibrations and coarseness in the car, especially at middling revs when you’re only asking for mid-level performance. And, especially, when the stop/start system is working overtime in traffic.
There is no questioning its strength, with 140kW of power at 4,000r/min and 400Nm of torque from 1,750 revs. Its performance is reasonably impressive, too, especially when there’s an even stronger 170kW/ 450Nm version lurking above it for international markets, as well as the two-wheel-drive sDrive 20i.
The xDrive 20d has enough gristle to send it to 100km/h in 7.7 seconds and it has a 221km/h top speed.
That feels to be a realistic claim for the 1,600kg machine, but it’s not about straight-line sprinting because it’s far more impressive in its mid-range acceleration. Aim up at the accelerator pedal, especially in urban situations, and there will be plenty of urgency.
It runs through an eight-speed ZF-sourced transmission and it’s one of the cleaner-shifting versions of the base ZF unit. Its shifts are crisp when you’re in sport mode and soft enough to go unnoticed in comfort.
This is new territory for BMW, but it’s hardly brave new territory. BMW’s engineers have over-delivered and the end result is a mainly urban crossover that is, indeed, very, very good.