The X2 M35i xDrive is an all-round extrovert
The X2 M35i xDrive is an all-round extrovert
Image: Denis Droppa

The previous BMW X2 was a little meh in terms of styling and personality, but the second-generation sports activity coupe has distinctly more styling flair and a more aspirational feel.

The new X2 stands out more as a sportier alternative to the X1 SUV with a sloping roofline similar to the X6, striking LED headlights and a hexagonal kidney grille that is supersized to BMW’s latest design protocol and optionally illuminated. 

The X2 recently arrived in SA in two guises: a 1.5l petrol-turbo front-wheel drive sDrive18i priced at R879,739, and a 2.0l petrol-turbo all-wheel drive X2 M35i xDrive for R1,223,936.

It is the more powerful version on test. It rides 15mm lower on Adaptive M suspension with sports steering and optional M Compound braking system.

There are M-specific styling flourishes inside and out, and a quad exhaust system and boot spoiler that visually pronounce there is some passion in this Beemer’s pants. The test car’s Darth Vader paint job and black/silver wheels further drive home the message that this X2 is not to be trifled with when lined up at the robots.

Along with its more dashing design the new X2 is larger than the outgoing model, growing by 194mm in length over its predecessor to 4,567mm, by 21mm in width and by 64mm in height.

The growth spurt has expanded seating space inside the cabin, and, though it is no limousine, there is acceptable room for four adults without squashing. The boot has grown to a sizeable 560and expands to 1,470with the rear seats folded flat, but a blot on the car’s practicality is there is no spare wheel; the M35i xDrive makes do only with a puncture repair kit.

Inside, BMW’s digital renaissance continues. The new X2 is the latest recipient of the BMW Curved Display, which houses the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.7-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

The infotainment has wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and the latter worked seamlessly with my phone. The wireless charger has a rubberised latch to keep smartphones from sliding around.

The cabin has top-class finishes with interesting textures, presenting a business-class ambience with a playful side. The optional M Sport front seats with electric adjustment have excellent comfort and support, and are colourfully trimmed with dual tone Veganza artificial leather and illuminated “M” badges.

The cabin is a mix of sporting flair and high-quality finishes
The cabin is a mix of sporting flair and high-quality finishes
Image: Denis Droppa

The car comes out of the box with features such as two-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system and a sport leather steering wheel, as well as automatic tailgate operation and four USB-C ports. Driver-assist features include a front collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, speed limit info, parking camera and lane departure warning.

The standard seats are manually adjustable however, which seems a bit rude at the price. If you want items such as a high-end Harman Kardon sound system, dark tinted panoramic sunroof, head-up display, heated steering wheel and electrically operated tow hitch, those cost extra too.

To minimise clutter BMW has reduced the number of physical buttons and shrunk the automatic gear lever to a stub. The time honoured iDrive controller is also gone and most infotainment functions are done by touchscreen, but there are convenient quick-access physical buttons for features such as the audio volume and selecting drive modes.

The drive modes affect the responses of the steering, throttle, stability control and gearshifts, and also the ambient lighting inside the cabin. Sport mode livens up the driving experience with a boy-racer-like feel, enhanced by a sportier sound and a “snap, crackle” from the exhaust.

The steering also loads up to feel heavier in Sport mode, giving driving enthusiasts something to sink their teeth into. With its power, handling and gnarly noise, the X2 M35i feels more like a sports hatch than a crossover in spite of its elevated ground clearance.

Striking M-specific body kit is backed by high-spirited performance
Striking M-specific body kit is backed by high-spirited performance
Image: Denis Droppa

With all-wheel drive the car scoots off the line briskly without torque steer. The power delivery is spirited and linear, with BMW quoting a 5.4 second 0-100km/h time. The seven-speed dual clutch Steptronic transmission is a slick-shifting pleasure, and there are steering wheel paddles for manual shifts.

Fuel consumption averaged a not-too-shabby 11.5l / 100km with some spirited driving, and dropped to about 10l with a lighter foot.

The adaptive M suspension has frequency-selective damping that optimises both handling and comfort. Potholes and speed bumps need to be negotiated with care due to the low profile 21-inch tyres, and the suspension is on the firm side, which gives the X2 cornering agility more akin to a hatchback than a crossover. But the ride is reasonably yielding on most surfaces including gravel, and the 191mm ground clearance is practical.

With a body kit as loud as a Hollywood Bets advert, and performance sizzle to match, BMW’s grown-up new compact crossover has an amped-up persona to go with its improved practicality.

This review originally appeared in Business Day. 

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