BMW’s new X2 compact four-door hatchback now uses a front-wheel drive platform. Does it feel the same as the rear-wheel platforms we all know and love?
What is it?
The new BMW X2 is a compact four-door hatchback with a unique look. It melds the profile of a 2-series wagon (if one existed) with some of the characteristics of subcompact crossovers like the Subaru Crosstrek. We can’t call this a crossover since it is plainly a car to us, but some may consider it one.
Pricing and trims
BMW will build you a front wheel drive X2, or an all-wheel drive X2. Whichever you opt for, the car comes with the now familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and automatic 8-speed transmission. Once you settle on how many wheels you want to drive, you then select a “build.” One can select “Standard” or “M SportX” designs. Trust us, all the cool kids are going with M SportX and its more dynamic looks. Prices theoretically start at about $38K for a bare-bones FWD X2. If you want clear glass and round tires though, budget for much more than that. The AWD “M SPortX” starts at $44,045.
Our X2 test vehicle was an xDrive28i M SportX with the Premium Package, Driver Assistance Package and a few other individual options that rang in at $50,920. At this price, BMW does not include adaptive cruise control, an option many mainstream affordable cars now come standard with. To get that feature, you would need to add $300 and opt specifically for the ACC Stop and Go version of the Active Driving Assistance Package. We strongly suggest you get it because in five years any car without this common technology is going to seem like yesterday’s news to any used car shopper.
Our test vehicle had the optional forward collision prevention and lane departure systems. IIHS has not tested the X2 yet, nor has NHTSA. However, the BMW X1, which is almost identical to the X2, has been tested and scored very well on all crash tests. The X2 feels like it is made from adamantium and we strongly suspect it would do as well as the best subcompact vehicles made in any sort of collision.
BMW uses its 2.0-liter turbo engine in the X2 tuned to 228 hp. The engine is a gem and after many years of tweaks and refinements has become one of our favorite 2.0-liter turbos. The 8-speed automatic transmission seemed like a perfect choice by BMW. Smooth shifts, no hunting for gears, and if you want to paddle-change them yourself you can.
There are three drive modes in the BMW X2. Comfort, Sport, and ECO. Comfort is just as it sounds and is relatively mellow. Starting off, the X2 xDrive28i M SportX feels muted, like it has a tall first gear. Sport takes the X2 xDrive28i M SportX and makes it feel just right for normal driving. Unlike many Sport modes we test, it isn’t annoying, and we drove around mostly in Sport. Unfortunately, the car always reverts to Comfort when restarted. We got 25 MPG in mixed driving using premium fuel, exactly what the EPA predicts for Combined driving.
BMW says the X2 xDrive28i M SportX runs from 0-60 MPH in about 6.3 seconds and that seems about right based on out seat of the pants evaluation. That’s plenty quick, but don’t stoplight race any V6 Camrys because that level of performance is common now in mainstream, affordable cars of all types.
One notable thing about the transmission is that BMW has used a conventional shifter in the X2 xDrive28i M SportX , not the normal “BMW” shifter we are now accustomed to. That’s interesting to us. Just when we finally got used to pressing “P” to park, BMW goes back in time to a push and pull type gear selector.
Ride and handling
If there is one area where the X2 xDrive28i M SportX really outshines other subcompact cars it is handling and ride quality. Oh lordy, can BMW make a rigid car platform. The X2 xDrive28i M SportX feels so solid it is to die for. It’s just delicious, and from our standpoint, the key reason to buy a BMW vs. any other brand. The solid architecture is key to what makes the X2 xDrive28i M SportX handle so well. Turn-in is sharp, but not overly so. This is not a pure sports car, just close to that level. The feeling in corners is just right with little body lean and a predictable track. You don’t want to stop driving this car it is so good.
We tested the X2 xDrive28i M SportX during late spring when the roads have not yet been repaired by the DPW crews. Huge potholes, frost heaves, missing sections of pavement that were plowed away months ago all banged on our X2 xDrive28i M SportX. Despite these harsh conditions, the X2 xDrive28i M SportX is very livable. It’s not Hyundai Genesis comfy over bumps, but it doesn’t rattle your fillings. You forgive the X2 for being a bit stiff at the very next corner. If you can tell this is a front-drive platform you should write for an enthusiast car magazine. We could not feel it at all with the xDrive AWD system. BMW says that about 57% of the vehicle’s weight is over the front tires if that is meaningful to you.
Our X2 xDrive28i M SportX had summer-only high-performance run-flat tires. If ever there was a wrong choice of rubber for our neck of the woods, this is it. The run-flats make swapping to winter tires difficult and expensive, and the summer-only tread pattern and compound is a bit scary given that temps were in the low 30’s and it snowed the day it arrived. BMW swaps the all-season tires to these when you opt into the M SportX package. If you live where the temperature approaches freezing, we suggest you think hard about that.
The first-generation X1 we tested had seats like barstools. The second generation was taken to task for poor seats by some reviewers as well. The great news is this 6-foot, 200 lb tester had no problems whatsoever with the X2 xDrive28i M SportX’s seats. They are still a little on the small side, but so is the vehicle. The power adjustments included side bolster adjustments and the manual thigh extension was a great plus. The seat heaters are powerful, but in our tester were not cooled. A little odd for a $50K car that has summer-only rubber. One fantastic design move by BMW was to cut-away the center console on the driver’s side. You can see it in the image above when you look to left of the gear selector. This frees up space for a tall driver’s right knee. We loved it, and wonder why every automaker doesn’t do this in smaller vehicles.
The rear seats are about what you might expect in a well-packaged car this size. You do need to allow a bit of space by moving up the front occupants’ seats to get adults in back, but two couples could head out in this vehicle without difficulty. If you are buying this as a family car, you should bring them and try the seating. Unlike with a bigger a compact crossover, you will be bending and twisting to get a kid into a child seat in an X2. The X2 has a passenger volume of 94.1 cubic feet. By contrast, a Subaru Crosstrek has 100.2 cu ft and a Mazda CX-5 has 103.6 cu ft.
The X2’s cargo area is plenty big for normal living, but this isn’t as large of an area one would find in a compact crossover. The X2 has 21.6 cubic feet of cargo area with the rear seats up and 50.1 with them folded. By contrast, a Honda CR-V has 39.2 cu ft with the seats up and 75.8 with them folded.
Infotainment and controls
BMW’s usual rotary knob interface and top-of-dash screen make up the bones of the X2’s infotainment system. Our tester had in-dash navigation and also Apple Car Play. For some reason, BMW does not offer an interface to the market-leading Android platform. Maybe BMW owners only buy Apple Products. See our focus story on BMW’s new cord-free Apple Car Play for details.
When word got out that BMW would be moving to front-wheel-drive platforms for its new compact vehicles, there was a fair amount of panic by the BMW faithful. Like with its MINI brand, BMW has found a way to keep the plusses of rear wheel drive while eliminating some of the negatives. The X2 xDrive28i M SportX is proof enough to us that for certain models the AWD adaptation of BMW’s front-drive platform is just as good, if not better, than many rear-drive vehicles trying to accomplish a similar objective.
The X2 xDrive28i M SportX is not a high-performance variant from BMW, but we suspect there will be one coming soon. Shoppers looking for a compact BMW with a superb driving experience and smart packaging will find that the X2 fits the bill.