BMW X2

Like an X1, but with a better haircut

TONY OíKANE

Sharp, grippy handling; eye-catching design; decent packaging

PLUS & MINUS

Adaptive suspension is a must; firm ride; cabin noise on coarse chip

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

THIS is not merely an X1 with a backwards baseball cap. BMW wants to make that clear. Another message BMW wants to send is that the X2 is pitched heavily at millennials Ė cashed-up ones presumably.

But in reality, this is a car that could appeal to a broader church than the X1. With style on its side, the X2 stands out from the crowd (in a good way), without being as compromised as you might expect. Whatís more, the extra outlay required to step up to the arguably more desirable X2 is comparatively modest, at $2300.

The X2ís platform and its mechanicals are shared with the X1, though tweaked to suit the X2ís posture as a sportier, style-conscious offering. Wheelbase is identical, but compared to the X1 the X2ís overall length is trimmed by 79mm. The front overhang is increased by 12mm for a longer bonnet while the rear overhang is 91mm shorter, giving the X2 a more classically cab-back look than its SUV stablemate.

Donít think of it as a coupe-styled SUV, though: with no D-pillar and a fairly vertical tailgate, this one is more hatchback than anything else.

Naturally the X2ís cabin length chop sees boot space fall, from the X1ís 505 litres to 470 litres, but thatís still a genuinely useful volume. Seats down, thereís a handy 1355L of cargo capacity on offer. Passenger space sees even fewer compromises. Even with some extra cabin intrusion from the panoramic glass roof, thereís still sufficient headroom Ė and cabin width Ė to easily accommodate two adults.

Up front, the X2ís 20mm lower hip point relative to the X1 puts you in a semi-sportscar posture.

Between the leather-clad wheel and the front tyres are yet more changes. The steering rack ditches the X1ís variable-ratio gearing in favour of a constant 15:1 ratio, improving response around centre and imparting a faster-reacting nature to the X2ís snout. Thereís also a smidge more negative camber on the front wheels to help the tyres bite into the road plus a more rigid chassis. Compared to the X1, weight is also cut by 50kg. The net effect is a front end that feels far more precise and willing to change direction than BMWís entry-level SUV Ė though itís still not exactly fizzing with feel.

Plenty of feedback is provided by the suspension, however, which in Australian-delivered cars is 10mm lower and stiffer than the standard European set-up.

All cars available at launch were also equipped with the optional adaptive damper set-up, but with the Sport mode of said dampers tuned to be similar to the fixed-rate M Sport set-up we can surmise that the standard suspension would be too firm for anything but the smoothest road. Comfort mode improves things markedly, though itís still very much on the stiff end of the spectrum. Thankfully the adaptive dampers only cost a $400 premium, and are a must-tick option.

The sDrive20iís 2.0-litre turbo four makes 141kW and 280Nm while burning an official 6.0L/100km. Paired with BMWís new smooth-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and sending power to the front wheels, itís an agreeable and torquey powertrain.

The X2 is more than just a fashionistaís choice. Itís far more emotionally engaging than the X1, and not especially compromised either. In fact, the X2 is one of BMWís most intriguing cars in a long time.

TONY OíKANE

01 PACKAGE DEAL

The no-cost optional M Sport package replaces most of the contrasting exterior trim on the arches, side skirts and bumpers with body colour to make the X2 look even more like a swollen five-door rather than a bona-fide SUV. We prefer the default M Sport X trim, though.

02 INSIDE STORY

Besides unique door cards and rejigged seat positions that are 20mm lower, much of the X2ís cabin furniture is shared with the X1. Up-to-date infotainment brings more tech glitz, but smartphone mirroring remains a cost option.

03 WAGON TALE

BMW roundels on the C-pillar are a design throwback to the legendary E9 3.0 CSL, but is it a cringey overuse of branding? BMW is pitching the X2 at more brand-conscious types, so the Louis Vuitton style logo peppering may be a savvy move.

More heat, please

A hotter Ď25ií variant using the X1 xDrive25iís 170kW/350Nm engine would make better use of the X2ís dynamic talents. Sadly, thatís not on the cards as yet. A low-spec three-cylinder petrol sDrive18i and all-wheel drive xDrive20d will, however, join the range in June to supplement the sDrive20i front-driver and add some diversity to the X2 family.

OR TRY THESE...

Audi Q2 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport $48,500

A3-based Q2 is similarly style-driven though considerably less costly and also benefits from a gruntier 140kW/320Nm powertrain. Plus the traction advantages of all-wheel drive.

Infiniti Q30 Sports Premium

$52,900 Based on Mercedes GLA mechanicals furnished with an Infiniti-designed cabin and sheetmetal, the Q30 unfortunately feels more than a generation behind its rivals.