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X2 enters SUV fray

A new model from BMW widens the choice for South Africa’s motoring consumers in the Sports Utility Vehicle segment.

Across the globe sales of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are on the increase – and South Africa’s consumers are following the trend.

In an effort to keep pace with intensifying consumer interest, vehicle manufacturers have begun to develop derivatives that cater to niches within the Sport Utility and Crossover segments – and one of the latest models to be unveiled here is BMW’s X2.

Based on a platform utilised by the brand’s X1 range as well as sister marque Mini’s variants, the new derivative features a transversely-mounted engine; the option of front- or all-wheel-drive as well as petrol or diesel power, and styling that’s angled to make the model’s lines appear sportier than those of conventional, bulky SUVs. The X2 was designed to combine athleticism and adventure in a compact package that promotes the brand’s hallmarks of dynamic and agile performance.

Lower in height than the X1 by 86mm – and slightly shorter, too – the model looks decidedly sporty. Shod with 19-inch wheels – 20-inch equivalents are optional – and with ground clearance measured at 182mm, its stance on the road resembles that of a pumped up hatchback rather than a traditional SUV.

The front is characterised by twin, pentagonal, kidney-shaped grilles underscored by a wide, low-set air scoop. The long bonnet is backed by a steeply raked windshield while the compact greenhouse adds sleekness thanks to a roof that slopes downwards towards the rear.

The pert-looking tail appears almost as vertical as a cliff – ostensibly to make parking easy – punctuated by large, horizontally-placed, wraparound light clusters that house banks of bright LEDs and, beneath the bumper, protruding, big bore tail pipes.  

 

In keeping with some of the brand’s legendary sporting innovators – models such as the 3200 CS, the 2000 CS, and the iconic 3,0 CSL – BMW roundels have been located on each of the rear pillars, a neat design cue aimed at providing visual reinforcement of the model’s pioneering nature.

Inside, the feel is of a light and iry cabin crafted from premium quality components. Seating at the front is comfortable, with acceptable head-, elbow- and leg-room. The view from behind the steering wheel remains commanding despite the vehicle’s lower slung ride height, with switchgear well positioned for easy access.

 

While the roof at the rear is 69mm lower than it is at the front, headroom remains reasonable even for tall passengers. Be aware, though, that the bench seat – which can be folded in a 40/20/40 split across its 1 443mm width – accommodates only two adults in comfort. Behind it, the boot is said to hold 470 litres of cargo – about 35 litres less than that of the X1.

The latter point tends to reinforce perceptions that even-numbered X derivatives in BMW’s SAV line-up (the X2, X4 and X6) are less utilitarian than their odd-numbered counterparts; smaller, lighter, better handling and sportier even though they are equipped with similar engines and drivetrains.

In this respect, it comes as no surprise to find that engine options for the X2 are also found in X1 and X3 derivatives, as well as in Mini’s Cooper S.

 

The turbocharged, petrol-fuelled unit which powers the X2 sDrive20i’s front wheels produces 141kW and 280Nm. It is said to be capable of propelling the vehicle from 0 to 100km/h in 7,7 seconds, with transmission through a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The diesel-fuelled equivalent which powers the all-wheel-driven xDrive 20d – also turbocharged – produces 140kW and 400Nm, BMW’s spokesmen claiming a 0 to 100km/h time of 7,8 seconds. Transmission is through an eight-speed Steptronic ’box.

Later this year, an additional engine is scheduled to come on stream – a three-cylinder, 1,5-litre petrol-fed unit that will propel X2s wearing sDrive18i badges. The plant will be coupled with a choice of seven-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearboxes with drive to the vehicle’s front wheels.

Again, the upcoming engine is similar to that used in some Mini variants, as well as in BMW’s 2-Series Active Tourer – a model which is no longer on sale in South Africa, the company having decided in August last year to cease its importation.

 

Though standard specification levels across the X2 range encompass a  host of safety,  assistance and convenience features, extensive options exist for individualisation in   terms of interior and exterior finishes, equipment and   body kit, while a choice of three technological packages aim at adding extra driving aids as well as navigation and audio system upgrades. 

So, what is the X2 like to drive? First thing to note is that the ride across the model range is firm but comfortable.

The diesel engine is, perhaps, one of the most refined on the market – smooth in its responses and quiet, too. Performance is acceptable without being scorching.

Grip levels are good thanks to the vehicle’s four-wheel drivetrain, and the eight-speed auto ’box swaps cogs slickly and quickly whether going up or down the ratios. Though body roll is noticeable in hard cornering, the derivative’s dynamic ability remains a cut above that of higher riding counterparts.

 

Electrically assisted steering is accurate and, even with low-profile tyres on 20-inch rims, road noise levels are well contained. According to BMW’s figures, the xDrive20d consumes about 4,8 litres of diesel every 100km in the combined cycle – pretty good by SUV standards.

Similarly, the petrol powered model impresses for its smoothness and quietness as well as its fuel consumption, on the latter point returning a figure of 5,9 litres per 100km – again pretty good for a petrol fuelled SUV.

While the vehicle displays body-lean in hard cornering – with a noticeable tendency to understeer – grip levels remain respectable, the helm offering satisfactory feel through the column. Again, ride quality is good, with responses from engine and dual clutch auto ’box well-matched to promote the vehicle’s inherent sporty qualities.

In terms of standard equipment the cabin offers a range of user-friendly features, including a 6,5-inch touchscreen that displays navigational information – including real-time traffic updates – as well as other data. Further, the vehicle is equipped with wireless charging facilities for Bluetooth enabled smart phones and will automatically call emergency services in the event of an accident. USB connections and a trip computer are among other helpful features. 

In my view, the X2 represents a significant alternative to segment rivals such as Jaguar’s new F Pace, Range Rover’s now familiar Evoque, and Lexus’s recently upgraded NX 300, a review of which you can read elsewhere on this site.

 

PRICES BMW X2

sDrive18i M Sport          R572 666

sDrive18i M Sport Auto  R593 922

sDrive20i M Sport Auto  R644 252

xDrive20d M Sport Auto R694 154

 


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