2018 BMW X2 Review

2018 BMW X2 Review

Quick! Is a hippo a mammal?

Obviously, the answer is yes. But if you’re like me, it still took you a second to answer. That’s because even though they have mammaries, they’re a little scaly, a little watery, and they just don’t quite feel the same as a furry mouse. Categories are tough because even though we find, define, and insist on enforcing them, they’re kind of artificial. Nowhere is that truer than in the automotive industry. What the hell is a crossover, anyway? Well, BMW isn’t doing anything to simplify matters with its new X2.

Amusingly named a Sport Activity Coupe or SAC … BMW’s new little car for trust fund hipsters gleefully conflates categories blurring the line between hatchback and SUV. So, is BMW sneaking a hot hatch onto the market by calling it a sport activity crossover, or has it just made a SAC of soft, high-riding intellectual treachery?

It’s hard to know for sure from looking at the X2. The proportions could go either way on the crossover-hatchback spectrum. But unlike, say, the Pontiac Aztec, BMW has judged the looks correctly here. Normally, I don’t like digging too deeply into appearances because it’s such a personal thing and I really can’t claim to be an aesthete, but in this case, I received enough looks from passers-by to convince me that the X2 is attractive. I’ve driven around town in some very special vehicles, but few have attracted as many curious glances and approving nods as the X2. And all from the right demographic (as far as BMW’s concerned).

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I wonder sometimes how any Millennial could possibly afford a BMW, but apparently, some can and the people looking at the X2 and asking me about it were without exception young, affluent, and fascinated. That’s a perfect score on the hip scale and even though I’m not 100% sold on the looks, even I have to admit that the car looks different. Maybe even interesting. Especially in its bright shade of Galvanic Gold — but no less in that lighter shade of Misano Blue Metallic — the X2 stands out.

And it’s not just color. BMW judged the massive grilles, the sharp headlights, and its profile perfectly, expertly walking the line between bold and conservative to make a car that’s just special enough to stand out, but not special enough to be weird. Something I only just now realized is the recipe for high school cool.

Inside, though, I’ll note that the X2 is about as interesting as a documentary about zinc. With dark materials contrasted against slightly darker materials that combine for an utterly forgettable experience completely devoid of the exterior’s charm, the interior of the X2 is as interesting as the interior of a cool kid in high school. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, but it feels cheap and I resent BMW for cheaping out anywhere on a $54,000 car.

Similarly, making the move from crossover (read: X1) to SAC (X2), you lose some cargo space. Whereas the X1 can accomodate 59 cubic feet of cargo, the X2’s profile cost it nearly 9 cubic feet of cargo space for a total of 50.1 cubic feet. The rear seats aren’t exactly spacious. Although they can accommodate my 6 foot frame while sitting behind a shorter driver, I couldn’t fit my knees behind my own seating position. So if you’re going to particularly photogenic festival with three friends, you may have to get strategic about who sits where.

But even though the X2’s interior is sub-optimal (to be perfectly German about it), it’s not catastrophic. Yes is has less cargo space than the X1, but it’s big enough for most people’s requirements. And sure, the back seats aren’t huge, but they’ll happily handle a couple of kids and tall people are used to being a little uncomfortable when in transit.

And even if the decor is less than stellar, you can ignore the appearance, because you’ll be having a good time driving the X2 around. Fitted with the M Sport suspension, and leaning on all the expertise of MINI’s chassis engineers (who are brilliant), the car feels great to drive. Which is actually a little surprising, since the X1 sucks the charm out of the chassis like a spider sucking organs out of a fly.

But where the X1 values mature spaces and smart storage solutions, the X2 trades some of its space and comfort for dashing looks and unsmooth acceleration. The upshot of unsmooth acceleration is that it feels fast. Even though the X2 actually makes the same 228 hp as the X1 and accelerates to 60 at the same pace as the X1 (0-60 in 6.4 seconds for both) the 0-10 mph leap makes it feel way more exciting and active. Again, BMW is showing its supreme judgment, sacrificing where it can and knowing where it can’t.

In sport mode, it sounds good in a throaty kind of way, with the 8-speed automatic transmission hanging onto gears longer than even I would have. The steering is also heavy and responsive. The suspension, meanwhile, is stiff, though not unreasonably so (it is, after all, for the youngins) giving you confidence through the corners. More importantly, though, it feels sporty. As I said, this is basically an X1, but these decisions have all made it feel like a completely different, much more engaging car.

You can talk all day about figures and acceleration numbers, but people will always buy the thing that feels right because that’s what really matters. And as it has so often up to now, BMW has wisely judged what matters and made a crossover that feels a lot more like a hot hatch than it does an SUV.

That’s not quite surprising, though, seeing as how this has about as much in common with an SUV as I do with a hippo. I mean, I know that no one’s really taking the X3 off-road, but the name crossover does make some promises about SUV-like capability. Apart from the two-box design, the hill descent mode, and the plastic cladding, why exactly does the X2 have any claims to the crossover title?

Sure, it rides a little higher than a hatchback, I guess, but with 180-ish mm of ground clearance, it’s less than an inch higher off the ground than a Golf. That makes it lower to the ground than a Golf Alltrack, a car widely noted for it not being an SUV.

But this is a “SAC.” And no matter how unfortunate that initialism is, it’s a good thing. What vehicle shy of a Jeep Wrangler actually goes off-road? I don’t mean which SUV can go off-road. Which one actually does? I don’t think anyone paying north of $50,000 for a vehicle they actually depend on to get to work is going to risk tearing off their bumper or gouging their paint to go overlanding. It’s about as silly as, oooh, I dunno, designing a racecar for the road. I get the appeal, but it’s just not reasonable.

As a result, BMW’s decision to make it a crossover in name only is fine by me. You’re no less likely to go off-roading in this than in an X3. Frankly, you’re no less likely to willingly hit a pothole in this than in an X3. It’s absolutely high enough to get out of your driveway after the snowplow passes next winter and that, frankly, is good enough. And it has XDrive (which I will remind you is not a feature of SUVs since every car under the sun is now available with AWD) so you’ll be confident enough to drive it when the road conditions become sub-optimal.

Calling this a hot hatch, just yet, is still a bit of a stretch. Sure, it’s quick, but only enough. And sure, it looks neat and this one came with a fancy M Sport spoiler, but spoiler alert: it does nothing. When the X2 M inevitably comes out (as sure as the sun shall rise) it will be a hot hatch, in the true sense of the word. But BMW may have sneaked an enthusiast’s car onto the market under the guise of being a mass market car, and that’s how all the best hot hatches came about.

The Verdict: 2018 BMW X2 Review

I’m still not 100% sold on the X2. It’s good, but I’m a little skeptical. I don’t really care for SUVs and its cross-categorical skullduggery remind me a little of the Aztec, but wasn’t that kind of a brilliant car in retrospect? Would you really own one, though?

Ultimately, the X2 is not a hot hatch. But it took me a second to figure that out. That’s because even though the name makes it sounds like a crossover, it’s a little low, and a bit quick, and it just doesn’t feel like a crossover. Categories are tough. Maybe it’s OK that BMW’s complicating things.

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