2019 BMW X2 M35i Review: A Hot Hatch in Disguise

When the BMW X1 and X2 debuted a short while ago, it was hard to get overly excited about these crossovers. Since they use a platform from MINI, they didn’t feel as engaging as “true” BMWs, and, worst of all, they had less personality than their MINI counterparts.

The X2 was supposed to be the more “emotional” of the two small BMWs, with its sportier coupe-like styling, but I still found it lacking. It did have good driving dynamics, but it wasn’t quite the dramatic car I was expecting it to be. If anything, it felt a bit stiffer, but that was hardly enough to get me excited about driving it. This new M35i model, though, now that’s another story.

The first chapter of the story is under the hood, where BMW turbocharged its 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo to the tune of 302 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. This is seriously an overachieving engine and is the result of the automaker tinkering with every single part of the internal combustion engine. Components have been beefed up, cooling has been upgraded, and airflow is better managed. The motor is beastly for a little four-cylinder. I even wondered if it was one of the brand’s usually stellar inline-sixes for a short while.

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The motor is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. There’s also an M Sport exhaust system with big tailpipes that sounds aggressive and childish, popping and burping while under pressure. This is the emotional and dramatic small BMW crossover I was looking for when the car first debuted.

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The powertrain is effective at getting the job done if that job is speed. The sprint to highway speeds occurs in under 5 seconds, which is plenty quick (even faster than the new, lightweight Z4 convertible), meaning this crossover is doing a lot of work to keep it going fast. There’s a launch control function as well as a mechanical, M Sport differential that’s fitted to the front axle. The diff helps control the amount of power sent to the front wheels so that there’s always traction and a limited amount of loss due to slippage. I can’t say it enough: the X2 M35i is a blast to drive. Dropping a gear and putting your foot down is a task that rewards you with a ton of speed and a smile on your face — something that hasn’t happened in a BMW (save for the M2) in some time. And those gear changes are doled out quickly and fairly often, especially when the transmission is in the sports mode.

It’s impressive. The powerplant, the speed, and the noises that come from this X2 give it an extra advantage over all the other crossovers in its class. It’s even more interesting than the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, its closest competitor, which is getting dated.

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The handling and braking of the X2 M35i are also up to the challenge of turning this crossover into something more engaging. The suspension is 10 mm lower with stiffer spring and damper rates, and you can get an adaptive damper suspension with two adjustable modes for added versatility and comfort. The lowered and stiff suspension makes the X2 look more like a hot hatch than a crossover. It’s a good look, and it feels right too. The ride is definitely firm, but that’s the price for a sportier and more responsive car. There are new brakes as well, and you’ll notice the dark blue brake calipers lurking behind the fancy wheels.

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The X2 rides nothing like a crossover or anything close to one. It will definitely remind you of a sporty compact hatchback except with a slightly higher seat position. It feels planted, connecting the road to the driver through its suspension and steering, which are probably the best among all other compact crossovers. If anything the X2 M35i deserves to be mentioned alongside sporty compact hatchbacks like the VW Golf R, Honda Civic Type R, and maybe even the Subaru WRX STI.

The interior is a bit more special as well, but not by much. While the thick M Sports steering wheel is standard and features paddle shifters, the vehicle also is offered with optional M Sport seats, which are race-car inspired buckets with aggressive bolsters and an integrated headrest. The materials are passable with nothing too luxurious or fancy, while the piano black trim attracted a lot of dust and fingerprints. The buttons also feel a bit less than premium. However, there are a few high-tech standouts. The X2 is available with a color head-up display, and the infotainment system features wireless Apple CarPlay support.

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The vehicle can come equipped with some driver assistance features including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. The issue is that when you throw all these features into an X2, it ends up costing quite a bit. The X2 M35i starts at $47,445, which is over $10,000 more than the standard, front-wheel drive X2 sDrive28i, and about $8,000 more than the all-wheel-drive X2 xDrive28i. Add a few features and the slick extra cost paint finish, and you’ll see that price rocket past $55,000. That’s a lot of money to pay for a compact crossover, even if it’s sporty and fun to drive.

The Verdict: 2019 BMW X2 M35i Review

Enthusiasts and BMW fanatics may be willing to spend that kind of money on one of the smaller and less luxurious vehicles in the brand’s lineup, but I’m not sure everyone would take that leap. That’s a bit of a shame because the X2 M35i is a fantastic driving car and one that exudes BMW’s confident, sporty personality in a way that many of its other cars don’t.

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