2018 BMW X2 M Sport X Line sDrive20i
Pictures courtesy of Tim Brand Photography

YOU know when you want an SUV, but you don’t really want an SUV? The brand spanking new 2018 BMW X2 M Sport X Line SDrive20i is the first of a sporty extension to BMW’s popular X family.

The Bavarians would have it that this model sees the birth of a whole new vehicle category, and after a week behind the wheel, we tend to agree with them.

There’s no denying its brooding good looks. From the front the X2 screams ‘performance’ and owes its appearance more to the M2 than the X1, an initial indication that the subtle M stripe badging might be warranted.

The shape is sleek and low, with BMW’s iconic chrome kidney grilles inverted and positioned low like a coupé. The high gloss, black bars of the grille are complemented by a bumper-full of equally black and glossy air inlets. Cue excitement. Obviously there’s a need for serious cooling.

The LED headlights are beautiful, complementing the sweep of the bonnet. Again, they owe more to coupé styling than SUV genes. And they’re not just for show, being some of the best headlights we’ve experienced.

The sexy aesthetic continues around the vehicle and Bavarian fans will be excited to see the return of BMW roundels on the c-pillars, a nice nod to its ancestry, in particular the legendary E9 Coupé.

The X2 has a neat and shapely rear, ours featuring an M rear spoiler. That neat rear end also sparks an argument – is this more of a hot hatch than an SUV? With its compact low lines it’s a slightly pedantic, yet valid, question.

But the X2 IS based on the same platform as its cousin, the X1. And really there’s not a lot of sacrifice for the rise in blood pressure. It still performs very well as a small SUV.

Under the bonnet you’ll find the highlight of the X2 – the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, chugging out 141kW of power and 280Nm torque, and doing zero to 100 in 7.7 seconds.

It’s paired with a front wheel drive, seven-speed dual-clutch Steptronic Sport automatic transmission, with double clutch and gearshift paddles. Despite conforming to SUV status, the X2 gives you a genuinely exciting sports drive.

Its low and wide shape, combined with M Sport suspension and an excellent stability control system, means the X2 sits ‘in’ the road and holds extremely well. This makes cornering in particular a whole lot of fun.

The only time we felt the front wheel drive was when flicking it fast out of one particular corner. But it was fleeting (and fun) with the stability control system dealing with any excessive front wheel torque almost immediately.

The M Sport suspension (standard in the Sport X) does make for a stiffer ride than most SUVs, but the feel of the road combined with the excellent handling and powerhouse engine might just reignite your love of driving.

Despite its cheekiness, the handling actually feels very solid and safe with particularly nice progressive braking, and light, responsive steering. This allows you to confidently embrace the fun and involving drive that the X2 offers.

Accelerating uphill will become a favourite pursuit. The transmission’s gear changes are so clean and agile you’ll just roar straight for the summit. For extra playfulness slip it into Sport Mode.

In Comfort Mode you don’t sacrifice much in performance but you see improved ride quality and lightness of steering. Eco Mode can feel a little sluggish at speed but is fine around town for added economy.

Speaking fuel conservation, the X2 features an idle-stop. It’s very responsive, with the engine powering as soon as your foot is off the brake. And it adds regular little zen moments to your day – turn the radio off and fully embrace them.

BMW lists the fuel consumption for this model at 6.0-litres/100km. We managed 8.8-litres with almost no Eco Mode use and an equal mix of city, freeway and suburban driving. Still pretty respectable.

Our vehicle featured 19-inch M light alloy wheels in a burnished Orbit Grey Y-spoke style, one of eight styles available. These are paired with run-flat Pirellis which are now standard on all Bimmers.

On a bad road the Pirellis can be like a trail horse, keen to take the well worn track. More evident at speed, it’s merely a niggle, not a problem. Fast cornering can jitter slightly too but beyond this they were lovely to drive on and contributed to the overall stability.

The boot is 470 litres with good access. It’s more than enough room to take a weekend’s worth of family paraphernalia. The rear seats also fold down very neatly for added load capacity, meaning a spend-up at Ikea is a doddle. Just leave the kids at home.

Inside, the X2 is suitably sumptuous. Even our lairy Sport X option of ‘Magma’ (a tomato-ish red) leather seats and trim, complemented by LED, ambient blue lighting around the glossy black door panels, magically sidestepped being a 90s clubbing nightmare and felt good.

The front sports seats are noticeably comfortable over hours of driving. In base position the driver’s seat sits low with a classic racing feel. For more visibility the seats are imminently adjustable, as is the steering column.

Pumping the driver’s seat upwards and applying a bit of forward tilt gives a smaller driver a great view and a more classic SUV positioning.

In the back it’s surprisingly generous with a good amount of leg room. Child car seats are easily fitted, and even with a car seat in, two more children can travel in relative comfort. It’s even adult-friendly.

There’s plenty of storage and cup holders for both front and back, and the front seat cup holders are at the nose-end of the centre console, so no elbowing your morning coffee. The centre console can also be easily raised to utilise the armrest when the seat is in a higher position.

The two-part sunroof is a lovely piece of optional kit. Open the roof up for a big, glass skylight, or a second nudge slides the glass back. A pop-up barrier ensures there’s no wind ruffling your coiffe but you do get some noise at higher speeds.

The dashboard displays are stylish, pared-back, analogue dials that are easy to read. Not that you have to glance often, with the head-up system projecting relevant information. It’s a nice, simple system, usually just displaying speed.

When you have navigation running you also get simple graphics to back up the main screen. Helpful but not distracting. The navigation itself is a simple and intuitive system with voice control to set your destination, and just the right amount of directional prompting.

There’s a mass of sophisticated safety features, expected kit in a BMW. Suffice to say it’s quite safe, with an ANCAP safety rating of 5 (based on the X1’s performance). And if it all fails you there’s always the standard issue first aid kit.

Driver assistance features come via the ConnectedDrive system and the 6.5-inch touch screen, including BMW’s camera-based Driving Assistant. These features are fairly standard at this price point but of course BMW do them well.

Connectivity comes via BMW’s Connected+ service. A snazzy new addition is the Share Live Trip Status that makes ETA texts a thing of the past. iPhone users will have to pay around $500 extra for the optional Apple CarPlay that enables easy, wireless use.

A worthwhile spend if you’re an Apple user. Surprisingly there’s only one USB connection. Perhaps due to wireless charging, but it seems needlessly stingy.

Ultimately though, the X2 is such a fun drive we can’t imagine wanting to hand too much control over to the clever, German, in-car computer fairies.

Pegged as the BMW for cashed up millennials, we think this vehicle is for anyone who wants to enjoy driving again. It’s set to reinstate the Sunday pleasure drive.

Oh, and that ‘new category’ claim? We’ll give BMW that one. We’re going to go with USV – Utility Sports Vehicle. Let’s see if it catches on.

Available in a range of nine metallic colours (and a non-metallic black or white), our test vehicle was Black Sapphire. There’s a range of colour, material and trim options and four optional packages are available – Innovations, Convenience, Comfort and Style Plus. Our vehicle had the latter.

Braked towing capacity is 1800kg, the same as the X1. Prices start from $55,900 plus on road costs. Keep an eye out for the down-spec’d 18i and 20d diesel model landing soon.

Our test vehicle was provided by BMW Australia. To find out more about the 2018 BMW X2 M Sport X Line sDrive20i, contact your local BMW dealer. Images courtesy of Tim Brand Photography.

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