Even allowing for what some will say are pretty superficial styling tweaks, the X2 does look a lot like another BMW hatchback in a showroom range that already has plenty of ‘em. Not really like an SUV, a coupé or, honestly, a particularly daring five-door – to this reviewer, at any rate.
That's not to say the X2 isn’t handsome. It's likeable enough, and it even draws the eye. Perhaps it was the particular specification of our test car, robbing it of the two-tone body treatment, that made the difference. Whatever the reason, if I’d gone out to find something genuinely ‘alternative’ and ‘rebellious’, I’m not sure this would cut it.
The biggest problem is that there’s the X1, which doesn’t look an awful lot different to this, and likewise the 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer, neither of which are a million miles away. A new 1 Series will arrive next year, too; wanna bet it’ll be more much for the general hatchback muchness? We’ll see. But didn’t BMW used to make saloons? Really good ones, if memory serves. The odd nice coupé, too. There can be no doubt that the size and shape of Munich’s average showroom model is changing rapidly, and clearly, we’ve all got to make the effort to keep up.
If the sight of the X2 makes you wonder exactly how different this car is in terms of dimensions from the X1, we’ll summarise: the X2 is 20mm shorter and 69mm lower to the ground (this rising to as much as 79mm with the M Sport or VDC suspension).
You could call it a crossover that’s been lowered back down to normal cruising altitude, as long as that idea doesn’t make you weep for simpler times, like it does me. Or you could just think of this as a big five-door hatchback with an extra dose of chunky SUV-esque visual presence; the yin to the yang of an absolutely conventional car like the Nissan Pulsar (for the record, the X2 is within an inch of the Pulsar on overall length and is less than half an inch taller at the kerb). Anyhow, does the classification process actually matter if you just happen to fancy one?
The X2’s driving position is pretty common-or-garden standard hatchback; it's a little bit higher than some but typically adjustable. It locates you in front of well-laid-out and adjustable controls, in a cabin that looks and feels a grade more upmarket than the crossover hatchback norm. It’s not quite in the league of one or two of the compact premium SUVs that are available for similar cash in terms of comfort or material richness, but, with contrast stitching on the dashboard and high-gloss trim aplenty on the centre console, it’s very pleasant.
Your view out is good, but it’s hardly a selling point, since you find yourself at a very similar height above the road as a lot of ordinary hatchbacks, looking through a glasshouse that isn’t particularly deep.
In the back, there’s respectable space for the heads, knees, elbow and feet of adult passengers, but no more than in the Pulsar or Vauxhall Astra. At least the X2's boot offers a useful improvement on that of a run-of-the-mill hatchback, at 470 litres.
There’s evidently a lot resting, then, on the dynamism of the X2’s driving experience. It's a good job that it’s present and correct, in that case. There are significantly more powerful engines to come as the model range is fleshed out, but even in middle-sitting-diesel 187bhp 20d form, the X2 is nicely pacey and responsive.
BMW’s 2.0-litre diesel revs with relative freedom over the last 1500rpm of its tacho travel, as BMW diesels tend to do, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox downstream of it channels the torque smartly and with slick, judicious shift timing.
The X2 has Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro driving modes, which manage the calibration of the engine, gearbox, stability control, power steering and, if fitted, adaptive dampers. There’s no Custom or Individual mode, without the likes of which many modern cars often frustrate by never quite being set up just-so. Thankfully, BMW does allow you to adopt the Sport mode’s more aggressive settings for the engine and drivetrain without having those of the suspension and steering, and that means you can configure the X2 quite well for use on UK roads.
Whatever mode you’ve selected, the X2 has the body control, grip level and steering response to appeal to the keener driver. It handles with an immediacy that isn’t far off hot hatch level, and it has commendable cornering balance, too, occasionally feeling like it’s being pushed neutral by its rear axle as well as being pulled up front in tighter corners.
With Sport mode set in its widest-reaching state, the X2’s steering weight can be a bit overbearing and its ride a shade unyielding over bumps. But when you dial out the chassis settings of that mode, the car’s composure and easy manageability both improve. The suspension remains firm-feeling even when thus set, mind you, and won’t suit drivers moving into a crossover for a greater sense of isolation from the road surface.
Our test car also suffers from significant ride noise and abruptness over rougher roads; a trait of many of BMW’s smaller models when fitted with run-flat tyres, we’ve found, and a good reason to think long and hard about saving a few quid by sticking with a lower trim level.