First Drive: 2018 BMW X2

BMW nudges the X2 towards the sportier side of the luxury SUV market.

2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i

BMW builds a shorter, lower, and sportier version of the X1 SUV. Is the X2 a better choice, or does it lose the sport-utility plot?

By Nick Kurczewski, Contributor, Car-ED.com | September 2018


The 2018 BMW X2 is a racier-looking version of the existing BMW X1. A punchy four-cylinder engine and sharp handling give the X2 a dynamic edge, but is that enough when squared-off against the best from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Cadillac, Lincoln, Lexus, and Acura?

What is this vehicle?

The 2018 BMW X2 is based on the taller and longer X1 sport-utility, the German automaker’s smallest entry in the red-hot market for affordable luxury SUVs. Rivals to the X2 include the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, Lincoln MKC, Volvo XC40, Lexus NX, Audi Q3, Cadillac XT4, and Infiniti QX30. Instead of emphasizing the amount of cup-holders and available cargo space, BMW has opted to focus the new X2 on the sportier side of the sport-utility segment. This is why the X2 is roughly three inches shorter than the X1, though it rides on an identical wheelbase. That’s a good thing, since it means the X2 doesn’t skimp on rear legroom, which is a key factor for many SUV buyers – even ones who don’t need third-row seating, or the towing capacity of a big-rig truck.

With a starting price of $36,400, the X2 is more a couple thousand dollars more expensive than the mechanically-identical X1. With its lower stance and more pronounced front grille, not to mention a pair of BMW badges affixed to each C-pillar, the X2 makes a strong visual statement – especially when it’s painted in Galvanic Gold Metallic, like our test vehicle. A turbocharged four-cylinder is coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission. In standard trim, power is sent to the front wheels, and adding all-wheel drive will cost an additional $2,000.

Who is this vehicle for?

The 2018 BMW X2 will appeal to young families who want to look hip, or empty nesters who like the BMW SUV image, but don’t necessarily require massive amounts of interior space. In this regard, the stylish X2 pushes many of the right buttons. This is a sport-utility for people who don’t want the dumbed-down driving dynamics of a family hauler. The power and handling of this BMW make it feel similar to a sport sedan, or a high performance station-wagon – though we understand calling anything wagon-like is the death knell for any vehicle.

What’s especially nice is that the X2 isn’t all about making a styling statement. The attractive and functional cabin is pretty much identical to what you’ll find in the X1. While some SUV shoppers might prefer a little more razzle-dazzle for the extra money they’re paying for an X2, we think this is a fine compromise. The dashboard layout is easy to understand, there is plenty of room in the front and back (though three-across on the rear seat is going to be a squeeze). There is also a useful amount of cargo space behind the split-folding second row. With the seat backs in place, the available 21.6 cubic feet of room is more than enough for routine errands.

Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?

When a brand bills itself as building “the ultimate driving machine,” you can bet that existing owners, car shoppers, and auto journalists are all going to cast a skeptical eye towards a niche vehicle like the X2. Many companies like to pretend the SUV they’re selling is more about extreme driving and razor-sharp handling. At best, they can be mid-pack in terms of dynamic thrills, and often resort to programmable drive modes – or extremely expensive performance variants – to make any true case for themselves.

The X2, on the other hand, isn’t trying too hard. Yes, the rear seat doesn’t offer the last word in total stretch-out room. There are also plenty more SUVs that deliver higher cargo volume, or the convenience of an available third-row seat. But the X2 surprises for being so athletic, the handling feels dialed into the road, while the 228-horsepower turbo four-cylinder provides more excitement than its relatively modest output might suggest. BMW estimates that an X2 in front-wheel drive format accelerates from 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds. When fitted with all-wheel drive, this time drops to 6.3 seconds.

Interesting facts about this vehicle!

Basically, you’re looking at a BMW X1 in athletic gear. Beneath the sheet-metal, the two BMW SUVs are virtually identical. So why would you pay more for the X2 when the X1 already exists?

  • Because it rides on the same 105.1 inch wheelbase as the X1, the X2 gives up very little when it comes to available rear leg room. The two SUVs are almost identical in this regard.
  • The 228-horsepower four-cylinder is not only more powerful than you might imagine, this engine also returns some impressive economy averages. In front-wheel drive format, the X2 returns 21 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway.
  • One of the X2’s most notable design flourishes are the BMW roundel logos, mounted on each C-pillar. This is a nod to classic BMW sport models, particularly the original M1 supercar from the late-1970s.
  • Despite being brand new for the 2018 model year, the BMW X2 finds itself facing similarly new rivals like the Jaguar E-Pace, Cadillac XT4, and Volvo XC40. The market for small luxury SUVs is absolutely going wild, so the competition is extremely fierce. BMW’s two-pronged approach with the more practical X1, and wilder X2, is a novel approach.

What Impressed Us / Top Likes:

You can pore over the X2’s spec sheet and dimensions all you want, but the real fun is to be had when you’re behind the wheel.

  • The handling of the X2 proves BMW engineers still know what it takes to build a great driving machine. The steering is linear and precise, you feel in constant control and the refined ride takes any pain and hassle out of long drives. While the overall power isn’t going to come anywhere close to overwhelming the chassis or all-wheel drive system (as fitted to our test vehicle), it’s refreshing to drive a vehicle that doesn’t feel like a one-trick-pony. The X2 proves you don’t need tons of horsepower to enjoy yourself behind the wheel.
  • Adding the available M Sport package takes the design up another notch. For approximately $4,000, this includes more aggressive front and rear bumper treatments, with larger air intakes below the front grille. It also includes 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic moonroof, and a small spoiler at the top of the rear hatchback. An M Sport performance suspension can also be added for an extra $400. Just remember, with the M Sport Package already costing more than $4,000 extra, you can make the X2 very pricey with liberal use of the options sheet.
  • The X2 really stands out, especially with some of the optional colors that are available. If bright gold isn’t your thing, BMW also offers a couple fetching shades of blue, not to mention a vivid metallic orange. There are eight color choices in total and, yes, you can always opt for a resale-friendlier-shade of silver, black, or white.
  • We love loading on the options but, with the BMW X2, it makes sense to choose carefully. Adding everything can nudge the price beyond $50,000, which is steep for a small SUV. Adding all-wheel drive makes sense if you live where weather conditions mean having some extra grip is a smart and safe bet. In terms of actual safety features, the BMW X2 offers the highly recommended Driving Assistance Package. For only $700, this includes safety items like lane keep assist, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beams. Admit it, you can probably live without the M Sport alloy wheels and massive moonroof. Save your money and add the safety options, instead.

Items to Make Better (Least Favorite Things):

As we’ve already mentioned, adding lots of options makes the BMW X2 a less convincing sales proposition. If you can keep things simple, the X2 remains a classy and entertaining SUV indulgence.

  • While rear legroom between the X1 and X2 remains about the same, you do lose roughly two inches of rear headroom in the X2. That can make a big difference if your passengers are tall, or when loading extra large and cumbersome cargo.
  • If you expect a BMW logo to mean massive amounts of power, the X2 could leave you wanting more. We love the turbo four-cylinder’s balance of economy and power, though it’s not the most melodious engine we’ve ever driven. At times, it sounds flat and fairly generic.
  • The ride is on the firmer side of the SUV spectrum. That suits us but, if you’re coming from a cushier SUV with a softer ride, the X2’s harder suspension settings could come across as feeling cheap, or under-developed. If you’d rather trade a pillow-soft and whisper-quiet ride for extra cornering excitement, this won’t be a problem.
  • BMW charges an extra $300 for Apple CarPlay compatibility. Many economy cars now include this feature, along with Android Auto, for free. Really, BMW?

Segment and Competitors:

The small luxury SUV segment is growing by leaps and bounds. We mentioned a few of the BMW X2’s direct competitors, but there are many more to choose among. The harder decision might be whether you want the slinkier styling of the X2, or the slightly more practical (and less expensive) X1. The X1 has a starting price of roughly $2,500 less than the X2, which is a sizable difference even in the world of BMW SUVs.

  • BMW X1
  • Lexus NX
  • Audi Q3
  • Infiniti QX30
  • Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
  • Volvo XC40
  • Cadillac CT4
  • Jaguar E-Pace
  • Lincoln MKC
  • Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

Unique Specifications:

Our 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i was well-equipped and fitted with optional all-wheel drive and the M Sport Package, including the M Sport suspension tuning. If you add just about every available option onto the X2, the price can break the $50,000 barrier.

Pricing and Availability:

The 2018 BMW carries a starting price of $36,400, excluding the $995 destination charge. The X2 is on-sale now and available at dealerships.