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BMW X2 2019 review: M35i

EXPERT RATING
7.9
Australia hasn't drawn the BMW X2 to its SUV-buying bosom. The M35i is late to the performance SUV party, but to make up for it, it's cheap(er than some of its main rivals). But is it good?

As is often the case, BMW has come late to a really good party. One imagines there was some chatter about making a quick X1 but that would have been an answer to a question few people thought to ask. It's not a racy-looking machine and perhaps its more prosaic aims as a compact SUV ruled it out. Or the hangover from the weird first generation.

The X2's Paris Motor Show debut a couple of years ago signalled BMW's second entrant in the compact SUV segment, but this one looked fast standing still. Most of it made it to production - including the C-pillar BMW badges, sadly - but there was no promise of a fast one.

Weirdly, the Australian market hasn't really taken to the X2 as enthusiastically as I thought it might and I wondered if it was because there was no headline act - Mercedes has the guilty pleasure of mine, the AMG GLA45, and Audi the completely bonkers RS Q3. But the headline act has arrived in the form the of the X2 M35i - perhaps this will suddenly get us a bit more interested.

BMW X2 2019: M35i
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$68,900

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

I often find that those late to a party bring the cheapest bottle of wine, having been caught short by their own tardiness. BMW has done something similar here - the X2 M35i is $16,000 cheaper than the RSQ3. It's a whopping $23,200 cheaper than the GLA45. Context: you could get a top-spec X2 and a Suzuki Swift Sport for similar money to the flagship GLA.

Obviously it's not cheap, and it isn't as powerful as the AMG, but it's a lot of money saved and little, if any, performance lost.

Standard on the Australian-delivered X2 M35i are 20-inch alloys, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, electric tailgate, keyless entry and start, power everything, electric and heated front seats, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, Alcantara on the seats, auto parking, head-up display and run-flat tyres.

The 8.8-inch screen on the dash runs BMW's iDrive 6.0 software with its impressive sat nav and easy-to-use rotary dial interface. Apple CarPlay is standard as a three-year subscription (ie you have to renew it), which is a start, at least. 

At the centre of the cabin is an 8.8-inch media screen with Apple CarPlay. At the centre of the cabin is an 8.8-inch media screen with Apple CarPlay.

If you get the $2900 Enhance Package you get a big panoramic sunroof, metallic paint and wireless charging for your phone. That last thing is extra useful as CarPlay is wireless in BMWs (hurrah!) but bigger phones don't fit in the charging unit (boo!). Luckily there's a USB port to keep you going... but only one up front. In the rear there are two fast-charging USB-C ports.

My test car didn't have the package but had the sunroof ($2457 on its own), wireless charging ($200) and Driving Assistant Plus ($910, includes lane keep assist).

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The X2 is by far the prettiest of the even-numbered Xes. While it shares a lot of heritage with the X1, the shorter X2 is way cooler. Designed by Sebastian Simm, it's a bit more at the lifestyle end of things. The headlights are sleeker than the X1, it has its own distinctive rendition of the BMW kidney grille (it looks like it's upside down) and on the M35i, it's satin grey rather than chrome. Like other BMW SUVs - sorry, SACs - the wheel-arches are squared off a little, for more "stance" according to Simm. I'm a big fan of the shapely rear lights, too. 

The X2 is by far the prettiest of the even-numbered BMW X SUV. The X2 is by far the prettiest of the even-numbered BMW X SUV.74409##

The nose is quite high and bluff, but the efforts to stop it from being too square-rigged has worked wonders - only from some angles does it look a bit like it kissed a wall.

The M35i features a huge set of 20-inch alloys that look the business, deeper front and rear bumpers and those dud silver caps on the mirrors.

Standard on the X2 M35i are 20-inch alloy wheels. Standard on the X2 M35i are 20-inch alloy wheels.

Inside, it's pretty familiar and the tail-end of BMW's long-standing design philosophy. Lots of grey plastic, a small, hooded instrument pack and a decent-sized screen perched on the dash. I liked the Alcantara trim on the seats but wasn't a fan of the 90s-looking blue pattern on the seats.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The X2 is smaller than the X1 and if you step out of the latter, you'll notice. The roof is lower and its shorter overall, meaning some compromise. But only a little. The rear seats have plenty of room for people up to 180cm, with the roof lining thinning for that extra bit of headroom and just enough legroom, as Richard Berry discovered when he first drove the car.

The rear seats have plenty of room for people up to 180cm. The rear seats have plenty of room for people up to 180cm.

The boot starts at 470 litres with all seats in place and then 1355 with the 40/20/40 split-fold rear seats down.

  • With the rear seats in place, there's 470 litres of cargo space. With the rear seats in place, there's 470 litres of cargo space.
  • With all the seats down, boot space grows to 1355 litres. With all the seats down, boot space grows to 1355 litres.

Front seat passengers have two cupholders under the centre stack and a couple of slots for odds ends. All are covered by a sliding two piece cover. The armrest contains the wireless charging cradle and, as I've already said, won't hold an iPhone XS in its sliding plastic jaw - it won't open wide enough.

Rear seat passengers score a further two cupholders and each door has a bottle holder and pocket.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

BMW's B48 modular 2.0-litre four-cylinder can be found across front, rear and all-wheel drive cars in both BMWs and Minis. The X2's Mini origins means its engine is slung across the engine bay - sDrive X2s are front-wheel drive.

The 2.0-litre four cylinder makes 225kW/450Nm. The 2.0-litre four cylinder makes 225kW/450Nm.

Developing 225kW and 450Nm, this engine might fall short of the AMG's hand-built 2.0-litre and Audi's 2.5 five cylinder, but it's more than enough for to send the M35i to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. You can activate the launch control if you want, but the all-wheel drive system and eight-speed ZF automatic are perfectly capable of doing the job.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The usual government-approved lab testing produced a combined cycle fuel efficiency figure of 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, aided by stop-start and braking energy recovery.

Pops and bangs cost fuel, though, and they're fun and who doesn't like a poppy-bangy performance car? I certainly like it, which means I burnt through fuel at a rate of 9.7L/100km. On reflection, that's not terrible for the kind of performance on offer.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The X2 has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, forward AEB (only at low speeds - it works at up to 50km/h, and can reduce the speed of the car to 15km/h, but won't stop it completely), with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, auto high beam, speed sign recognition and reminder. There is no adaptive cruise and no high-speed AEB, and no rear AEB, blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert.

There are three top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX points.

The X2 scored five ANCAP stars in February 2018.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

BMWs leave the dealership with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist tossed into bargain. Three years is a bit ho-hum for lesser machinery but appears fine up here in the German layer of the atmosphere.

You can prepay your servicing for five years. BMW has long called their service intervals "condition-based servicing." Basically, the car tells you when to come in for a service. You can buy the basic service package for $1550 upfront, which is the same as the lower models, so that's not bad.

By contrast, the GLA45 will cost you $2880 over just three years (second and third services are $1152 each) and the RSQ3 will shake you down for $2320 over three years or $3380 over five.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

Down to business. The X2 M35i is terrific fun. 

The engine is a good place to start. Fitted with a silly farting and popping exhaust that appeals to my inner eight-year-old, it's a BMW with plenty of character from the get-go.

Flooring it from a standing start means a brief interlude while the twin-scroll turbo starts spooling up and then wham, you're in second and passing 100km/h. Once you're underway, the transmission keeps the M35i on the boil, giving you that lovely big slab of torque when you need it for overtaking or hauling out of the corners.

Speaking of which, the fitment of a proper mechanical limited-slip differential up front is inspired. You can pile into corners indecently quickly and then get back on the power very early, the front wheels sorting themselves out and drawing the car tightly to where you point it. It's a familiar feeling to the GLA45 but without the underpadded seats and hard-riding nonsense that goes with it. Both are on a different planet to the hilarious RSQ3.

The ride is a point worth dwelling on - it's really good and it all happens without adaptive damping like on the other two. It won't be winning any straight spine awards, no, but the combination of grippy seats and good compliance over lumps and bumps means the M35i is surprisingly comfortable. It rides no lower than an M Sport pack equipped X2 but the M magic has wrought a much more responsive front end, a sticky rear end and a good time lesser X2s don't have.

And of course, you want the brakes to back-up the power. The M Performance brakes are very strong and filled me with confidence. Some people complain about BMW brakes but that absolute hammering they need before these complaints arise seems churlish.

Verdict

If the X2 M35i doesn't wake Australia up to the charms of the X2, then perhaps we're dead inside. This car is brilliant fun, reasonably practical and goes about the business of going fast with a childish glee.

Unusually for BMW it's extraordinarily competitively priced and by competitive I mean cheaper than its obvious rivals by quite some margin. One of its rivals is faster but it's also harder to live with and the other one is old and about to depart this Earth.

What this car also tells us is that despite BMW's smallest cars going to four-cylinders and front- or all-wheel drive, the fast stuff is in no danger of being boring.

Does the BMW X2 light your fire? Or does Audi or Mercedes have your heart? Let us know in the comments.

Pricing Guides

$57,900
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$46,900
Highest Price
$68,900

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Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M35i 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $68,900 2019 BMW X2 2019 M35i Pricing and Specs
sDrive 18i 1.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $46,900 2019 BMW X2 2019 sDrive 18i Pricing and Specs
sDrive 18i M SPORT 1.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $50,280 2019 BMW X2 2019 sDrive 18i M SPORT Pricing and Specs
sDrive 18i M SPORT X 1.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $50,280 2019 BMW X2 2019 sDrive 18i M SPORT X Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership7
Driving9
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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