Sweet, sour notes for BMW X2 SAV coupé in 'idol test'
Great engine and cabin but watch prices
They say you should never meet your idols; you are bound to be disappointed. I'm not sure about that. I remember feeling that way about a Neil Diamond concert once. Not his fault; still like him. I expected too much. Yet I was enthralled to meet Alex Ferguson and excited to interview George Best once. (I wonder how meeting Sandra Bullock would go?)
A similar sort of thing can happen with cars, I find. Some fall flat; others give that feeling of promise fulfilled. Here's how it can go: We get pictures of a new model amid a barrage of PR hyperbole. Then we see it in concept guise at a motor show. But when we get to sit in and drive, the illusion can be shattered: there's grey ould plastic, the design has been tamed or the 'driving dynamics' are non-existent.
The pleasant surprises are less frequent, I'm afraid. So it was with some foreboding I approached testing BMW's new small crossover coupé, the X2. I raved about the look of the concept at Paris 2016. And they swore they'd change little for the mass-produced car. I've heard that before, but this time they didn't. We get one of the best-looking BMWs around.
But what about the inside, the drive, the feel? Would they lack the sense of occasion? I was to find that, like the Neil Diamond concert, there were high, and some low, notes.
First, however, a little bit about the X2. Calling it an SAV coupé means, I think, they're trying to say it's not your everyday 'SUV'. Certainly it is low and chunky rather than tall and 'muscular'. It draws heavily on the X1 (proper) crossover. Evidence of the link is everywhere. Both cars have a 2,670mm wheelbase and similar width, but the X2 is 49mm shorter and 69mm lower.
It is, though, a world away on looks/design. They want lots of younger/young-at-heart people to drive one so it has to strike a different chord.
I'd driven it abroad last year but was still surprised at how low it sat (not a criticism). More an elevated hatch, it is easily the best looking among rivals that include the Audi Q3, Jaguar E-Pace and Mercedes GLA. So much for the prelude. Let's twist again.
The inside, in my wildly specced-up review car (are people going to spend nearly €60,000 on such extravagance? - No), is an example of what can be done to create a driving environment. My cabin was tasty but not loud, like a good backing group. I really liked the seats, the blue 'highlighting' and how the ambient lighting evoked an intimate sort of small-concert feel to the interior on night drives.
The stitched leather dash was easy on the eye and touch, too (and there was I wondering why the car gets pricey so quickly).
The front sports seats were strong and sturdy but there is no way BMW's claim of accommodating up to five adults (three at rear) can stand real-world scrutiny. I was pleased, though, with the usable luggage space (runs to 470 litres: 35 fewer than the X1).
As it happened I needed to flatten the 'three' rear seats so that, laden with boxes and memories, we could head to the midlands to, among other things, see our home-town team take a pounding from old rivals.
The 2-litre diesel was quiet, brilliantly insulated, smooth and with real power and pickup (excellent 8spd auto). This proves diesel is not dead. Excellent. There are petrols too for the sub-15,000km club.
My all-wheel-drive test car had the slightly lowered and stiffened M Sport suspension. As well as that, its lower centre of gravity meant the body didn't lean much - many taller crossovers lean like hell. Handling and ride were, overall, on the solid side of sporty.
But there were a few sour notes. The 19ins run-flat tyres clunked heavily over ridges and ruts - an unwelcome and otherwise uncharacteristic intrusion. It has been a while since I've noticed such a run-flat effect. There was some road noise on coarse surfaces, but generally we were well cocooned. On the motorway the drive was exemplary, swift and silent; thoroughly enjoyed it.
The driving position is quite low; not towering as in most crossovers. I had to adjust my seating/steering-wheel relationship many times. That's not so good. I like to sit high but I never got my optimum position.
Alongside that was the poor-enough visibility out the rear/ tailgate window (a victim of the 'coupé' design).
It's a drawback only partially resolved by excellent wing mirrors. Surprisingly, there was noticeable wind noise around the top of the front doors.
Yet despite my sour notes, it was impossible not to like the car - its look and drive. Just watch for how quickly options drive up prices.
Its clever design, assured drive and smartly packaged interior mean the X2 can join the minority that, largely, pass the 'idol' test.
FACTS & FIGURES
BMW X2 small Sports Activity Coupé xDrive 20d MSport: 190bhp, €270 road tax, 126g/km, from 4.6l/100km/58.9mpg.
Price: 20d versions from €51,935. Car on test w/options: €58,132. Range starts: €43,985 (X2 sDrive18d SE).
Spec includes: Cloth/alcantara anthracite/blue highlight, 19ins alloys, LED headlights, M Sport suspension, sport front seats, auto air con, cruise control, Park Distance Control, reversing camera, ConnectedDrive (emergency call, online services, etc), control display with satnav, run-flat tyres, comfort access, front and rear, remote steering wheel controls, 8spd auto, Thatcham alarm, rear spoiler.