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2018 BMW X2 review: The case of the curious crossover

The X2 "coupeover" is a niche within a niche.

Emme Hall
Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
5 min read

Utility vehicles of all shapes and sizes are flooding the market right now -- in addition to traditional SUVs , we've got crossovers , coupe crossovers, compact crossovers, subcompact crossovers, sport crossovers, sport subcompact coupeovers, ad infinitum. It's getting to the point where these CUV models differ so slightly from one another, it's hard to understand why you'd buy one over the other.

2018 BMW X2 hero

2018 BMW X2

The Good

A strong powerplant and snappy transmission give the X2 a bit of verve. Plenty of room for front passengers.

The Bad

Love-it-or-leave-it design ethos. Driving aids are pricey and Apple CarPlay is a $300 option.

The Bottom Line

It's tough to recommend the X2 when it's smaller than the X1, costs more and doesn't offer any noticeably better driving dynamics.

Case in point, the 2018 BMW X2.

Watch this: 5 things you need to know about the 2018 BMW X2

A coupe in name only

The X2 is purported to be a "Sports Activity Coupe" version of the subcompact X1 crossover. (I love the term "coupeovers" for these things.) In reality, it's more like a tall wagon that's kinda-sorta coupelike in the back. Sure, the X2 is a bit shorter and lower than an X1, but the roofline isn't raked enough to really warrant that coupe designation. Never mind the fact that, you know, it's a four-door utility vehicle...

Regardless, the X2 strikes a confident pose on the road, with a few interesting design bits. The automaker's traditional kidney grille is flipped to be wider at the bottom, and the C-pillar rocks huge BMW badges. Speaking of which, if you include M Sport badges, you'll count 20 different logos across the X2. Rejoice, ye brand flashers.

2018 BMW X2
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2018 BMW X2

I almost missed the tiny M logo on the steering wheel. 

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Premium trimmings, but a lot less space

It might not look very coupe-ish from the outside, but the smaller dimensions are really noticeable inside the cabin. The tiny rear glass gives you a condensed view of what's behind, and while legroom is pretty much the same as the larger X1, rear headroom is reduced by more than 2 inches. I'm 5 feet, 9 inches, and my head brushes the headliner.

Utility takes a noticeable hit, too. There's a maximum of 50.1 cubic feet of cargo space, a huge reduction from the 58.7 cubes available in the X1. That's 37 fewer 12-packs of Diet Dr. Pepper, folks!

Otherwise, the interior is mostly made up of high-quality, premium materials, though some hard plastics are found on lower trim panels. The front seats offer lots of headroom and there are plenty of storage cubbies for phones, wallets, half-eaten breakfast burritos or whatever else you might bring along.

Costly tech

The X2 comes with BMW's typical suite of iDrive infotainment tech, housed in an available 8.8-inch screen that you can control either by touch, or via the rotary dial on the center console. Curiously, the X2 only offers a single USB port, though wireless smartphone charging is available as an option.

2018 BMW X2: The kinda-sorta coupeover

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Apple CarPlay is available, too -- for $300 -- and has wireless capability, though I find it to be a bit more trouble than it's worth. You can't really use it when you're also relying on the car's Wi-Fi network, since your phone can only be connected to one thing at a time. It's fine when you're in cell signal range, but when I'm trying to send emails during a video shoot in the remote countryside, it's not so helpful. Otherwise, CarPlay works as advertised, and while it's kind of a hassle to set it up the first time, iDrive lets you switch between its standard display and Apple's interface right on the home screen. If you want Android Auto, you're out of luck.

As for driver assistance tech, it's hit or miss. Blind-spot monitoring isn't available at all, and in order to get lane departure and forward collision warning, you have to upgrade to a $700 package. Adaptive cruise control is an additional $1,000. It's really hard to justify this nickel-and-diming when you consider that far less expensive cars -- like Toyota's subcompact C-HR -- offer all of this stuff as standard equipment.

Confident dynamics

Every X2 comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine, knocking out 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, but my tester has BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive, as well as the optional M Sport X package that includes an upgraded suspension and different shift mapping for the eight-speed automatic transmission.

The X2 handles twisty back roads with confidence, the transmission firing off quick shifts whether left to its own devices, or via the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. A Sport setting adds some urgency to throttle response and a bit more weight to the steering, though there's a noticeable lack of feedback through the wheel no matter what drive mode you're in. It's hard to discern exactly how much grip the Pirelli Cinturato P7 all-season run-flat tires have at any given time.

2018 BMW X2
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2018 BMW X2

The signature kidney grille gets thrown for a loop on the X2.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Stop-and-go commuting is also a bit of a chore, thanks to nonlinear braking feel at low speeds. It actually feels like the brake pedal is sticky, and I often have to apply more force than feels appropriate. The X2 also has more wind and road noise than I'd expect in a premium car; those run-flat tires are partially to blame.

With all-wheel drive, the X2 is estimated to achieve 21 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, which bests the economy of the Audi Q3 and Jaguar E-Pace, but falls short of the Volvo XC40. During my time with the X2, I only saw a dismal combined rating of 21.4 mpg, but remember, your mileage may vary.

How I'd spec it

While the X2 starts at $36,400 for a front-drive model, the price can climb very quickly. The Sunset Orange Metallic test car you see here, with the M Sport X pack, Wi-Fi, wireless cell phone charging and more, stickers for $50,920, including $995 for destination.

2018 BMW X2
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2018 BMW X2

19-inch wheels are also part of the M Sport X package.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

For my X2, I'd save $4,650 by not opting for the M Sport X package, since it doesn't actually add any noticeable performance upgrades. However, I would add the $4,950 Premium Package, since it gets me satellite radio, a panoramic sunroof, head-up display and onboard navigation. Adaptive cruise control is another must-have, even at $1,000, as is Apple CarPlay, for another $300. All in, my ideal X2 is a much easier-to-digest $44,295.

Why buy?

There's nothing bad about the X2; it's as fine as any other subcompact crossover. But therein lies the problem.

The X2 costs a full $2,500 more than the X1 on which it's based, yet offers less interior space without the benefit of a more engaging driving experience. For a niche car like this, it needs a lot more differentiation to really be worth the added cost.

2018 BMW X2 hero

2018 BMW X2

Score Breakdown

Performance 7.5Features 7Design 7Media 7