The 2018 BMW X2 crossover came out to mixed reactions from the enthusiast community, I still think the roundel badge on the C-pillar is a little much. But after doing a few hundred miles in one of these, I’ve decided the X2 is actually kind of awesome if you can appreciate what it is: a faster, fancier Subaru Crosstrek.

(Full disclosure: BMW had an X2 left at the Newark Airport for me to get around in for a few days. I gave it back to them eventually.)

What Is It? 

This pug-snouted high riding hatchback is, like most other mass market cars, a crossover between what a car and SUV are supposed to be–small footprint with rough road and substantial cargo capability. Plus, of course, a dash of performance driving pretenses. That’s what the extra BMW badge is there to remind you of.

Don’t let the number fool you—this isn’t a crossover version of our beloved rear- and all-wheel drive 2 Series coupe. The X2 uses the same Mini-derived platform as the X1, and is largely similar save for the body.

And even though I expected to say that awkwardly placed extra emblem is where this car’s relationship to any other “Ultimate Driving Machine” ends, I have to admit the X2’s pretty fun to drive.

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Specs That Matter

The xDrive28i trim I drove has a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder rated to 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That gets put to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic you can manually shift with paddles or plus/minus clicks of the shifter.

BMW says that the car weighs 3,662 pounds with a total length of 172.2 inches and width at 71.8. The company also claims that, at least in optimal conditions without too much junk in the trunk, the X2 can zip from stopped to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds which is pretty darn snappy.

With all the seats folded down you’re supposed to get 50.1 cubic feet of cargo space (there’s 21.6 behind the seats) and the payload max is just a hair under 900 pounds.

Fuel economy claims are an impressive 31 mpg highway and 25 in combined driving. The trip computer in my test car showed approximately 24 mpg after a long weekend with a fair bit of driving in traffic and high-RPM flogging.

Optional M Sport suspension lowers the X2 by about 0.4 inches and, you guessed it, “provide(s) enhanced sportiness and dynamism.”

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What’s Great

The X2 excels at being easy to drive, comfortable and competently quick which will probably be all it needs to get sold to casual car buyers who happen to find themselves in BMW dealerships.

But it’s also pretty fun to squeeze and chuck around corners. Lay into the throttle from a roll and the X2 shoots right off. The Steptronic transmission snaps up the gears quickly with the paddle shifters, though it will go ahead and shift whenever it wants if you miss the button, and grip through linked turns is actually strong enough to be satisfying.

Resolution on the displays is very high, and BMW’s parking camera continues to be my favorite with its extremely specific distance-sounding display.

I really liked the proportions of this car, too. Cargo space is pretty much maxed with two people’s luggage for a week on the road but the ergonomics inside are excellent and four can sit in solid comfort. The panoramic roof is wonderful too, and makes the cabin feel even bigger.

What’s Weak 

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I was really enjoying the texture and girth of the X2’s nicely-sized steering wheel until my eyes fell on three little slashes and the letter M at the bottom.

“BMW ‘M’ just stands for ‘Marketing’,” you may have heard jaded enthusiasts say. Or more often, the less eloquent: “Yeah, ‘M’ sucks now.” The M badges on the X2, unfortunately, kind of help make that case.

BMW made a nice little car here that, generally speaking, lives up to what the brand is supposed to be about–usable cars with some elevated power and luxury. But once the X2 burdened with the badge that’s supposed to signify the best of the best of the company’s performance offerings, I feel like we’re being set up to be let down.

And, yes, seeing the ///M here makes that badge less exciting on other cars. I found seven M emblems on the X2, counting one one each wheel, and figured out that in this case it signifies the “M Sport X Design” package which grants the car some Pontiac Aztekian gray body cladding, nicer wheels, a little spoiler, black window trim, the panoramic sunroof and I guess the afore mentioned steering wheel.

The X2 actually looks a lot better with the M Sport X Design setup, I just wish I didn’t have to bring down all the other M cars with its awkward of cannibalization of the badge.

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Otherwise, I don’t have a whole lot to complain about here. BMW’s iDrive infotainment system isn’t the heinous experience it was years ago, but does take some time to master. There are so many functions tucked into so many menus, and you need to be brave to wade into them.

The interface itself has me conflicted. There are lots of cute little animations, like a render of the X2 wooshing onto the screen when you change drive modes, that are fun but unnecessary. And, I’m realizing as I write this, ultimately annoying.

For example, I missed an exit while the screen was busy showing me a graphic of the exterior of the car instead of the map. Then again, I could have been using the in-speedometer navigation supplement (clever) or HUD (distracting and annoying) but what do I know.

Casual Driving

The X2 is quiet, feels relatively light and every main control is within easy reach. I really like the design of the door-pull, which is intuitive and robust, and the seat was memorably comfortable. Not very soft, but taut and bolstering.

Leaving the car in “Eco Pro” mode seemed to make the car noticeably more resistant to speed than “Comfort” which I left it in for most of my drive. The steering has a little weight to it and does a decent job selling the idea that this compact crossover has personality.

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The transmission shifts are imperceptibly smoothly and I like the intricate confluence of surface types and colors that are all over the interior. There’s a lot going on between the mood lighting, dash surface, center cons–oh, shit, eyes on the road!

Aggressive Driving

Moving the X2 into “Sport” and its transmission into “Sport” stokes an appreciably more aggressive personality out of the little car. I’m not kidding when I say the X2 feels downright invigorating when you double-downshift and shoot off from a cruise to a hard charge.

Riding the tachometer deep into high RPMs gets the car into dangerous fast territory in short order, but the car’s chassis and suspension seemed to keep up with excessive speed over hills and rises without losing poise. For short spurts of hard throttle, which is probably the extent of spirited driving most X2s will ever be asked to do, the car is more than competent. While you’re working the well-sized steering wheel, the all-wheel drive system is busy putting power to the wheels with the most traction and the result is that any backroad instantly becomes an opportunity to scare your passengers.

People who are used to driving fast cars and motorcycles will not get out of an X2 and beg for another ride, but the little crossover has the ability to snap your spirits back up from a boring drive with a few flicks of the shifter and drive mode buttons. You can actually feel the car turning, accelerating and braking and that’s a decent accomplishment in a typically banal segment.

Value

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The front-wheel drive base X2 stars at about $36,000. AWD brings that up to just over $38,000. The M Sport X Design kit brings it up to $43,050. Add the Premium Tier package for a Head-Up Display, navigation with traffic, heated steering wheel and a few other bits and how you’re just shy of $46,000.

Finally, the Galvanic Gold option which I took to calling Chrome Mustard is an extra $550 bringing the grand total of our test car to $46,200.

That seems like a lot of coin for a car this small, but it’s comfortable and reasonably quick and, yeah, surprisingly capable of standing up to the claim that BMW can make a do-everything runabout that doesn’t suck to drive.

Of course, you can buy a used M5 for that much or an E90 M3 and a whole lot of gasoline to burn in it. So. I’d say you should go that way unless you’ve got a big dog you really need that cargo hatch for.

Verdict

Whether you’re looking at the 2018 BMW X2 from the perspective of “it’s the beginning of the end for a once prestigious automaker” or “hey cool this looks easy to park and people will know I paid a lot for my car” ...I think you’ll actually be impressed by this little machine.

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The X2 has the basics of comfort and cargo space down well enough to have mass appeal, and just enough sensation of speed to differentiate itself from the litany of other compact crossovers clogging up every road in America. And, if nothing else, it may well be the first non-Subaru to really pull off unpainted plastic as an upgrade option.

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