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BMW X2 review: A less taxing effort
MOST cars are sold in trim levels that offer differing equipment packs, and with some, the less expensive versions only exist to boost sales of the more expensive ones. After all, high-spec models make it amply clear that you can pay a small premium, get more car, and savour the envy of pals.
But BMW's X2 sDrive18i delivers the opposite: Spend S$22,000 less, get more enjoyment.
The sDrive18i is the least expensive version of BMW's compact X2 model, at least in Singapore. At S$168,888 with Certificate Of Entitlement, it's meaningfully cheaper than the range-topping X2 sDrive20i, which retails for S$190,888.
Although described by its maker as a "Sport Activity Coupe", the X2, which debuted in Singapore last year, is BMW's newest and smallest addition to its range of coupe-inflected sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
BMW says it created the coupe-SUV mash-up in 2007 by launching the X6, the top dog of the range, and then followed it up with the smaller X4 in 2014.
As the name suggests, the cars aim to combine the style and driving fun of a two-door with the usefulness and looks of a soft-roader, and it's a segment that's still growing. Mercedes is a key competitor (with its GLC and GLE Coupe models), and Audi is expanding its own lineup of coupe-like SUVs too.
But these Frankenstein creations tend to suffer obvious contradictions, since designing one is a bit like telling an engineer you want running shoes that have high heels.
Yet, the X2 is probably the most cohesive vision of a coupe-SUV to date. It's relatively tall and roomy, but offers sprightly, enjoyable handling, and has an aspect of a hot hatchback's rascally way of rapidly rounding corners.
The steering might feel heavy to some but it offers lots of feedback, and there's a sharpness to the X2 that makes it feel like it positively lives to devour bends.
As for the X2's appetite for straight bits of road, it's expectedly modest. The sDrive18i has just 140 horsepower, courtesy of a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder powerplant.
While they say money can buy influence, it can certainly purchase power, too. In the context of the X2, the extra 22 grand it costs for the sDrive20i brings a significant amount of extra muscle, in the form of a 192hp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
Yet, normal drivers will hardly miss that extra horsepower in day-to-day driving.
The 18i is lively enough to begin with, and in some ways displays more character than the 20i. Its three-cylinder engine's offbeat burble is more tuneful than the boring drone of most four-cylinder engines, and it also provides just the right amount of punch without excessive power and speed to go to your head.
Anyway, in equipment terms the 18i buyer loses out on very little despite spending S$22,000 less.
Between both X2 models, the overall plus points are the same: A relatively spacious, enjoyable cabin with decent flexibility, visibility, and space for five adults. Beyond that, their equipment lists are nigh identical, and aside from a hatch-mounted spoiler and an extra exhaust pipe on the sDrive20i, the two cars look exactly the same.
In fact, a huge reason for the wide price gap between the two X2s is that the more powerful sDrive20i comes with a S$10,000 pollution surcharge, which the sDrive18i avoids.
Whatever you think of vehicle emissions taxes, in this case it nudges you towards a better deal. If you're trying to hang onto some cash, the sDrive18i is an example of how sometimes, the best form of defence is a tax.
BMW X2 sDrive18i M Sport X
Engine 1,499cc, 12V, in-line three, turbocharged
Power 140hp at 6,500rpm
Torque 220Nm at 1,480-4,200rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 205km/h
0-100km/h 9.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.3L/100km
Price S$168,888 with COE
Agent Performance Motors