Not long ago I tested the BMW X2 sDrive20i, and loved it more than I thought I would – far more. It handled, went, drove, looked.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been in the base model, the sDrive18i version of the X2. This review, there’d be no awesome twin-scroll turbo 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. Nope, I’d be stuck with three cylinders and 1.5 litres.

This time, I really wasn’t sure I’d like this X2. I didn’t want to taint my awesome memories of the xDrive20i by lowering myself to just three cylinders.

Then I reminded myself that this was the same motor we experienced recently when the MINI Hatch was updated, and it went well in that car.

Could it do just as well in the 250Kg-heavier X2?

The Range

For the X2 range, you get three models to choose from; the base sDrive18i at $60,900 (FWD), the sDrive20i at $70,900 (FWD) and the all-wheel-drive XDrive20i at $73,900.

The base model (tested) runs a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo motor putting out 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque. For a three-cylinder motor, that’s a lot of torque.

Both the sDrive20i and the xDrive20i have a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo motor, which manages a healthy 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque.

The FWD models run a 7-speed automatic transmission, while the AWD model has an 8-speed.

For the base model’s money, you’ll get 18” alloy wheels, LED headlights with cornering lights, SatNav, Parking Assistant with rear-view camera, an electric tailgate, Driving Assistant, keyless entry and start, auto-parking electric mirrors, LED fog lights, auto wipers and lights, LED rear lights, lane departure warning, parking sensors, a 6.5” central display, ‘ConnectedDrive’ (Concierge Services, BMW Connected+, Intelligent Emergency Call, Real Time Traffic Information, Remote Services and TeleServices), 2-zone climate AC, and Sensatec upholstery.

Other than the bigger motor, the sDrive20i adds 19” alloys, Driving Assistant Plus with active cruise control, the M Sport X package, and heated front sports seats, and Alcantara trim.

Obviously for the extra $3,000, the xDrive20i gets AWD, and a change to an 8-speed automatic.

Our test car was fitted with $5K worth of extras, including Apple CarPlay, metallic paint, heated front seats, and the Comfort Package which includes electric front seat adjustment with memory, lumbar support and Comfort Access (or keyless entry to you and I).

First Impressions

Finished in Sunset Orange metallic, our test car looked superb. Not quite the same level as the Galvanic Gold the sDrive20i was finished in, but still very eye-catching. The wet weather the entire two weeks I had the X2 didn’t help – I’m sure under actual sunlight it would look even better. I’m not sure the photos here do it justice, as it’s almost bronze in colour, and far from any sort of orange like the name suggests.

There were lots of comments from passengers and others around this car – the design is spot-on, and the colour choices are fresh and modern.

There are many that would say your average BMW looks like any other BMW SUV, and to a point they’d be right, it’s sometimes hard to pick between models. But when I went to get the X2, it was easy to spot – that little BMW badge on the C pillar is such a small, simple thing, but it’s genius; it really defines the car as being apart from an X1 or X3, or even a 1-Series.

The Inside

Deja vu. Look, not many people are going to complain about a BMW interior; they are all very similar with the same sort of shifter, the same iDrive controller, the same dash and central touchscreen. Our test X2 was the same too, and I felt right at home in a few minutes. That’s not a bad thing. As always, fit and finish is top of the class. Quality is not a problem in the X2.

Our test car didn’t have a sunroof, so did feel a little tighter and smaller inside, compared to the sDrive20i. Not badly, but noticeable. At least the whole interior isn’t black – the headlining and pillars are beige, which breaks things up.

At night, I do love the LED strips that run along the doors. Call me a magpie, but I like a bit of bling. I switched them to a blue hue and cranked the brightness up to 100% using the iDrive controller. Why not?

I’m still surprised there’s only one USB in the front of the car, but not the end of the world.

One thing I did notice was the glovebox. Not worth mentioning? It was for me. Lots of gloveboxes now are part of the glovebox door – that’s your storage. It means (sometimes) that if you put too much in that door, it won’t shut, or doesn’t shut properly, and it all feels a little bit flimsy. The X2’s glovebox is an actual box – part of the dash – and the door is simply that. I could easily fit my full-size iPad in there (width/depth) and a whole lot more other stuff.

It’s interesting how BMW do plastics. This is the base model X2, and yet it was difficult to find any hard plastics, and those that were there were so well done it just wasn’t a problem. This was in contrast to the E-PACE I had the other week, which had too many hard plastics.

Rear legroom is good, but not great, and one shortish trip with five of us in the car was quite, uh, friendly. Lots of shoulder rubbing in the back seat. Then again, it’s not made to carry five people over a long distance.

The boot is pretty much on the money for this segment of SUV, if not a little bigger at 470 litres.

The Drive

Since the review of the sDrive20i was pretty detailed, I’m going to stick to a couple of main things this time, along with some observations since I had the sDrive18i for a couple of weeks – this brings out both good and bad points in a test car.

Mainly though, I expect the engine is the Number One thing most people would want to know about. Can a three-cylinder move the X2 along acceptably? The answer is yes, and then some.

In the Mini, this same engine leaves you wondering why on earth we need four cylinders – it really is that good. In the X2? Almost as good. That extra weight over the Mini Hatch is noticeable, but only if you’ve driven the Mini. Otherwise, this powerplant will surprise you – and make you smile.

If there was one thing I took away from my few weeks and 700km with the sDrive18i, is that it makes driving a whole lot of fun. Maybe not Mini Fun, but this is a BMW, and it delivers smiles every drive. That engine is just so willing, it wants to go and go. I’m not saying you should head off and break the speed limit in it, but the way it delivers its power and torque is, well, fun.

The sDrive20i was fun too, don’t get me wrong, but that was almost to be expected – a twin-scroll turbo 2.0-litre should be. But the 1.5 turbo? It’s like a naughty boy with a secret.

But wait, there’s more. Wind this engine out past 4,000rpm, and it will give you a sexy, growly noise, adding to your smile. Up around 6,000rpm, it sounds freaking amazing, right out to the redline at 7,000rpm. This is one of the highlights of every drive in the sDrive18i. Call me a heathen, but at times this motor sounds just like an old twin-cam Fiat 125, and I mean that in a very good way.

There are those that say a three-cylinder car is too lumpy to drive. From cold, there’s a bit of shudder when the car starts, but after that? Smooth all the way. Quiet too. Simply put, you won’t believe how good this motor is until you drive it.

And then you switch it from Comfort to Sport mode, and fun takes on a whole new meaning. The engine goes from eager to drive-me-hard. Gear changes are quicker, performance is lifted and it’s fun-time all over again.

That’s the good points, and yes there are a few downsides. In Eco Mode, acceleration is a bit lethargic. You need to be very patient if you want to use Eco mode since it’s quite painful, to be honest. I tried it a few times, and didn’t use it too much after that. On the motorway it’s okay, but around town when sometimes you need that snappy acceleration, it doesn’t give it, or even close to it. Comfort mode is perfect for all-round driving.

Now in saying that, I had a trip to Palmerston North planned, and drove all the way from a stop in Wellington in one go, 110km. I did this entire run in Eco Mode, and managed to save 9km in fuel, so roughly 10%. That’s not too bad.

While Sport mode gives you a ball of a time, it can be a little jerky too – trying to drive around town in Sport mode is tricky, if you want to drive smooth. Not that you’d drive around town in Sport mode anyway, but it does show a un-BMW side of the car. Actually, this jerkiness was found in the other modes too. It’s not bad, but it was unexpected. It’s got to be said many dual-clutch automatic transmissions are like this, not just BMW.

The transmission itself is as good as ever, 7-speed and perfect changes every time. I did miss having paddle shifters, and also found that if I wanted to use the shifter itself in Manual mode, it was an uncomfortable reach over to use it, as it moves left (and away from the driver) in Manual mode. No doubt great for countries where it’s left-hand drive, not so much in New Zealand. Those with longer arms than me would be fine.

Enough of the engine – not that I could ever get enough of it – what about everything else? Cruise control? No adaptive cruise in this model, such shame. But it does retain the ‘one touch on’ feature which is the only way to go.

The ride on this model is well above what it should be, for a small, semi-light SUV. It rides very well indeed, and the ride is quiet too. There’s almost no tyre noise on the motorway, although as always, coarse chip seal will bring some out. Wind noise is minimal at all speeds.

Flooring it on a wet road will see a reasonable amount of axle tramp, since there’s 220 Newton-metres of torque through those front wheels. To be expected.

There’s no leather or Alcantara in this base model, instead you get Sensatec seats – BMW’s version of vinyl. These actually feel like and look like leather, so no real problems in that area. I did have a small issue with the seats though, it felt like the electric lumbar adjust was on and pushing on my back all the time. I often hit the button to move it back, until I remembered that it was as far back as it would go. It meant that a trip to Palmerston North in the X2 was fine, but around town it was not the best. Not uncomfortable, but not ideal.

It’s interesting what you find with a car when you spend a little more time with it. I found that the digital speedo in the Driver’s Information Display (DID) was too small, and also it’s at the bottom of the cluster – it would have been much better at the top – still between the speedo and rev counter – where it was closer to your vision when you are driving. Again, not the end of the world but with so much Police/NZTA emphasis on speed and no heads-up display, I thought that would be a better spot for it.

At least when you set the cruise control, the speed is shown with a little marker on the speedo itself, almost as good as showing the actual speed you have set somewhere.

There’s built-in SatNav on the X2, and it works a treat. Again, one thing I noticed is that while it’s great having the turn-by-turn instructions in the DID, it’s at the bottom of the screen. Up higher would have been more usable for me.

I said I was going to tell you about two specific things when we started out. One was the engine, the other is BMW Connected Services. I expect when some people read our reviews and see things like ‘Connected Services’ in The Range part of the review, they wonder what on earth that is. I’m going to tell you, and let you know how I used it.

Under Connected Drive on the central display, I can access Local Wiki, which shows you things like schools and landmarks in the area where you are, and then information about them. But there’s more than just that. Connected Drive is a range of things, like Concierge Services, RealTime Traffic Information, Intelligent Emergency Call, Roadside Assist, Weather, News, Online Search, Flickr, and BMW Messages.

This review, I decided to test out Concierge Services every time I went out in the car. Every time. I did it for you, people.

The first day I was stuck in a traffic jam. I knew the area, and I knew I couldn’t get where I was going any quicker, but thought I’d ask. So using the iDrive Controller, I went to Concierge Services and let it ring. Jonathan answered me, and I gave him the address of where I was going, and that I was in a traffic jam. He went off and confirmed that sorry, couldn’t help you this time sir. He did have an alternative route, but it would take longer. Worth a crack.

The next day, I was going to a rest home, so while in the driveway, I called them up and gave them the name of the Rest Home. In less than a minute they had the address and had pushed it through to ‘my’ X2’s GPS system, ready to go. I didn’t need to touch anything – it was in the SatNav and ready to get my there. Nice.

Each other day, I’d do something similar and some very helpful person on the other side of the world would help me out. Apparently they can even find a hotel for you and book it as well. It’s like an automotive butler. You could do worse, and I think it’s one of those features that if you use it, you’d wonder how you did without it.

There’s an electric tailgate on this base model X2, and you can open it via the key fob, on the driver’s door or using your foot under the rear bumper.

I lied earlier on – I said there were two things I wanted to talk about, but really there’s another.

Since I didn’t have adaptive cruise control, I decided I would embrace the technology of the Speed Limiter. We often get test cars with these feature – I’m guessing at least half, if not much more. But the thing is, I don’t normally use it. I’m not sure why, but it’s one of those things that sits there, and is ignored (by me, anyway).

Not this time. I used the speed limiter around town and on the motorway, to see if I would keep using it forever more. I must say, the BMW version is pretty good. It will recognise speed signs via cameras, so even in road works the speed limit (that is shown always in the DID, thank you BMW) changes in the display. A small tap on the thumbwheel would raise or lower it by 1km/h, and a hard push by 5km/h.

A bonus for this means that if you are using the speed limiter and the limit changes, the car recognises this and shows the new speed in the DID, with an up arrow if it’s gone up, or down arrow if the speed limit has reduced. Want to adjust the speed limiter to the new speed? Just tap the cruise control speed adjuster up or down (depending on the arrow) and your speed automatically is now limited to the set limit shown. BMW call this Limit Assist.

It’s one of those simple features that can mean quite a lot. I see more and more manufacturers doing this with their own speed limiter feature (Mazda and Holden spring to mind), and it’s a welcome safety feature.

Audio quality, in this base model? Better than you’d expect, with nice clarity and even the bass isn’t too bad. It’s great that the X2 remembers that you were using Bluetooth for your audio when you got out of the car, and then flicks straight back to it when you get back in. But our test car did get confused sometimes, and wouldn’t play the previous playlist, or would show ‘unknown track’ on the display, and then not play anything. Only restarting the car would fix it. It only did this a few times, and who knows, it could have been my iPhone doing it.

Fuel economy is not the X2’s strong point. You’d think with only three cylinders, it be pretty darn frugal, but with the eagerness of that engine, you do want to push it along some. Over 700km, including a 300km round trip on the open road, I managed to get 7.8/100km. BMW say the combined rating is 5.4.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorqueFuel, L/100kmSeatsBoot space, litres (3rd row down where fitted)Towing capacity, Kg (unbraked/braked)Price – High to Low
Mercedes-Benz GLA180 (FWD)1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol90kW/200Nm5.75421695/1200$61,400
BMW X2 sDrive18i (FWD)1.5-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol103kW/220Nm5.45470N/A$60,900
Volvo XC40 Momentum (FWD)2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol140kW/300Nm6.85460n/a$59,990
Audi Q2 TFSI Sport (FWD)1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol110kW/250Nm5.25405670/1500$55,900
Infiniti Q30 GT (FWD)1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol115kW/250Nm6.05430730/1400$48,990

The Pros and Cons

  • Electric tailgate standard
  • Engine performance, sound
  • Transmission
  • Ride
  • Design
  • Overall quality
  • Limit Assist system
  • Fuel economy
  • Some jerkiness at low speeds
  • Seat comfort

What do we think of it?

This car is a cracker – that engine/transmission combo is fantastic. The engine sound alone when you crank that motor along is a joy.

Overall, it’s pretty hard to fault the sDrive18i. The jerkiness at low speeds did get almost annoying, but I also forgot it was there after a few weeks. What else? Not much.

Before I picked up the sDrive18i I thought anyone would be crazy to buy it – just pay the ten grand extra and go straight to the sDrive20i.

Now, I’m not convinced. If you are looking at a small SUV in this price range, the X2 sDrive18i simply has to be on your must-drive list. You’re welcome.

drivelife car review chevrons four and half




2018 BMW X2 sDrive18i

4.5 Chevrons


Vehicle Type5-door, small FWD SUV
Starting Price$60,900
Price as Tested$65,890
Engine1.5-litre, 3-cylinder, turbo petrol
Power, Torque103kW/220Nm
Transmission7-speed sports automatic
0-100km/h, seconds9.7
Spare WheelRun-flat tyres
Kerb Weight, Kg1415
Length x Width x Height, mm4369x2098x1526
Cargo Capacity, litres470
Fuel capacity, litres61
Fuel EfficiencyAdvertised Spec – combined –  5.4L/100km

Real World Test – combined –  7.8L/100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metresn/a

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty5 years warranty

3 years free servicing

5 years Roadside Assist

ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star


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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


  1. Been Looking around the World to find a test of the 18i engine for the X2 – which is hard to find. And taken your view possitive view into account also difficult to understand. I am to Pick-up my BMW X2 SDrive 18i within 10 days, so great to read that I am gonna get a great car (my current car is a BMW 116i). Thanks a lot & Best regards René Thomsen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  2. HI Rene
    Thanks for the comments. I loved that little engine in the X2, and I think you will too – it’s hard not to. It’s a great car made better with that engine.
    Cheers and thanks again


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