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First Drive: The BMW X2 M35i delivers assured performance in the compact SUV segment

MW’s new X2 also sees the introduction of a sportier model from launch. Ted Welford tries it out.

The X2 is even more head-turning in M35i form
BMW X2 M35i xDrive The X2 is even more head-turning in M35i form

What is it?

Quad exhaust pipes are at the rear
BMW X2 M35i xDrive Quad exhaust pipes are at the rear

BMW’s ‘M’ division, which is behind the German carmaker’s sportiest models, has been on a role as of late. In 2023, it sold more than 200,000 cars for the first time, with two-thirds of these being what it calls ‘M Performance’ models. Essentially, these bridge the gap between BMW’s standard cars and its flagship performance cars (think the M3 and M5, for example), and do the job for those buyers wanting something sportier but who can’t stretch to the costs of a fully-fledged M car.

The latest addition is this, the new X2 M35i, the fastest version of BMW’s new coupe-styled SUV, which in itself gets some pretty big changes. But is it worth choosing?

What’s new?

Gloss black elements contrast the exterior colour
BMW X2 M35i xDrive Gloss black elements contrast the exterior colour

This latest X2 is almost unrecognisable from its predecessor, being a far larger car with more of a coupe-like profile, bringing it closer to BMW X4 and X6 SUVs. There’s an electric version too, should that be something you want to consider, and it gets all manner of technology upgrades, which we’ll come onto later.

It also gets the appropriate look to go with the sportier image. There’s this unmissable satin green paint finish (a special-order option, you might be glad to know), as well as four large exhaust tailpipes, which a BMW M engineer told us he ‘fought’ to have on the car.

What’s under the bonnet?

A turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine powers the M35i
BMW X2 M35i xDrive A turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine powers the M35i

The X2 M35i’s engine is by no means unique to this SUV; you’ll find it on a tip-top 1 Series, 2 Series Gran Coupe and also the X1 that this new SUV shares plenty in common with.

A similar 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine was offered on the previous X2, though it’s been slightly detuned from 302bhp to 296bhp. Torque is also down 50Nm to 400Nm. Drive is delivered to all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox too – there’s no manual option available on this latest X2.

Accelerating from 0-60mph takes 5.2 seconds and it would max out at 155mph if given the chance. Despite the performance, the claimed efficiency figures aren’t bad at all for a vehicle of this type – BMW says around 36mpg and CO2 emissions between 174 and 183g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

The green paint makes the X2 stand out even more
BMW X2 M35i xDrive The green paint makes the X2 stand out even more

Power and performance-wise, the M35i is almost on par with the top-spec electric iX2. You’d expect, given the option of an engine and the enjoyment that comes from that, it would make this M35i much better to drive. But that’s not the case, with the engine either sounding overly synthesised or just coarse and noisy. Neither sounds good, whatever the driving mode you’re in, and when driven back-to-back with the electric model, it’s the battery-powered model that was our preference.

On a more positive note, it handles well by SUV standards and offers minimal roll through the corners. Though the M35i comes with adaptive sports suspension as standard, the ride – even in the softest settings – is pretty firm and gets quite unsettled by bumps in the road.

How does it look?

The X2 gets standout design upgrades for this M35i version
BMW X2 M35i xDrive The X2 gets standout design upgrades for this M35i version

The X2’s design is fairly controversial in itself, but it’s really taken up a notch with this vibrant matte finish known as Frozen Tampa Bay Green – a £3,500 optional extra. But fear not, as far more standard colours are available, though even in the plainest of colours this sporty SUV will never be a shrinking violet.

All X2s in the UK, M35i or otherwise, come as standard in M Sport guise, but this racier version does get some bolder styling elements. Large 20-inch alloy wheels are fitted as standard, along with bigger brakes and a more aggressive front end. Those four exhaust tips look the part too, even if the noise they produce is fairly underwhelming. We can’t forget the questionable illuminated kidney grille too. The less said about it the better…

What’s it like inside?

The interior uses the same curved display as many of BMW’s latest models
BMW X2 M35i xDrive The interior uses the same curved display as many of BMW’s latest models

The latest X2 feels like a far more substantial car than its predecessor, which comes as no surprise considering it’s 20cm longer. A lot of that space goes into improving the interior space, which is quite generous, especially when it comes to the large 560-litre boot, which is actually larger on paper than BMW’s more expensive X3 SUV.

The X2’s interior is one of the best things about it, with a great mix of technology courtesy of two large digital displays and a premium finish throughout. The touchscreen-centric cabin isn’t quite as easy to use as previous generation BMWs, however. It’s worth ticking the ‘M Sport Pro pack’, which among other things brings front sports seats that offer fantastic support and even feature clever stitching that replicates the blue and red colours of BMW’s M division.

What’s the spec like?

The M35i brings prominent shift paddles
BMW X2 M35i xDrive The M35i brings prominent shift paddles

Given the M35i sits at the top of the BMW X2 line-up, the level of equipment you get included is particularly impressive.

There are 20-inch alloy wheels, an electric boot and Alcantara and leather upholstery to name just a few features. An excellent Harman Kardon sound system is also included, along with a Curved Display, which is a large touchscreen merged with a digital instrument cluster.


Though prices for the X2 start from £42,250, the M35i is noticeably more expensive at £50,375. There’s no denying the performance it offers, but the rest of the driving experience offers little to justify the premium.

Verdict

If you want a fast SUV that still offers plenty in the way of practicality, the BMW X2 M35i is certainly worth a look. The point-to-point pace is especially rapid, while the aggressive styling makes it seem purposeful.

But once you’ve gone past the speed factor, the M35i offers little in the way of engagement. Unless you crave having the flagship model, the standard petrol model – or the EV for that matter – could be a better buy.

  • Model: BMW X2 M35i
  • Price: £50,375
  • Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol
  • Power: 296bhp
  • Torque: 400Nm
  • Max speed: 155mph
  • 0-60mph: 5.2 seconds
  • CO2 emissions: 174-183g/km
  • Fuel economy: 34.9-36.7mpg