A decade ago, if you were young and successful, BMW’s 1-Series was the car that you owned to publicly declare as much.

As the automotive world evolved into a flood of SUVs and crossovers, the 1-Series has been supplanted and now those young and successful start-up rebels and design-consultancy luminaries have to make a choice: X1 or X2?

Read also: BMW's new crossover: We drive the new SA-bound X2

BMW’s introduced its X2 to the South African market and the sole reason for that was not to befuddle X1 owners. Although both BMWs are built on a similar platform, borrowed from BMW subsidiary Mini, they are marketed to quite different customers: X1 for families and X2 for DINKS (Double Income, No Kids) or confident independents. Unconvinced?

Here is why X1 and X2 are different.

Gold and Grey

Cladding often spoils the colour-matching of a car, but with SUVs driving a great deal of gravel-road distance in South Africa, that plastic outline along the side of the BMW X1 is vital to protect paint. The X2’s cladding is grey as opposed to black, as it the case with most of BMW’s other SUVs. A small difference, but as a contracting tone to X2’s signature Galvanic gold metallic finish, it makes quite a statement. 

BMW X2

Size

Input the dimensions into a datasheet and there’s no discussion, the X2 is the smaller of these two. It’s 79mm shorter and 86mm lower, while inside the cabin has less leg and head room. The luggage capacity advantage is with X1 too, by 35-litres, and if you fold down those second-row seats, that gain grows to 150-litres. Clearly, if you need a family-friendly compact BMW SUV, it’s very much X1 instead of X2. 

Style

From its larger wheels to the outrageous red leather interior colour options, the X2 is configurable to pique the interest of non-conformists. It’s also the only BMW featuring additional external badging, on the C-pillar, reminiscent of BMW’s 3.0 CSL racing cars of the 1970s. If you’re not shy about being a BMW customer, and want everyone to know that, the X2 obliges with four blue-and-white propeller roundels, instead of all other BMWs, which only have two. 

Driving pleasure

The lower X2 is more stable when a quick change of direction is required. It’s suspension has been altered with more negative camber and thicker anti-roll bars too, to make it more agile than X1, appealing to those who can always take long, winding, detours – instead of merely committing to the highway with a family’s scheduling to consider. 

But not on gravel

Despite its proven all-wheel drive system, the X2 is not the ideal choice for pseudo off-road driving. It might only have 1mm less ground clearance than the X1, but the standard wheels are 19 inches in size; not ideal for a Joburg-to-Cape-Town detour via the Karoo’s gravel roads. The X1’s wheel options are entirely more sensible if you have a desire for exploring all those interesting bits forking off the N1. Technically you could fit a smaller wheel to X2, but that would ruin its appearance and defeat the design philosophy which brought it into being. 

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