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2019 Volvo XC40 vs. 2018 BMW X2: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by James Riswick August 2018

• Both are quite distinctive for their brands

• The XC40 offers more standard safety and infotainment features

• The X2 is a bit more hatchback than crossover

The 2019 Volvo XC40 and the 2018 BMW X2 are two of the newest small luxury crossovers on the market, which is saying something, since there were only a small handful until very recently. They're also two of the most intriguing, as they differ considerably from the rest of SUV and car offerings -- and bet big on customers who prioritize distinctive style.

Which of this pair of fashionable little SUVs might be better for you? Let's take a look at each to point out their key differences, advantages and disadvantages.

2019 Volvo XC40

This all-new model is considerably different than Volvo's XC60 and XC90 SUVs. Not only does it have different mechanical underpinnings, but its exterior and interior styling don't follow the usual Russian nesting doll school of design. It has a look of its own, which also applies to the interior.

2018 BMW X2

The X2 definitely has a unique look. Though it shares its basic structure, powertrain, interior design and most features with the X1, it does not have that SUV's boxy body style that largely apes the X3 and X5. Nor does it possess the sleeker "coupe" body style of the X4 and X6. Again, it's different.

Reliability

Both the XC40 and X2 are too new and too different from their brand mates to fairly discuss reliability. Each carry a 4-year/50,000-mile limited vehicle warranty and provide three years of complimentary maintenance visits.

Fuel Economy

The Volvo XC40 offers a choice of 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, both paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The front-wheel-drive T4 model produces 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. It returns an estimated 23 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive T5 model produces 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and returns 23 mpg city, 31 mpg hwy and 26 mpg combined.

As for the X2, it joins the X1 as the only front-wheel-drive BMWs. Though all-wheel drive is optional, front-drive architecture is a benefit for interior packaging, fuel economy and poor weather traction, but a potential detriment to handling. With either, the X2 comes standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. It too has an 8-speed automatic. Estimated fuel economy is 23 mpg city, 32 mpg hwy and 26 mpg combined with "sDrive" front-wheel drive and 21 mpg city, 31 mpg hwy and 25 mpg combined with "xDrive" all-wheel drive.

Driving Experience

Both the XC40 and X2 are two of the sportiest vehicles in their segment, which is a departure for Volvo. The Swedish company didn't want its littlest SUV to just drive like a smaller version of its bigger siblings. It feels nimble and lighter on its feet, with more responsive steering (and that actually applies to comparisons to the X2 as well). Yet, you also sit a bit higher and more upright. It's a unique feel behind the wheel, simultaneously feeling sporty in some regards and truck-like in others. We think people will like it.

We haven't had a chance to sample the base T4 engine, but would guess it would be sufficient in getting the XC40 moving and feel plenty spritely off the line. The T5 engine, however, has some serious guts (it has more power and the same torque as the BMW). The throttle response has been tuned to be a tad neck-snapping, making it feel even more vigorous. However, Volvo's turbo 4-cylinders lack the ultra-smooth character of a BMW -- they're a bit growly and unrefined.

Though front-wheel-drive, the feel of the X2's controls -- steering, throttle response and that general seat-of-the-pants feel -- will be familiar to those who've driven a recent BMW. Of course, that also means it has disappointing steering with a generally numb feel, especially in its default "Comfort" mode. Handling is ultimately excellent, but driver feedback is not.

From there, though, things differ from the BMW SUV norm. For starters, you sit pretty low in the X2. Those seeking a commanding view of the road won't find it here. Frankly, driving the X2 feels more akin to a lifted hatchback (think a Subaru Crosstrek), albeit with substantially better handling and greater refinement.

In terms of ride quality, we would recommend being careful about the wheels you select and the options boxes you check. Our XC40 test car had 20-inch wheels, which resulted in sharp impacts over bumps. Yet, the ride was generally more supple than that of the M Sport suspension option of our X2 test car. That was annoyingly firm on all but the smoothest pavement. We'd avoid it, because we'd suspect the X2 could otherwise have the superior ride.

Safety

Though each has a comparable airbag count, Volvo goes further with forward- and reverse-collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems. It also includes a driver inattention warning system and lane-keeping assistance. Many of these safety features are part of an optional package on the X2, but driver inattention and reverse-collision mitigation systems are not available.

The XC40 has not yet been crash tested by a third party, but the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the X2 the best possible crash scores.

Interior Space and Design

The X2 shares its cabin design and materials with the X1, which is not a bad thing. Controls and the iDrive display are nicely angled toward the driver per BMW tradition, and we like the traditional PRND shifter instead of the unusually laid out electronic shifters found in other BMWs and the XC40. The quality of everything is also excellent -- you don't feel like you're in a lesser BMW.

The XC40, however, is both more functional and interesting to look at. There are clever storage bins seemingly everywhere, including a covered, removable section intended to serve as a waste bin. The standard vertically oriented touchscreen not only works well, but looks very cool, as do many other cabin details. The R-Design trim level's "Lava" orange carpet is one of our favorites.

Space is also better in the Volvo. That tall seating position not only makes for a more commanding view of the road, but raised seats result in more actual legroom front and rear (even if the numbers indicate the BMW has the slightest edge in back). Neither would be great for rear-facing child seats.

In terms of cargo room, neither is particularly good. There's 21.6 cu ft. in the BMW, but that's accomplished by utilizing the space under the lift-up cargo floor. In the X1, this is where the optional spare tire would go. The XC40 needs no such false floors to achieve its 20.7 cu ft. in a taller, more SUV-like space. That shape also gives the Volvo a bit of a versatility advantage (it's easier to stow bulkier objects) despite having less maximum cargo capacity (a modest 47.2 cu ft.). The BMW has 50.1 cu ft., but we're unsure if that includes the under-floor storage.

Technology

Volvo's Sensus touchscreen is huge, vertically oriented and controls most vehicle functions. It takes a while to learn and customize to your liking, but once you do, we've found it to be quite user friendly. It also gets along well with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are standard.

Android Auto isn't available at all on the X2, and Apple CarPlay is a separate $300 option that doesn't always jive well with BMW's iDrive infotainment system (although it does function through Bluetooth versus a hard wire, which may be an advantage). This latest version of iDrive at least comes with touchscreen functionality, which works better with CarPlay, but it can be a bit of reach to the dash-top screen. The familiar iDrive knob on the center console may also be positioned uncomfortably rearward for some drivers.

Value

With its smaller base engine, it shouldn't be surprising that the XC40 has the lower base price. Yet, the more powerful XC40 T5 still starts at $35,200 versus the base BMW X2 at $36,400 despite having standard all-wheel drive, extra safety and infotainment tech features and leather seating. Given how lovely the Volvo's cabin is and how good it is to drive, we're struggling to see what you're really getting with the X2's higher price.

It should be noted that the more conventional BMW X1 with the same engine as the X2, plus greater interior space, starts at $33,900. However, when equipped with the same extra equipment that's included on the XC40, it would still top $40,000.

It's also worth noting the XC40 is available through Volvo's distinctive subscription service.

Autotrader's Advice

The XC40 offers better value and a more functional interior. It's surprisingly fun to drive, and its T5 engine betters the X2's in terms of power and fuel economy. We also think its taller, SUV-like driving position will be preferred by many. As for style, it's certainly a matter of taste, but the XC40 exudes a distinctively cool character. It would be our choice.

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2019 Volvo XC40 vs. 2018 BMW X2: Which Is Better? - Autotrader