BMW roars back to its best with 2-Series
2-Series is a welcome break from BMW’s new people carriers and bizarre crossovers
Date Reviewed: August 15, 2014
In the past two years, BMW has embraced small electric cars, created a people carrier and even adopted front-wheel drive. It’s no wonder purists are crying foul and accusing the executives perched at the top of the firm’s “four-cylinder” towers in Munich of heresy.
As if the arrival of a front-wheel-drive people carrier wasn’t enough, BMW topped it all with the X4, a car that marries the dynamic limitations of an SUV to the impracticalities of a coupe. Yes folks, BMW is proud to give you the motoring equivalent of Bovril ice cream.
This from a firm that gave us the glorious M3 in 1987 – in the E30 model guise. Has BMW sold its soul in pursuit of sales targets and shareholder returns?
Thankfully, while there is no question that there are plenty of spreadsheet-wielding middle managers in Munich, there are still some purists in the BMW ranks fighting to retain BMW’s heritage. And the 2-Series is their clarion call to car fans.
The model derives its history from the rather lacklustre first-generation 1-Series hatchback, another model seemingly created on the back of reams of market data spat out of the latest management software programme. For some reason BMW has never managed to crack the hatchback market. Perhaps it’s a sign their heart is never really in it.
Then someone added a boot and suddenly the little car started to resemble the early iterations of the 3-Series. And then came the awkwardly named M135i. Suddenly in the mind’s eye you could see a glimmer of the magic that led models such as the old 2002Tii of the 1970s and the E36 328i of the early 1990s to become motoring icons. That flicker of old-fashioned fun has become a firework in the 2-Series.
This car didn’t come from an engineering afterthought on the 1-Series production line. This model was created from scratch as a coupe.
In an ever-bulging world, where cars are expanding as fast as western waistlines, the 2-Series can seem a little odd, like a proper coupe that shrunk in the wash. It’s probably not the best looking BMW you’ve come across, yet those proportions are just fine for practical motoring for any buyer up to a couple with a small child. The boot is larger than in the VW Golf for a start. But it’s on the road that the limited overhangs and squat stance starts to deliver.
The 1-Series coupe was a joy to drive and this car doesn’t let that accolade slip.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had the chance to test the 2-Series in varying guises, most recently the 220d SE and this barnstorming M235i. In the more “regular” versions it is true that the steering could be a little sharper, the ride a little sharper, the diesel a little less noisy when started from cold. But these are by matter of degrees. Certainly in comparison to what else is out there, the 2-Series is a blast.
If you will indulge me however, I must discuss the M235i. With its tauter springs and dampers, its sharper steering and complete aversion to bodyroll, this car feels like it’s glued to the road. No matter how ridiculous the cornering speed this car held its line. The grip is monumental, the poise incredible. As the pinnacle of 2-Series Coupe power it seemed destined for a slot in the BMW museum alongside some of the firm’s brightest and best. Kicking out an impressive 326bhp from a straight-six cylinder engine, it purrs along up to 3,000rpm and like its smaller diesel and petrol siblings, it’s a calm and comfortable cruiser.
Kick down, however, and the roar is hypnotic, the propulsion almost immediate. Fitted with BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission it comes with the firm’s “launch control” system that will get you from a standing start to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. Still there is something to be said for opting for the purer six-speed manual in this car, which has so many traits to the best small BMWs of the past.
The 2-Series coupe remains a premium buy and prices start at €34,850 for the 218d SE. With 143bhp from its four-cylinder diesel engine, it delivers in terms of emissions and fuel economy of 63mpg (3.8l/100km). Personally I would opt for the 220i petrol, for this car is better suited to a petrol engine and the costs of ownership are only marginally higher. The M235i may be the dream machine but its price tag of €56,810 (€59,593 for auto version) is hard to stomach, at least until you drive it. These prices are in line with a VW Golf GTi – or Golf R for the M235i – so that’s the sort of buyer it seems to be aimed at.
As BMW readies another rotation of models born at meetings between marketing and accounts, the 2-Series coupe couldn’t have come at a better time for the brand. BMW’s tagline boldly claims it builds “the ultimate driving machine”. Luckily for them, with this model at least, they may just be right.
The lowdown: BMW M235i
Engines: start with 143bhp four-cylinder diesel rising to a 184bhp in 220d and a 218bhp in 225d M Sport. Petrols start at 184bhp for 220i and rise to the 3-litre 326bhp in the M235i
Specification: Usual array of safety features and styling similar to latest 1-Series with i-Drive control for media/info system. 60:40 split folding rear bench seat. Bluetooth, leather multi-function steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers standard on all models, as are park distance sensors and 17-inch alloys.
Prices: 2-Series coupe starts at €34,850 for 218d (M235i starts at €56,810)