The new BMW 2 Series Coupe focuses on driver appeal, but you’ll have to decide whether you want the ultimate driver’s car, the M235i, or the economy choice, the 220d, which is capable of 64.2mpg.
Taking green car issues out of the equation, the BMW M135i is our favourite driver’s car of the last 12 months. Why? Because it’s small, agile, rear-wheel drive, has great handling and a great engine. The fact that Jeremy Clarkson supposedly lost control of an M135i in a straight line in the wet just shows that either Top Gear is desperate to create silly stories to make boring episodes about cycling more interesting, or Clarkson is getting too old. The fact is, the 2 Series builds on the already good 1 Series base, but adds extra driver appeal.
Although the 2 Series name is new, it’s still a familiar BMW product. It obviously shares many features with the 1 Series, including chassis, engines and interior. However it loses the hatchback body style and gains a more sporty coupe shape. This means that it’s stiffer than the hatch, it’s also lower and wider, and the chassis has been tuned for a more sporty driving experience. Interestingly, the 2 Series is now the same size as the very first, E30 generation of the 3 Series.
The exterior design of the 2 Series builds upon that of the last 1 Series Coupe, but it’s been successfully modernised. Thankfully, it has a more aesthetically pleasing frontal appearance compared to the current 1 Series hatchback due to a much better headlight design.
Under the skin, the 2 Series is rear-wheel drive and comes with a range of six BMW engines and the choice of manual or automatic transmissions. All engines feature BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology.
The 2 Series is a four-seater. For a coupe it has a reasonable-sized boot, and the rear seats can fold flat, but it’s not as practical as the 1 Series hatch.
It’s worthwhile remembering that there aren’t many small, rear-wheel drive coupes. The Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ is rear-wheel drive, but nowhere near as refined as the BMW, and well down on power compared to the 235i. The TT is four-wheel drive, and other rivals are front-wheel drive. Of course there’s the Porsche Cayman, but that’s considerably more expensive, starting at around £40,000 for the 2.7-litre (returning 34.4mpg), and coming in at almost £49,000 for the 3.4 S. And the Cayman only has two seats. So the 2 Series has a space in the market pretty much to itself. If you want a small, agile, rear-wheel drive, four-seat sporty coupe with dynamic driving qualities, then this is it.
Your main decision will be which model to go for. The 235i is obviously the driver’s car choice. It has a wonderful 6-cylinder, 3-litre engine, and this works well with either the manual gearbox or the eight-speed automatic. In 30 years of driving it’s been very, very rare to say this, but the automatic probably has the edge; it’s generally always in the right gear, it’s quicker to change than the manual, and it’s more economical.
The 2 Series launch took place over some of the best mountain roads in Spain, and the M235i was in its element. With the rear wheels putting the power down and the front wheels left to do the steering, combined with a highly responsive engine, the M235i was a perfect car for these roads. And it makes a fantastic noise.
In comparison the 220d couldn’t compete with the responsiveness and agility of the M235i, but for a car with a 184hp diesel engine, it still offered fun. The 220d would be ideal for use primarily on motorways with occasional forays into the countryside.
While other manufacturers are going down the route of installing a touch screen to control all elements of the car, the 2 Series has a fairly conventional BMW dashboard; all controls are where you want them, and it works really well – unlike many cars controlled by a touch screen. You can choose between the normal BMW driving modes in the 2 Series, ie. ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Adaptive M suspension is a £750 option.
Apart from the area of performance, another big difference between the 220d and the M235i is appearance. The M235i (in blue in the photos) looks purposeful and sporty, but the 220d (in silver in the photos) looks decidedly dull in comparison.
There’s an amazing difference between the economy figures of the manual and automatic 220d. It used to be the case that automatic transmissions consumed 10-15% more fuel than manual transmissions. However BMW’s eight-speed automatic reverses this trend. The manual can manage 58.9mpg, but the auto has an official combined economy figure of 64.2mpg. This equates to emissions of 125 or 117g/km CO2 respectively.
In comparison the M235i returns 34.9mpg, or 37.2mpg with the automatic transmission. Although the M235i may not seem like a green car, if you look at its economy in relation to the driving experience and its performance – 37.2mpg, 326bhp, and 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds – then it’s pretty efficient.
However there’s one model, the 225d M Sport Coupe, which manages to combine performance and efficiency, as it accelerates to 62mph in 6.3 seconds, yet it also manages 60.1mpg. The 225d also has a faster-shifting eight-speed Sports automatic gearbox as standard, complete with gearshift paddles on the steering wheel, which is optional on other 2 Series models.
The 2 Series range offers a choice of six engines. The three diesels are the BMW 218d SE Coupe (£24,265); BMW 220d SE Coupe (£25,865); and the BMW 225d M Sport Coupe (£32,095). The three petrols are the BMW 220i SE Coupe (£25,040); BMW 228i Sport Coupe (£28,255); and the BMW M235i Coupe (£34,250).
The 2 Series is available in SE, Sport, Modern and M Sport trim. Standard equipment includes remote central locking, height adjustment for the driver’s and front passenger seat, BMW Professional radio with 6.5-inch colour display and iDrive controller, six speakers and an AUX-in socket, Driving Perfomance Control switch, automatic climate control, Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone system with a USB socket, DAB radio, BMW Emergency Call, Sport multi-function leather steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers.
The BMW 2 Series offers an agile BMW driving experience and, in the case of the M235, also performance – or in the case of the 220d, economy. So which one would we go for? If fuel bills were no object, it would undoubtedly be the M235i. If the 2 Series was due to cover lots of motorways miles as a company car, then it would be the 220d.
However our personal choice would be the halfway house, the 225d M Sport Coupe. This offers 218hp, and it exactly matches the torque of the M235i, with 450Nm. It accelerates to 62mph in 6.3 seconds, yet it also manages 60.1mpg. It’s only available with automatic transmission, but we can certainly live with that. Although we’ve not driven the 225d, we’ve driven enough of BMW’s range to predict that this will do an excellent job of combining performance, economy, fun and refinement. The downsides are that it has a slightly heavier front end with the diesel engine, and, at £32,095 – before BMW’s options list – it carries a fairly hefty price premium. But it’s still our pick of the 2 Series range. Overall the 2 Series gains a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.