Richard Berry road tests and reviews the BMW 2 Series with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
Do you know how many different types of Tim Tam biscuits you can get now? If you count the Espresso Martini, Strawberry Champagne and Pina Colada limited editions along with the bite-size “Chocolicious” range there’s 15. Seriously, at what point were the Original ones not enough? OK the double-coat version is pretty good, but they should have stopped there.
See it’s all about shelf space – something for all tastes. Car companies do it too for the same reason – if they don’t have something for everybody they risk losing customers, it’s like an arms race, so there’s an increasing number of models and more variants of them than ever.
Take the BMW 1 and 2 Series, they are the German brand’s most affordable models. The 1 Series is a hatchback, while the 2 comes as coupe or a convertible. All up there are 11 different variants of the 1 and 2 and that’s not including the 2 Series Active Tourer, but we’re not going there right now.
So there’s also a real risk of people losing their minds while trying to get their heads around it all. That’s why when BMW launched the updated versions of the 1 and 2 Series recently we decided to cover it in two parts – there’s a 1 Series review over here and what you’re reading now is our take on the new 2 Series.
The update to the 2 Series brings it into alignment feature-wise with the 1 Series. The other big changes are to the engines. So the question is – just how new and improved is the 2 Series?
If you reckon the updated 2 Series coupe and convertible look just like the previous ones, then you’d be right. BMW hasn’t changed the styling or the dimensions and at 4432mm end to end and 1774 across and it’s about 103mm longer and 9mm wider than the 1 Series, but both have the same wheelbase of 2690mm.
The 2 Series does look drop-dead gorgeous.
You’d shop the 2 Series against the Mercedes-Benz CLA coupe or an Audi A3. The Benz is more than 200mm longer but the length is all in the nose and bum because it has almost the same wheelbase, while the Audi A3 is only 24mm longer end to end and it’s wheelbase is 62mm shorter.
Both the Benz and Audis have four doors, which is good for practicality (see section below) but it makes them look more sedate and sensible than the 2 Series. Nothing tells the world you don’t give a damn about passengers more than a two door coupe… apart from a motorcycle. This lets the designers go to town in styling a car that looks sleek and fast. The 2 Series looks perfectly proportioned – even more so than when it used to be called 1 Series which was tiny but still a coupe.
The convertible adds glamour but looks better with the top off than it does with it on. The fabric roof just doesn’t cut the same sexy profile as the hardtop.
Changes in the cabin are fairly minimal and really only include a new interior lights package and power adjustable seating in some variants. Cockpit design stays the same – there’s the orderly centre console stack of climate control, CD player and air vents with a display screen standing a top like a billboard on a building. The layout has graced BMWs for nigh on 10 years now and is beginning to date. Higher end models get a digital instrument cluster while the entry level cars get analogue dials.
Did you read the section above? About how the 2 Series’ German rivals have four doors, but that just makes them look like cars for people who list birdwatching on their holiday things to do list? But while the 2 Series does look drop-dead gorgeous two doors means you’ll sacrifice practicality – but when has looking good ever been practical, right?
Even at 191cm I can clamber into the back seats, it’s not a huge effort because the front slides forward enough to offer a good-sized entry. Sitting behind my driving position is a squeeze and even with the clever design of the contoured seatbacks which attempt to maximise room my knees are still hard up against them. That does makes getting out tricky for somebody my size.
Headroom is limited in the back of the coupe, I could still sit up normally but my hair was brushing the roof.
You know what you won’t find almost anywhere? Images of the back seats of the coupe or much information about them – there’s only two seats belts back there on the outside seats – so these cars are only built for four people.
Storage space is ok with two cupholders up front, and four-section door pockets which can fit a small bottle in each if you’re thirsty. The convertible has cupholders in the back, but the coupe doesn’t have any for the rear passengers – they should just count themselves lucky they’re getting a lift in the first place.
The 2 Series Coupe’s boot capacity is 390 litres, in comparison the 3 Series has 480 litres.
Back to those front doors. Have you lived with a coupe before? The doors are longer and heavier than four door cars – makes getting out on hills interesting.
Price and features
Ok, deep breath, there’s a lot to take in here, so feel free to take what you need and run to the next section.
The 2 Series Coupe line-up kicks off with the 220i which at $53,000 is $2000 more than the outgoing 220i, but you’ll get $3500 worth of new standard features such as bi-xenon headlights, Driving Assistant, interior lights package, headlight washers and a more advanced instrument cluster.
Right stay with me here. Above the 220i is the 230i which replaces the outgoing 228i. Still there? Good, because this is the bargain of the range even at $61,900. Sure the price has gone up by $2000 but you’re now getting $6700 worth of standard stuff such as the M sport package, the new Professional sat nav system and proximity unlocking.
At the top of the coupe line-up is the M240i and at $74,900 gets a $2300 price cut over the M235i it replaces, plus $6500 worth of additional equipment. This includes a Harman/kardon stereo, proximity unlocking, power adjustable heated and ventilated seats, and adaptive headlights.
The Convertible range mirrors the Coupe’s features line-up, but is a bit pricier. The 220i convertible is $58,300 which is $2000 more than the outgoing one; the 230i is $71,900 and that’s an increase of $3000 and at the top is the M240i Convertible which like its hardtop sibling has had a price drop of $2300 and is now $83,900.
Engines and transmission
This is where the other big news lives because often when a car company says its engine makes more power it’s because they’ve changed software and retuned the engine to get more grunt. Not the case here, BMW has introduced a new-generation 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine and redesigned its 3.0-litre turbo-petrol six-cylinder.
The four cylinder is in the 220i where it makes 135kW (up 5kW) and 270Nm, which is enough to get it from 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds in the coupe and 7.7 second in the Convertible (because it’s heavier). In the 230i it’s tuned to make 185kW (up 5kW) and 350Nm and that’ll do the 0-100km/h sprint in 5.6s in the Coupe and 5.9s in the Convertible.
The six-cylinder is in the M240i and it’s a cracker. BMW has moved the turbo and the intercooler, plus its lined the surface of the cylinders to make them slipperier. The result is 10kW more power and 50Nm more torque than the previous engine.
All 2 Series cars use an eight-speed automatic which is one of this car’s highlights – it’s super smooth, pretty quick and the bark as you shift up is sweet.
A six-speed manual can also be optioned for no extra cost on the M240i.
All engines are now more efficient. For the coupes the four cylinder in the 220i uses an average of 5.8L/100km in combined driving conditions, the 230i does 5.9L/100km and the M240i drinks at 7.1L/100km. the Convertible is a tad thirstier because of it extra weight with the 220 using 6.1L/100km; the 230i with 6.2L/100km and the M240i goes through 7.4L/100km.
The 1 and 2 series launch was held out of Albury on switchback roads which zigged and zagged between NSW and Victoria. There’s was also a stint on-track at Winton Raceway. I drove the M240i in both manual and auto guises, and also drove the coupe and convertible versions of the 230i.
First the 230i Coupe. BMW has made the M Sport package a standard piece of kit now and apart from it making the car look a helluva lot tougher, it actually works in improving the car’s dynamics. The sports suspension ‘holds’ the car to the road more, there’s a less floaty bouncing feeling and body roll through the corners is reduced noticeably.
The reason why BMW made the kit standard is because it noticed that most of the folks buying its predecessor the 228i were optioning the pack.
On the course-chip surfaces we drove on there was a fair amount of road noise filtering into the 220i’s cabin. Even more so, as you’d expect, in the Convertible 230i which we tested next first with the roof up which proved to be excellent at keeping wind noise out.
With the top down I could feel and see some scuttle shake occurring – it’s a common vibration issue with convertibles caused because the structure is less rigid than a car with a roof. Still the convertible handles well, rides comfortable, with the spot on steering of its hardtop sibling – all with a bit more flamboyancy.
The 185kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the 230i is great with more than enough grunt – 185kW is what a 5.0-litre V8 HSV Clubsport Commodore made back in 1995.
The M240i is the performance pick. Small car, big engine. How can you go wrong? OK, don’t answer that. That straight six is superb in the way it delivers so smoothly and the way it screams in delight as it does it.
Armed with big brakes, suspension you can set up to be firmer or softer it’s a low flying fighter jet that won’t attract as much attention as the hard-core M2 even though it has more torque and just a little bit less power.
On the road the ride could be switched to comfort – which makes this not just a driver’s car but a daily driver’s car. Again that eight-speed auto is perfectly matched to this powerplant.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but letting my co-driver take over I sat in the back seat to see what the ride was like. The second row is a bit bench-like, but still comfortable, the ride isn’t bad at all back there. Then we hit the hairpins and after 20km of being thrown around like a footy I had to get out before my breakie reappeared.
On the track I scored the M240i with the six-speed manual. Sport+ mode was selected and I played cat and mouse with a BMW driver instructor in an M4 who outgunned me with both his skill and the car’s ability, but the M240i performed well, acceleration out of the corners was particularly impressive.
Shifting yourself is never going to be a quick as whacking a paddle but the connection it brings to the car is worth the leg work out.
If you were to take this to the track regularly you might find an upgrade to bigger brakes and wider rubber will provide a better antidote to the grunt.
In the back row you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether mounts for child seats.
The 2 Series is covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, servicing is condition based.