BMW 2 Series review
A compact rear-wheel drive coupe from BMW has obvious appeal. Does the BMW 2 Series live up to it?
Among the 2 Series' strengths are a range of punchy turbocharged engines which deliver great performance and economy, a best-in-class eight-speed automatic gearbox, and a rear-drive chassis.
It’s the latter that really sets the 2 Series apart in handling terms from front-drive-hatch-based rivals, and keen drivers will relish the agility of the set-up, even if the steering doesn’t transmit as much feel as BMWs of old.
But more conventional styling brings extra practicality that those more extrovert rivals struggle to match. With strong dynamic performance and the enviable reputation of the BMW badge, it makes the 2 Series a car that’s hard to overlook.
The BMW 2 Series Coupe was introduced in early 2014 as a replacement for the 1 Series Coupe. It’s based on the latest 1 Series hatchback but slightly stretched to create a sportier coupe bodystyle. Many people found the old 1 Series Coupe rather awkwardly styled, so with this 2 Series version BMW has gone out of its way to redress the balance. To do this, it has created a more conventional but arguably prettier car more in the mould of the bigger 4 Series Coupe. Rather than thinking of it as a fancy 1 Series, though, BMW wants you to imagine it as a rival to cars like the Audi TT, Volkswagen Scirocco and Toyota GT 86.
The 2 Series also borrows its engine line-up from the hatch, and the 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel 220d will likely make up the majority of UK sales. Elsewhere in the line-up is a 218d with 143bhp and a 225d with 218bhp, as well as 220i and 228i petrols with 184bhp and 245bhp respectively. There's also a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo in the M235i, which boasts 322bhp and a mighty M2 flagship.
In terms of spec, SE models kick off the range, moving through to Sport and M Sport – the latter of which adds aggressive bumpers, side skirts and larger alloy wheels. Topping off the range are the M235i and M2, which offer pumped-up looks as standard.
As with the previous 1 Series Coupe, an open-topped version is available in the form of the 2 Series Convertible. The 2 Series name also extends to a compact MPV style body, which BMW calls the Active Tourer, but this is built on the front-wheel drive MINI platform and as such isn’t a direct relation of the 2 Series Coupe.
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There’s also an M235i Racing derivative of the 2 Series Coupe, which is a track-only car developed by BMW Motorsport for a one-make race series.
Engines, performance and drive
The beautifully sorted rear-wheel-drive chassis strikes a near-perfect balance between fun and comfort, so the 2 Series is one of the most entertaining sub-£30k coupes around. Extensive use of aluminium in the suspension has reduced unsprung mass, while the traditional BMW 50:50 weight distribution adds to the car's lively responses and agile handling.
Elsewhere, the fast and precise steering and rear-drive balance helps the car turn in with more vigour than front-drive rivals like the Peugeot RCZ and VW Scirocco. There isn’t a great deal of steering feel, but the driving position is perfect, the steering ideally weighted and body control is excellent. There’s lots of grip, yet you can adjust its balance mid-corner more easily than in the Peugeot or VW.
Traction is superb and the six-speed manual gearbox shifts with more precision than some disappointingly notchy BMW gearshifts. The optional eight-speed automatic is one of the world’s best automatic gearboxes, with a huge breadth of ability that makes it as adept at relaxed cruising as it is at lightning fast manual changes when you’re driving quickly. Set the standard Drive Performance Control to Sport mode, and you get a lovely sharp throttle response, which combines to make the 2 Series feel quicker than you’d expect.
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The standard run-flat tyres have a slightly firm edge, but with BMW's £750 Adaptive M Sport suspension, the ride is impressively composed. It’s engaging on a twisty road and comfortable on long trips, so it’s very hard to find fault with the driving experience. Delving into BMW’s M Performance accessories range allows you to ramp up your 2 Series’ dynamic ability, with options like more powerful brakes and a limited-slip differential.
Clearly, the M235i is a slightly different kettle of fish to the more pedestrian four-cylinder 2 Series models. It’s stiffer and more aggressive, but in a way that’s still surprisingly accessible. Thanks to 322bhp, it’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in five seconds but won’t bite you in the corners if you’re a bit too aggressive with your inputs. It’s huge amounts of fun and you’ll have to look to the even more focused M2 or a Porsche Cayman before you find a small coupe with better handling.
On the road, all engines have plenty of usable performance. And aside from diesels being slightly gruff at idle, refinement is excellent, with very little engine noise on the move in the 220d. The 218d will likely be a touch more rattly due to needing to be worked harder. For aural thrills, the six-cylinder M235i is the king of the mainstream 2 Series range, with a revvy, sonorous engine note that could fool you into thinking the car isn’t turbocharged but the M2 is a step beyond even that.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The big-sellers in the UK will be the diesel-powered 2 Series models and that’s partly down to their low running costs. The 218d is cheapest of the bunch, boasting economy of 62.8mpg (64.2mpg with the auto) and CO2 emissions as low as 119g/km. That means you pay £30 a year for road tax.
BMW reckons the 220d will be the most popular, capable of 58.9mpg with the manual or 64.2mpg with the automatic gearbox. Depending on spec (smaller wheels make a difference), the C02 emissions will fall between 117g/km and 125g/km, and there’s a big difference in road tax for automatic and manual cars which are tax band C (£30) and D (£110) respectively.
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The down-sized and turbocharged petrol models aren’t particularly far behind in efficiency, with the 220i claiming 44.8mpg (47.1mpg with the auto). Its band D emissions will cost you £110 in road tax, but if you pick the 228i then mpg drops to 42.8 and tax rises to band E and £180.
The M235i is less frugal by quite some margin but when you consider it can do 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, you can forgive the 37.2mpg fuel economy figure. With a CO2 figure of 189g/km its road tax bill will be £490 in year one, followed by £265 every year afterwards.
With its sporty character and punchy performance you won’t find insurance especially cheap as even the entry model 218d gets a group 20 rating. At the other end of the scale the hot M235i earns a group 39 rating.
Our experts’ retained value prediction of 47.6 per cent for the BMW 2 Series is not class-leading, but is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just a few per cent behind the VW Scirocco.
Interior, design and technology
BMW’s current naming strategy might be a touch confusing, but it’s impossible to mistake this 2 Series for anything else. It replaced the 1 Series Coupe – and to great effect thanks to its sportier, lower and chunkier stance. These combine to give it sportier coupe proportions, while neatly executed detailing adds the final layer of desirability.
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The headlamps are narrower than on the hatch and all models get stylish LED tail-lights. Distinctive vents in the lower bumper channel air over the wheels and around the side of the car, while SE models get 17-inch wheels, front foglights and a chrome kidney grille. M Sport models get larger wheels and a sportier bodykit to give the 2 Series extra visual clout, with great effect.
Inside, the stylish and well-built layout is familiar from the 1 Series, but the frameless windows and long doors are as you’d expect for a coupe. The low-slung seating position is great and there’s lots of adjustment for the steering wheel and seat.
However, you’ll have to pay £1,150 extra for leather seat upholstery, while climate control is a £390 upgrade over the standard manual air-con.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The 2 Series’ interior layout is more conventional than that of the new Audi TT, with a large, centrally mounted eight-inch multimedia display and lots of buttons on the centre console. But despite this, it’s not at all confusing, and the rotary control wheel for BMW’s iDrive system works well and build quality is solid.
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Highlights in the standard kit list include sat-nav with the trademark iDrive infotainment controller, a 6.5-inch display screen, aluminium trim, DAB radio and a multifunction wheel. There’s a hands-free Bluetooth system with audio streaming too. Optional extras include voice control, an internet connection, and an upgraded Harman Kardon audio system.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
BMW coupes have always been very usable everyday cars, and the new 2 Series is no different. While some coupes have very constricted rear seats – or like the Audi TT, none at all – the BMW offers a decently-sized couple of chairs in the rear, as well as providing masses of room for the driver and passenger in the front. The driving position is excellent, with a huge range of adjustment as anyone familiar with the BMW line-up would expect.
Up front, there’s plenty of stowage, with decent door pockets, plus a big glovebox and centre cubby as well as a pair of cupholders in the centre console. Rear parking sensors, auto lights and Bluetooth are all practical touches on the standard kit list, plus BMW’s excellent Professional Navigation system is available as a pricey option.
The 2 Series may not look as racy as some of its coupe competitors, but it certainly benefits significantly in practical terms from its conventional three-box proportions. Its wheelbase is 30mm longer than the old 1 Series Coupe’s too.
Overall the 2 Series measures up at 4,432mm, which is longer than both the 4,256mm VW Scirocco and the 4,177mm Audi TT. At 1,418mm to the roof, it also stands higher than both the others – in fact it’s considerably taller than the TT, which stands at 1,353mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Getting into the back of the BMW is surprisingly easy, as the long doors open wide while the folding seat and high roofline combine to leave a big aperture.
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There’s plenty of elbow room for two when you’re inside, and a handy button which allows rear passengers to slide the front seats forward eases exit. Plus the two individual rear seats are supportive and comfortable.
Headroom is a little compromised, and the Scirocco offers a little more room overall in the back, but conversely it feels a bit more claustrophobic. Rear Isofix mountings are standard in the 2 Series.
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Boot capacity is up 20 litres to 390 litres – giving the BMW a decent-sized load area that’s more voluminous than most coupe rivals. Better still, the tailgate opens to reveal a usefully large aperture, plus the rear bench splits and folds.
Reliability and Safety
The new 2 Series shares most of its parts with the 1 Series, which has been on sale for a few years, so there’s no need to have any concerns over new car niggles.
After a period of electrical gremlins dogging their cars, BMW is repairing its reputation for build quality and reliability. In our Driver Power survey, in 2014 BMW itself came 10th out of 33 manufacturers, while the 1 Series, on which the latest 2 Series is closely based, shot up from 54th to an impressive eight place. Buyers particularly rated its build quality, a commendation which we fully expect the 2 Series to replicate.
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Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested a 2 Series yet either, but it has a reassuringly solid base in the five-star 1 Series. Impressive safety features include dynamic brake lights, which change their intensity depending on how hard you’re braking, while head, side and knee airbags and an alarm are standard. Other safety options include city-friendly autobrake and lane departure warning, and every 2 Series comes with run-flat tyres.
As standard BMW offers a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty with the 2 Series and if you don’t want any nasty service or maintenance surprises then you can go for the Service Inclusive Plus package. It costs just over £1,000 but covers all of those costs for the first five years/50,000 miles. The standard cover is by no means industry-leading, but it’s par for the course in the sector.
Service intervals are variable for the 2 Series range, but BMW offers a range of service packages to cover the first 50,000 miles or five years of driving to have the vehicle assessed at a certified dealer. Also, owners can keep tabs on how components like the brake pads or various filters are ageing by checking the iDrive system on board the car.