BMW 2 Series review
BMW 2 Series looks great, and it's one of the most involving coupes to drive at this price
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. 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.
It 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, a 225d with 218bhp, as well as 220i and 228i petrols with 184bhp and 245bhp respectively. There's also a flagship 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo in the M235i, which boasts 322bhp.
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 is the M235i.
Among the 2 Series strengths are its range of punchy turbocharged engines, best-in-class eight-speed automatic gearbox, and a rear-drive chassis that really sets it apart in handling terms from front-drive-hatch-based rivals. It’s certainly the driver’s choice in the class, if not as stylish as the more svelte TT or Peugeot RCZ.
Our Choice: BMW 220d SE
Despite its 1 Series underpinnings, the new 2 Series is a desirable coupe in its own right.
A longer and lower body, wider track and stretched wheelbase give it sportier coupe proportions, while neatly executed detailing adds the final layer of desirability.
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.
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. Build quality is solid and the well laid-out dashboard is excellent.
Highlights in the standard kit list include the trademark iDrive infotainment controller, a 6.5-inch display screen, aluminium trim, DAB radio and a multifunction wheel. 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.
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 220d’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 with the 2.0-litre diesel’s punchy nature to make the 220d feel quicker than you’d expect.
On the road, there’s plenty of urge between 2,000 and 3,000rpm, which means lots of usable performance. And aside from 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 2 Series range, with a revvy, sonorous engine note that could fool you into thinking the car isn’t turbocharged.
The standard run-flat tyres have a slightly firm edge, but with our test car’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 range-topping 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 as far as a Porsche Cayman before you find a coupe with better handling. Even BMW’s own M4 Coupe struggles to outwit the little M235i for pound-for-pound thrills.
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 about new car niggles.
After a period of electrical gremlins dogging their cars, BMW is repairing its reputation for build quality and reliability. In our 2014 Driver Power survey, BMW itself came 10th out of 33 manufacturers, while the current 1 Series, on which the 2 Series is closely based, shot up from 54th to an impressive eight place. Buyers particularly rated its build quality, which we expect the 2 Series to replicate,
Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested a 2 Series yet, but it has a solid base in the five-star 1 Series. Dynamic brake lights, which change their intensity depending on how hard you’re braking, head, side and knee airbags and an alarm are standard, while safety options include city-friendly autobrake and lane departure warning.
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.
BMW coupes have always been very usable everyday cars, and the new 2 Series is no different. Its wheelbase is 30mm longer than the old 1 Series Coupe’s, while boot capacity is up 20 litres to 390 litres – giving the BMW the largest load area in this test. Better still, the tailgate opens to reveal a usefully large aperture, plus the rear bench splits and folds.
Passengers sitting in the back also fare well. Legroom is a fraction tighter than in the VW Scirocco, but with bigger side windows and better headroom, the 2 Series feels more spacious, plus the two individual rear seats are supportive and comfortable.
Up front, there’s plenty of stowage, with decent door pockets, plus a big glovebox and centre cubby. Rear parking sensors, auto lights and Bluetooth are standard, plus BMW’s excellent Professional Navigation system is available as a pricey option.
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. BMW reckons the 220d will be the most popular, capable of 58.9mpg with the manual or 64.2mpg with the automatic gearbox.
The petrol models aren’t particularly far behind, with the 220i claiming 44.8mpg (47.1mpg with the auto). The M235i is the least 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.
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. Plus, our experts’ retained value prediction of 47.6 per cent is nothing to be ashamed of.