BMW 2 Series Convertible review
BMW 2 Series convertible replaces the old 1 Series soft-top with more pace, efficiency and a big injection of style, too
Style is all-important in the compact cabriolet sector and the new BMW 2 Series Convertible adds an element of sleek, sharp design that we haven’t seen before to the firm’s small soft-top range, making it a stronger rival than ever for the Audi A3 Cabriolet.
This new-found sense of style doesn’t detract from the driving experience, though, as the 2 Series Convertible is still great fun to drive. There’s bags of grip on offer, plenty of feedback from the chassis and a reasonably comfortable ride that mean this is an impressive all-rounder.
To improve the 2 Series Convertible’s handling BMW has added extra strengthening, making the body shell 20 per cent stiffer than the old 1 Series Convertible it replaced. This means body wobble is kept to a minimum, again, aiding performance and refinement.
Practicality isn’t too bad for a small convertible, with a good sized boot and two small rear seats to offer extra space. Most of the interior is carried over from the 2 Series Coupe, meaning the Convertible is a comfortable cruiser, helped by a new triple-layer insulated roof that keeps road roar down.
There are four engines to choose from, but it’s the 220d that is the one to go for – still with plenty of pace (matching the similarly-priced 220i petrol), but returning over 60mpg.
There’s now a seriously hot 2 Series Convertible in the form of the M235i, too. With a 322bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine it’s pricey, but quick, covering 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds.
The fourth engine choice for now is the sprightly if not super-quick 228i, which gets a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. There are Sport, Luxury and M-Sport trim levels available that add extra equipment and even more style, plus that M-Performance version at the top of the range.
Our choice: BMW 220d Sport
Compared with the gawky-looking 1 Series that’s just been facelifted, the BMW 2 Series is a much more elegant machine – and this Convertible carries over the coupé’s long, low lines. As a result, the BMW looks great with its roof up or down.
Some modern convertibles use folding hard-tops, but BMW has stuck with a fabric roof for the 2 Series Convertible, which owners can spec in different colours which add a sense of style alongside the gloss-black body accents on some models.
At the front, the long bonnet stretches forward with BMW’s famous kidney grille taking pride of place in the heavily styled bumper. The 2 Series’ striking headlights also help give the car an aggressive scowl. This car is 72mm longer and 26mm wider than the old 1 Series Convertible it replaces, and on the road it shows.
The 2 Series’ proportions look less dumpy and much sportier, with the raked windscreen and the high beltline running down the side of the car and round to the back giving it a stretched stance.
BMW’s familiar L-shaped tail-lights make an appearance at the rear, but they eat into the boot aperture, reducing practicality. Some models get dark chrome twin tailpipes as standard to add to the racier look, while larger wheels are an optional add-on. Overall, it’s a very attractive design that looks chic and graceful with a focused edge.
The 2 Series’ cockpit will be familiar to most BMW owners, borrowing its dash design and layout from the coupé and 1 Series. That’s no bad thing, as with its iDrive controller and upgraded 8.8-inch sat-nav screen the infotainment system is still one of the slickest around. Compared to the Audi A3’s minimalist, high-quality cabin, though, the BMW is showing its age.
BMWs have always been known as drivers’ cars, with good weight distribution thanks to their front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. The lovely balance this set-up brings is still ingrained in the 2 Series Convertible, but it’s not quite as composed as its coupé cousin.
Removing the roof for a cabriolet reduces the car’s structural rigidity, and even though the 2 Series is 20 per cent stiffer than the model it replaces, driving along smooth roads its chassis wobbles and fidgets around, with noticeable vibrations fed back through the steering column.
Big bumps knock the chassis off-line, too, and you have to guide the wheel with a firm hand to keep the 2 Series on course on anything other than a perfect surface.
This is even with the optional adjustable suspension dampers linked to BMW’s Drive Performance Control system set to Comfort, although the ride has a nice soft edge and feels controlled. But again, only on super-smooth roads.
However, despite this dynamic downside there is still lots of grip on offer. The BMW’s steering is light – even in the Sport setting – but it’s not devoid of feel, so you can gauge what the front and rear wheels are doing.
The 2 Series Convertible serves up nicely balanced handling, allowing you to adjust the car’s cornering line with the accelerator and steering.
However, the 1 Series underpinnings are obvious, and the soft-top 2 Series feels more like a modified hatchback to drive than an out-and-out sports car.
BMW’s sturdy image takes a bit of a pounding here, as the manufacturer managed only 14th place in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey. It was ranked low down in the reliability table in 22nd position – but that’s still one place ahead of arch rival Audi.
BMW customers weren’t particularly impressed with their local garage in our most recent dealer survey, either; the brand finished 22nd out of 32. However, as the 2 Series Convertible uses engines and other parts from the 1 Series hatch, which has been around for a while now, it should be a dependable choice.
When it comes to safety, things are a little different. Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested this model, but its sister car – the 1 Series – was awarded a full five-star rating. The 2 Series also gets pop-up rollover hoops that emerge from behind the rear seats if the car should turn over, as well as an SOS emergency call function.
Although there’s plenty of room for the driver, plus good seat and steering adjustment to get a great driving position, rear passengers get a raw deal. With the rear seats shuffled forward compared to the Coupé to make way for the hood mechanism and storage, there’s very little legroom – even kids will feel cramped.
There are only two seats back there, too. Climbing in and out isn’t the easiest in spite of the doors opening wider, especially with the hood up. Boot space at 280 litres when the hood’s folded away is pretty miserly. With the roof up you get 335 litres, which isn’t much more than in a supermini, while the shape of the boot is a bit awkward.
The 2 Series Cabrio isn’t a cheap car to buy, with prices starting from £26,045 for the entry-level 218i SE model and rising to £37,710 for the range-topping M235i. However, running costs shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Even the high-performance M235i claims an average of 35.8mpg with the optional Sport Automatic gearbox – pretty impressive in a car that will get from 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds. The diesel claims over 60mpg, with low CO2 figures of 116g/km for the automatic, making it a tempting company car choice.
Private buyers should always take advantage of BMW’s pre-paid annual servicing packs when they buy their cars – it makes servicing at BMW main dealers much more affordable.