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Road tests

New BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe 2020 review

The new BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe is based on the M135i hatch, but its set-up is a little softer and it's not as convincing to drive

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

Verdict

The M235i xDrive is a car with loads of performance, good handling, an upmarket interior and enough space for a family. Yet the package here isn’t convincing, because the much cheaper 218i model offers just as much driver engagement for significantly less.

BMW has become known for its niche-filling products, along with other German car makers – and the 2 Series Gran Coupe is certainly one of those. It’s based on the 1 Series platform, so it shares engines and tech with the hatchback model (meaning it’s also part of a new generation of front-wheel-drive models, though this M235i xDrive version is four-wheel drive), yet it has a saloon body shape.

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It’s not really a coupe, despite the name, as it has four doors – and there’s enough room in the back seats for the kids, or adults on short trips. It’s not as big as a 3 Series, yet it’s not far off – and the M235i rivals the long-running model in terms of price.

It costs from £37,255, and for that you get a 302bhp four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, an eight-speed auto gearbox and four-wheel drive. It’s the same set-up as on the M135i hatch. Our car came with options including the M235i Plus pack, the Comfort pack 2 and the Technology pack, bringing the total price to £43,065.

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That’s a big outlay, and with that comes higher expectations. Those are just about met with the interior quality, which is very good, even with some cheaper plastics here and there. On the whole it feels like a premium product inside, and the hi-res infotainment and dial display screens add a lot to that. They’re easy to use and very sharp.

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Yet the M in the car’s name carries a weight of expectation. It’s BMW’s Motorsport division’s seal of approval, and the previous M235i was absolutely worthy of the name, with its six-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels and delightful handling.

This new model strikes an immediate bum note with its engine, though. The four-cylinder under the bonnet has a droning, dull exhaust note, which isn’t helped by the fake-sounding noise pumped into the cabin when you accelerate. The power delivery is just as disappointing, as the engine doesn’t relish revs. 

It’s blisteringly fast – 0-62mph takes just 4.9 seconds – but we’re used to these kinds of figures in 2020. Almost all hot hatchbacks can keep up with the M235i, so buyers will want the car to offer something more than just pure speed. 

You don’t get this from the engine – and while the gearbox is great in normal driving, it’s a bit jerky when driving quickly. The 2 Series does excel when it comes to handling, though, which is a real strength. The chassis brings a lot of agility, moving around on the throttle when desired, and the four-wheel drive system straightens the car’s line out of corners. The steering could do with more precision, but that’s true of nearly all BMWs these days.

Yet all of these characteristics are also true of lesser models in the range. A 218i model is every bit as agile as the M235i unless you’re right at the limit on a circuit – and the three-cylinder engine in that model is actually more fun to use than the 2.0-litre unit in the M235i.

Model:

BMW M235i xDrive Grand Coupe
Price:£37,255
Engine2.0-litre 4cyl petrol
Power/torque:302bhp/450Nm
Transmission:Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:4.9 seconds
Top speed:155mph
Economy/CO2:36.2mpg / 153g/km
On sale:Now
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