Road tests

New BMW 2 Series 230i M Sport review

The 230i is one of the less popular derivatives of the 2 Series, but is it a hidden gem that deserves more attention?

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This mid-power version of the 2 Series has enough go to make the most of the coupe’s fine chassis without feeling excessive. It also undercuts the range-topping M240i significantly in terms of price, and is much more economical. It’s probably the best compromise in the range, but it’s destined to be a niche option regardless. 

The M240i isn’t the only way to go quickly in a new BMW 2-series coupe. Sitting just below it in the range is the 230i, and while lacking the M-badged car’s six-cylinder punch, it still boasts some impressive figures.

Under the bonnet with its muscular ‘power dome’ (you get this on all 2 Series derivatives regardless of output) is not an inline-six, but an inline four. It offers up 242bhp, giving it an impressive 61bhp boost over the 220i, which uses the same ‘B48’ engine in a lower state of tune. The 230i is over 100bhp down on the M240i, but it’ll still crack the 0-62mph sprint in a very respectable 5.9 seconds.

Like the 220i and in contrast to the all-wheel drive M240i, the 230i’s engine powers the rear wheels exclusively. That means you do have to be paying a little more attention than in the six-pot car, although the traction control will step in fairly quickly if the demands of the inline four become too much for the rear wheels. 

As we’ve found with a lot of more recent BMWs, the 2 Series can feel quite detached to drive. You’re cocooned from the outside world like never before, and there’s precious little feedback from the steering, which is overly firm to the point of feeling mushy in Sport mode. But the latest 2er makes up for this with a greater degree of capability, helped by a 53mm increase in track at the front and 31mm at the rear.

While the previous-generation car could feel a little soft and wallowy at times, the latest 2 Series changes direction with much more keenness, and its body barely rolls even in Comfort mode. Thanks to a shorter wheelbase than the larger 4 Series, which uses the same ‘CLAR’ platform, it also feels nicely agile. 

All of this is true with the 220i, but here, the greater level of performance seems like a better match for the improved chassis, without ever feeling excessive on the road. The punchy low-to-mid-range is particularly welcome, with 400Nm of torque - 100Nm more than the 220i - arriving from just 1,600rpm. Shifts from the eight-speed automatic gearbox are swift enough, and when left to its own devices, the transmission always seems to be on the ball, whether the 230i is driven hard or just being pottered around. There’s no manual option, which seems a shame, although the auto is a good fit for the car.

The noise put out by the 2.0-litre engine meanwhile is nothing to write home about, but it’s not a bad din either, even if BMW’s efforts to ‘improve’ it with artificial sound in Sport mode are somewhat misguided. It’s one of three reasons Sport mode is best avoided - we’ve already covered the mushy steering, and along with the fake noise piped through the speakers, you also get a stiffer damping set-up that isn’t necessary.

As it is, the 230i is quite firm, and the adaptive dampers could do with a little more finesse. The ride struggles to settle on some roads, and there’s a particularly surprising harshness to the rebound stroke of the shocks. Your best bet is to either leave the 2 Series in Comfort mode, or use the Individual option to tailor each aspect of the car to your liking.

Despite the at times bouncy ride, the 2 Series is a great grand tourer regardless of the engine you choose. The trade-off of that refinement which makes the car feel a little remote to drive means it’s nicely quiet at cruising speeds, while the front seats are fantastically comfortable. The on-board tech is brilliant, particularly as the 2 Series - for now at least - uses the older iDrive 7 operating system, which is easier to navigate on the move than 8, whether you use the touchscreen or the classic iDrive rotary controller. 

There’s only one trim level available - M Sport. This brings with it a healthy standard equipment list with highlights including part-Alcantara/part artificial leather seats, the aforementioned iDrive set-up with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three-zone climate control, heated seats, adaptive LED lights and 18-inch wheels. 

Boot space is strong for a car of this type at 390 litres, and the rear seats can be dropped in a 40:20:40 split to expand the load space further. With them up, you get a pair of decent-sized chairs which can just about accommodate shorter adults for brief trips, and will be plenty roomy for kids. 

On longer trips, you’ll also appreciate the extra economy relative to the M240i. While that car returns an official combined figure of 34.4mpg, the 230i manages 42.8mpg, only a slight drop on the 220i despite the fairly big uplift in performance.

 It slots into the range nicely, offering a great option for anyone wanting a quick, sporty small coupe without spending the £48,430 BMW charges for the 2 Series range-topper. The £40,420 price tag for the 230i undercuts that of the six-pot car significantly, while representing a relatively modest £3,710 increase over the 220i. On a monthly BMW PCP, you can expect to pay about £564 - roughly £60 more than a 220i, and just over £100 less than an M240i. 

Despite appearing to be the best compromise in the range, few buyers are expected to be persuaded. When the 2 Series launched earlier this year, BMW predicted the 230i would only make up nine per cent of the mix, compared to 24 per cent for the M240i and a whopping 60 per cent for the 220i. Only the 220d is going to be less popular, with just seven per cent of buyers opting for a diesel-powered 2er. 

Model:BMW 230i Coupe M Sport
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl petrol turbo

Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

0-62mph:5.9 seconds
Top speed:155mph
On sale:Now

Now read our review of the new BMW 3-Series...

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