BMW 220d 2014 review

The BMW 220d diesel will be a top seller, but does it match the coupe's sporty image?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Despite the fact it doesn’t have the firepower or chassis upgrades of the M235i, this basic BMW 220d is still one of the finest handling coupes for under £30,000. More than that, though, it feels like a really grown-up, comfortable car with a high-quality cabin and premium design. The only real let-down of this package is the engine, which is too gruff under acceleration. There’s always the smoother 220i petrol, though.

This BMW 220d model is set to make up the majority of BMW 2 Series sales, even though the sporty M235i is the star of the range.

It’s a familiar set-up to anyone that knows the BMW 1 Series range – a four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel providing pretty impressive performance and great running costs. In this case, that means 0-62mph takes just 7.2 seconds and fuel economy stands at 58.9mpg. Go for the auto and those figures improve to 7.1 seconds and 64.2mpg.

The big difference over the 1 Series range on which this car is based is, obviously, the way it looks. The sharper headlights lean in to the grille and the proportions look a lot better resolved than they do in the hatch. Of course, you’ll have to make do with only four seats but you do get an extra 30 litres of space in the boot over the 1 Series.

In terms of the driving dynamics, you’re immediately struck by just how spot-on the chassis set up is. Our car was fitted with optional adaptive dampers (£750) and with them set to Comfort it flows really nicely over the road surface. Even in firmer Sport mode it’ll soak up rough roads while still keeping the body really taut.

And while it can’t compete with the M235i in terms of handling, the 220d is fun in its own way. The slightly softer set-up means you can feel the body moving around a bit more. You almost get more involvement from the chassis at low speeds, in the same way a Toyota GT 86 shines even when you’re nowhere near the speed limit. It feels rear-wheel drive and flexible on the limit in a way that models like the Audi TT or Volkswagen Scirocco struggle to match.

This 220d model is one of three diesel choices, though all are powered by the same 2.0-litre diesel, just in various states of tune. It’s the only diesel we had the chance to drive but you can see why it’ll be a big-seller. You get hot-hatch levels of performance, all while returning about 45mpg during normal driving.

The bad news is that this engine sounds pretty gruff. Some excellent four-cylinder diesels have been released recently and this BMW unit is beginning to look outclassed in terms of refinement. Under hard acceleration it’s pretty unpleasant – it seems really at odds with the sporty handling.

At least once you’re up to speed you’ll find the 2 Series is a really quiet place to spend a long journey. It feels a lot more like a 3 Series, tackling motorways with the comfort and refinement you expect of a far more expensive car.

That’s not to say that the 2 Series is a cheap car in the first place, with this 220d SE model costing £25,865. That’s a few thousand pounds more than a 120d, but you have to look at the 220d as more of a rival to models like the Scirocco and TT rather than an expensive 1 Series. When you take that onboard it’s really competitively priced, especially when you’re getting a car that’s a nice to drive as the 2 Series is.

Most Popular

'The death of cheap cars will be a travesty for personal mobility'
Opinion cheap cars
Opinion

'The death of cheap cars will be a travesty for personal mobility'

Our appetite for small, cheap cars is as strong as ever - although Mike Rutherford warns they may no longer be profitable
12 Sep 2021
E10 petrol explained: UK prices, checker tool and is it OK for your car?
Petrol pump
News

E10 petrol explained: UK prices, checker tool and is it OK for your car?

E10 petrol is up to 10 per cent ethanol and is available at UK fuel stations now as part of the bid to cut CO2 emissions
1 Sep 2021
What is Skoda vRS? History and best cars driven
Skoda vRS range
Skoda

What is Skoda vRS? History and best cars driven

To mark 20 years of Skoda’s vRS badge, we rounded up some of the performance cars from the past two decades that have worn the subtle green badge
17 Sep 2021