Used BMW 2 Series (Mk1, 2014-2021) review - What's it like to drive?

A well-honed rear drive chassis and powerful engines make the BMW 2 Series fun to drive

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

  • Fantastic handling
  • Efficient engines
  • High-quality cabin
  • Design lacks flair
  • Tight rear seats
  • Pricey next to 1 Series

The BMW 2 Series gets a beautifully sorted rear-wheel-drive chassis, which strikes a near-perfect balance between fun and comfort. In fact, 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 car's lively responses and agile handling.

Engines

Buyers could originally choose between 182bhp 220i, 242bhp 228i and 321bhp M235i petrol models, while diesel fans had 141bhp 218d, 181bhp 220d and 215bhp 225d editions to tempt them.

From November 2014, the 220d got a more efficient engine, and three months later the 2 Series Convertible went on sale in 220i, 228i, M235i and 220d forms. By April 2015 there were fresh 2 Series Coupe derivatives; a 218i (with a 1,499cc three-cylinder engine) and a four-wheel-drive (xDrive) 220d joined the range.

All engines have plenty of usable performance. Refinement is excellent, with very little engine noise on the move, while the six-cylinder M240i is the king of the mainstream 2 Series range. It has a revvy, sonorous engine note that could fool you into thinking the car isn’t turbocharged. The M2 is a step beyond even that.

On the road

The fast and precise steering and rear-drive balance helps the car turn in with more vigour than front-drive rivals such as the Audi TT. 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 Audi.

Traction is superb and the six-speed manual gearbox shifts with more precision than some of the older, notchier 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 to make the 2 Series feel quicker than you’d expect.

The standard run-flat tyres have a slightly firm edge, but with BMW's optional 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 such as more powerful brakes and a limited-slip differential.

Clearly, the M240i (previously badged M235i) is a slightly different proposition from the more pedestrian three- and four-cylinder 2 Series models. It’s stiffer and more aggressive, and in a way that’s still surprisingly accessible. It produces 335bhp from its 3.0-litre straight six and will accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds. It never feels like it'll bite you in the corners if you’re a bit too aggressive with your inputs, offering huge amounts of fun. The M2 is even more extreme in its set-up and remains one of the best driver’s cars of recent years.

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