BMW M2 Competition review
The BMW M2 Competition is the entry point to high-performance BMW ownership, but some would argue it's the best
In terms of price and specification, the BMW M2 Competition is the entry point of the M Performance division, but it's far from being the least appealing car in the line-up. In fact, we'd go as far as saying that as a package, the M2 Competition is the best M car for sale today. It offers useable performance and engaging handling, while the Competition upgrade has given the M2 a new lease of life.
The M2 Coupe was first launched in 2016, and it's based on the 2 Series (which in turn is the two-door version of the 1 Series hatchback). But the M2 has a specification more in common with the higher spec M3 and M4 models, as it uses performance parts taken from these two models, including the twin-turbo straight-six engine, and both manual and DCT gearbox options. Power from the 3.0-litre engine is a huge 404bhp, and there's 550Nm of torque, too, making the M2 a powerful package.
Also added as part of the 2018 Competition upgrade is a stiffer bodyshell, stronger strut braces for the suspension and improved rear suspension, although the Competition's overall set-up and geometry remains the same as the original M2 Coupe. That means a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive transmission layout, plus bigger tyres wrapped around lightweight alloy wheels and multilink suspension designed to deliver perfect handling.
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The result is a hugely satisfying car to drive, with responsive steering, powerful brakes and a handling balance that means it's easy to get the M2 sideways on a closed circuit, but it's also relatively easy to control, too.
The M2 Competition gets the same muscular styling as the original M2 Coupe, so it really stands out from the rest of the 2 Series range. There are wide wheelarches with 19-inch wheels, a revised front end with bigger air intakes and the traditional set of four tail pipes at the rear. Inside, standard kit includes leather sports seats, carbon-look trim on the dashboard and M-badging. The only options you need to choose are which colour you want and if you want to pay extra for the seven-speed twin-clutch DCT auto over the standard six-speed manual.
As there aren't many front engined, rear-drive coupes at the M2 Competition's price point (it weighs in at around £50,000, with the DCT model around £2,000 extra), there isn't much direct competition for it. However, open up your options in the performance car market, and there are other cars worth considering.
These include the Audi RS 3, which is available as a Sportback hatch and saloon, plus the closely related Audi TT RS. Other coupes worth considering include the Porsche Cayman, while the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Coupe is a toned-down alternative to the faster C 63 AMG model. For a left-field choice, the Ford Mustang can't hold a candle to the M2 for performance, but is an experience to drive all the same.
The M2 Competition falls into a performance car patch between higher performance models and the fastest hot hatchbacks. If you want a car with more practicality that's likely to be easier to manage on the road (especially in the wet) then cars like the Volkswagen Golf R and Honda Civic Type R are worth a look, while BMW's own M140i hatch and M240i coupe are cheaper alternatives that still have rear-wheel drive and straight-six power.
The BMW M2 Competition is the smallest BMW M-car, but in reality it's closer to being a spiritual successor to the original BMW M3 than any other current M-badged model. While the M3 has grown beyond recognition, the M2 is a compact and agile rear-drive sports car that is entertaining to drive.
The M2 focuses on delivering fine handling, thanks to a powerful engine and tuned rear-wheel-drive chassis, and it's all wrapped up in a small coupe body. Even better is the fact that the Competition upgrades have given the car an even sharper focus than before. It’s an affordable way into the world of BMW M motoring, but be aware that there are many talented hot hatchbacks on the market that are just as quick and fun to drive as the BMW M2, but cost considerably less.
Engines, performance and drive
Take a quick look at an M2 Competition in a more sober colour like black, and it may look like a nicely-specced 2 Series Coupe, but it’s an awful lot more than that.
The BMW M2 faces stiff competition from brand new four-wheel drive mega-hatches and some more traditional two-wheel-drive sports cars. The M2 sits in the latter category with its drive being sent to the rear wheels. It means the car is a little more old-school in concept and that will appeal to hardcore drivers. This is evident in the way you can adjust the line the M2 takes round corners with the accelerator.
With 404bhp and a pair of fat rear tyres, you can make some lurid tail slides too. It’s a far cry from the M4 Coupe and old 1 Series M Coupe which really kept you on your toes – the M2 is never scary and stays predictable on the limits of its handling thanks to plenty of grip from the rear tyres and a beautifully balanced chassis.
The car is excellent in Comfort mode where you get the lighter settings for the steering and suspension that allow you to cover ground quickly and smoothly. The ride is very good for this type of car and compared to the M2’s competitors, but it could be too hard for some people used to less performance-focused machinery. It's worth noting here that adaptive dampers aren't even an option on the M2 Competition.
Turn to Sport mode and the M2 gets sharper and Sport+ gives a little ‘slip’ to the rear wheels to allow some hooligan antics before the electronics intervene to help you out.
The M2 comes as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox and it’s generally precise to use, although it can be a little heavy and rubbery at times. Splash out around £2,000 extra and you’ll get an excellent eight-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox which comes with wheel-mounted paddle shifters and launch control.
There’s only one engine in the M2 but it’s a good one. Under the bonnet lies one of BMW’s sonorous 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six units, and in the Competition it's a version of the straight-six from the M3 and M4, rather than the M135i-sourced unit in the original M2 Coupe. It pushes out 404bhp and 550Nm of torque that means the M2 will rocket from 0-62mph in just 4.4 seconds (4.2 seconds for the DCT model) and on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
The six-cylinder unit lacks the overall firepower of its bigger cousins, but the glorious-sounding powerplant has a more progressive delivery. There isn't the same sudden rush of turbocharged power as in the larger M cars, meaning its easier to make the most of the M2's balanced and engaging handling.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
BMW’s excellent 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six gets 28.2mpg on the combined cycle in manual form, so you'll probably be lucky to get 25mpg out of the M2 if you use its performance. While that sounds a little disappointing, it is broadly the same as you’d expect from the Ford Focus RS and the Audi RS 3 mega hatchbacks – two cars that are very close to the M2 in performance and useability.
For company car drivers, the M2 has a 2275g/km CO2 emissions figure, for the seven-speed DCT equipped car, and a high list price (from over £44,000). The annual tax liability at the standard rate comes to £3,149 a year while higher rate tax payers will have to pay £6,298 a year. The Audi RS3 sits in the same category as the M2 but is a little cheaper at the standard and higher rate, and other super hot hatches like the Ford Focus RS are considerably cheaper to run for company car drivers.
Insurance groups and depreciation
The M2 sits in insurance group 42 – two higher than a Focus RS or Audi RS3. As an example, that would equate to £943 (an AA insurance quote based on a 42-year old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three penalty points) a year. Our experts have also calculated the M2 would hold on to 47 per cent of its value after three years/30,000 miles, which would mean the M2 would be worth a little over £21,000.
Interior, design and technology
The need to accommodate the BMW M4's suspension and steering components means the M2's track is far wider than that of a standard 2 Series. As a result the BMW gets bulging wheelarches front and rear that give the car a squat and muscular stance. At the front is a much deeper front bumper with gaping cooling vents, while moving around to the rear reveals the trademark M car quad exhaust layout. The pumped-up looks won't be to all tastes, but there's no denying it's packed with racy kerb appeal.
Compared to the dramatic exterior that shouts performance (especially in the M2’s unique Long Beach Blue metallic), the interior is a bit of a letdown. For the most part, the standard 2 Series Coupe’s dashboard has been carried over – so it’s well screwed together and is very similar to many of BMW’s other interiors; it’s modern but not particularly daring.
For the M2, there’s some carbon-look trim, leather sport seats and grey dials, while tech like Bluetooth, cruise control and parking sensors are added. The driver’s seat has plenty of adjustment meaning it’s simple to get a great driving position, and there’s a small, but reasonably priced options list, which includes heated seats for around £300 and a reversing camera for around £330.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The M2 has BMW’s iDrive infotainment system as standard. In a few areas it’s a little clunky to use, but for the most part the system is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
There’s a crisp screen that sits on top of the dash and, as with all BMWs, DAB comes as standard. For the M2 sat-nav with real-time traffic updates is thrown in too.
The iDrive is made all the more easy to use on the move thanks to the rotary controller on the centre console with helpful shortcut buttons. The stereo system is of decent quality but this can be upgraded to an advanced version for around £300 or to a Harman Kardon system for around £600. Access to the internet can be had for around £100 and online entertainment (BMW’s version of Spotify) is around £160.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The M2 is reasonably spacious for a small coupe. Generally it’s roomy up front and can carry four adults thanks to decent room in the back. The boot is large too, making the M2 a practical family car should it need to be, although you will have to spend extra for folding rear seats.
It's a coupe, but thanks to its 1 Series roots, the M2 is very much hatchback sized. It’s just a little longer than a Ford Focus RS or an Audi RS 3, and that small increase in length means there’s a longer wheelbase too, freeing up passenger space.
Leg room, head room and passenger space
Up front there is plenty of room with good visibility out over the bonnet and to the sides. It’s a little difficult to get into the rear with the low roof line and seats that don’t move far enough forwards, but once in the back adults will have plenty of space. There’s only room for two in the back, though, not three.
Looking at the small M2, you’d think there wouldn’t be much room in the boot, but you’d be wrong. While hot hatchbacks are more practical and have more useable boots, the M2’s isn’t bad, weighing in with 390 litres. That’s over 100-litres more than a Focus RS and Audi RS 3, both of which are hatches. However, if you want to fold the rear seats down you will have to spend around £175 for the 40:20:40 folding seat option.
Reliability and Safety
BMW finished in a very respectable 15th in the 2016 Driver Power survey, beating the likes of VW and Audi, while its dealers finished a very average 25th. Don’t think that because it’s a highly-strung M-car, the M2 will be fragile and likely to break as M-badged cars have old have proven to be strong.
There’s eight airbags as standard but extra kit is optional – items like adaptive headlights, BMW’s Driving Assistant (that autonomous tweaks the steering if you cross lanes on the motorway), speed limit display and high beam assist are all on the options list.
Unlike some its rival car makers, BMW offers a three-year unlimited mileage warranty with the M2 which is very good. There are a number of packs to upgrade this should you wish to keep your M2 as a collector’s item, but the standard warranty is good.
Like many BMW products, the M2’s servicing schedule is variable and depends on how many miles you rack up. The car will let you know when it’s time to head to the dealer. Better still, like the rest of the range, the M2 is available with one of the brand's great value pre-paid servicing packs, which takes care of five years-worth of maintenance.