- Plenty of kerb appeal
- BMW build quality
- More than adequate performance
The BMW 3 Series has long been a favourite of keen drivers who want performance with a good helping of practicality.
Two-seater sports cars are fine enough if you are single and kid-free, but if you have got family or business commitments, the lack of rear seats rules them out.
And over the years – 30 or so to be precise – the 3 Series has grown in size as well as popularity. Enter the 2 Series Gran Coupé.
With four doors, a boot rather than a hatch, and the ability to easily carry four adults and their luggage, it is in many ways a spiritual successor to the highly lauded 323i/325i of the Eighties and more recent incarnations with bigger, more powerful engines.
Engines and Driving Experience
In keeping with BMW’s ongoing battle to reduce CO2 and improve economy, the M235i Gran Coupé I have been driving is powered by a 4-cylinder engine rather than the famed 6-cylinder.
Nevertheless, the 2.0-litre petrol churns out an impressive 302bhp, putting it on equal performance terms with the likes of a Porsche 718 Boxster with a sub-five-second sprint to 62mph.
Not only is the outright acceleration of the neck-jerking variety, the mid-range clout is equally impressive.
The dual clutch 8-speed automatic transmission is excellent and has paddles to underline the fun factor.
As befits the flagship, it comes with BMW’s own xDrive four-wheel drive system, which helps ensure it sticks glue-like to the road. Fortunately, little is lost in terms of sensitivity and response, and the M235i reacts athletically and swiftly to directional changes.
There is, however, a degree of payback from the suspension, which is ultra stiff. All is good over smooth roads, but anything short of a billiard table surface transmits jolts and bumps back through the cabin.
You can select your choice of driving mode – eco, comfort or sport - from three buttons on the central console. On a long run through the Cotswolds in ‘eco’ my average fuel consumption was 36mpg, while a short thrash on windy country roads in ‘sport’ resulted in 25mpg.
Not everyone will be won over by the M235i’s synthetic exhaust note, which lacks the appealing snarl of a 6-cylinder or the shrill rasp of a highly-tuned 4-cylinder.
Design and Practicality
Though it is compact, the 2 Series Gran Coupé cannot be accused of being cramped. Bags of legroom up front and sufficient for rear seat passengers. Those who are six-foot-plus may however struggle a bit for headroom in the rear because of the sloping roofline.
The conventional rear boot is generous enough, with space for 430 litres of luggage. Rear seats fold and split to allow long items to be carried.
There are, however, too many sloping surfaces on the dash for it to be considered family-friendly if you stop for a picnic.
Interior and Technology
No complaints with the cabin, which, though fairly sombre in usual BMW style, uses quality materials and is solidly built. Lots of soft-touch plastic mouldings, leather seats with electric controls, easy-to-use touchscreen and common-sense audio buttons.
The review car came with the technology pack, which cost £1,250 at the time of testing and includes LED headlights, enhanced Bluetooth and, best of all, head-up display.
Almost indecently fast, and refined enough, the M235i merits a place on any shortlist of compact sports saloons. Taking much of its larger siblings traits and packing them into a smaller package is no mean feat, but BMW has managed to do so, creating a car that ticks plenty of the boxes within this segment.