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The Top Gear car review:BMW 2 Series
For:Well engineered, efficient, excellent handling and controls
Against:Not as sexy looking as a coupe should be
Not the smoothest BMW diesel ever but impressively frugal. And more space than you might expect.
Even better than the M135i? It could well be… Paul Horrell reports
What we say:
1-Series has become 2-Series. So it must be twice as good, right? Well, it's certainly prettier...
What is it?
Just as the 6-Series and 4-Series are the sportier body-styles of the 5-Series and 3-Series, so the 2-Series is a coupe that uses 1-Series foundations. It’s a traditional three-box jobbie with a separate boot. A conservative formula, yes, but it’ll please the misty-eyed types who yearn for the 2002, or the E30 3-Series two-door. Engines are familiar small-BMW fare, so have an emphasis on turbocharging and downsizing. Pleasingly though, there’s still a sweet straight-six.
The core engine range is simple: one turbo petrol and one turbo diesel, with different power outputs per the badge on the back. The petrol is smooth and doesn’t mind being worked hard, and the diesel has more torque but isn’t the quietest of its kind. All generally get from 0 to 62mph in the seven second region.
Steering and handling are among the best you’ll find, even though not set up to be especially sharp. All the controls operate with BMW’s signature accuracy and progression (the six-speed manual is snappy, the optional eight-speed auto is superb). Ride and refinement are more than decent.
But the M235i is a hoot. The gorgeous M-fettled six-cylinder engine serves up almost spectacular acceleration, but it doesn’t faze the much tautened suspension and brakes (slightly better even than the M135i). In many ways it’s more road fun than the ballistic but muzzled M5. Then there’s the M2, which is something else altogether…
On the inside
Pretty much standard-issue BMW here. The dash is lifted from the 1-Series (the latest, upgraded 1-Series, so the quality is better and surfaces more premium). The seats and steering wheel are adjustable for almost everyone. In the back, it’s better than a 2+2 but a pinch as a real four-seater. Build quality feels solid, and everything’s laid out clearly. All models get an iDrive controller and a 6.5-inch display; upgrade to £890 navigation and it’s the same, or there’s a top-end navi and connectivity setup with a high-res 8.8-incher. BMW’s soon to make nav standard on all though - so ask your dealer and certainly don’t pay for it. The three regular trim levels – standard, Sport and Modern – are more about visuals and trim than actual equipment. The M Sport gives you a slightly tauter chassis and bigger wheels.
The options lists are far too lengthy to summarise here, but be sure to have something pretty plain, or you’ll emerge from the dealer with such a top-heavy car the salesman will be buying a round for the entire pub that night.
Pick carefully and you’ll have a good performance/economy balance. BMW also does impressive fixed-price service packages, and depreciation is OK if you restrain the options-ticking. The diesels compare well in overall costs with a Mercedes CLA. Of course the M235i is thirstier and a bit insurance-hostile at group 39, but honestly we still call it a bargain.