BMW 2 Series 220i Sport 4dr Step Auto [Live Cockpit Prof]
The range is simple. For petrol it's the 218i, a three-cylinder with manual. Then a huge gap to the M235i xDrive, a 306bhp with AWD and automatic gearbox. Sole representative of diesel is the 220d, a front-driver with auto.
If you're going to be stuck with a dreary four-cylinder diesel, BMW's is the one to be stuck with, and the 220d is another good installation. In town and at a cruise it mumbles away in the background, and when you ask for the full 190bhp, what you do hear isn't at all rattly.
The automatic gearbox's shifts are buttery enough, but not always timed with the intuition of the bigger BMWs.
When it does shift you down into the full-turbo meat of things, you'll get a bit of torque-steer squirm. Nothing to pull you into the gutter, but a reminder that this is front-drive, and also that it has surprisingly honest steering feel.
In corners, it has the legs of any real-world front-driver thanks to precise reactions and a dogged resistance to understeer, all plotted out with fluid transparency.
Withal, the ride really is sweet. That's partly because all 2GCs get a real independent back axle, easing away gritty harshness. The dampers have been softened versus the 1 Series, to allow it to absorb the big shocks.
Note I was in a version with the switchable dampers, and in comfort mode the body control when you're really pressing on gets a mite queasy. Switching to sport mode tames those undulations, but it also makes the straight-line ride more turbulent.
That's because, like the rest of the front-drive Minis and BMWs, they're 'variable' between two fixed settings, and not adaptive. The only adaptation is your jabbing at the switch.
The M135i xDrive is quick but not crazed. Having 306bhp is no drama when there's AWD, but 0-62 in 4.9secs still means something. It's a smooth engine if not charismatic, and it'd be more encouraging if it wanted to rev. In fact its best work is between 3000 and 5500rpm and the red-line lies sternly at the big six.
It's not a rabid pointy-steering car like the best of the hot hatches. But you can feel the tyres at work, and play a little with slip angles – mostly in the same way you would in a front-driver, easing the throttle pre-apex to lighten the tail a little. It never throws enough torque rearwards to do any power-on oversteer.
For wintry backroads this really is quite the tool. You can feel what it's up to, and you've loads of traction, an ability to swallow bumps, nimbleness without nervousness, and compact dimensions.
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