Wonderful engine, fabulous handling, good steering, acceptable ride. Looks distinctive but not too flash.
Not as versatile as a hot hatch.
What is it?
We always loved the BMW M2 but now it's even better. Because it's even more M, thanks to a real M engine. The M2 Competition, which replaces the regular M2, has been endowed with a version of the awesome twin-turbo six-cylinder from the M3 and M4.
Given that the M2's rivals mostly have four cylinders (Mercedes-AMG CLA45, Ford Focus RS, Porsche 718) or at a stretch five (Audi RS3) this is a profound advantage.
It isn't just the engine that's so M. The M2's chassis has always been very closely related to the M3/M4's, which is why the 2-Series Coupe bodyshell needed to be widened. That's what gives the M2 its solid, tough stance.
The M2 can be had with either a DCT semi-auto seven-speed transmission, or a six-speed manual. The existence of the manual shows this car's character: a traditional no-fuss driver's car. Lots of cylinders, front-engine, rear-drive, non-adaptive dampers.
That suspension has been further recalibrated from the M2 to the M2 Competition. It has slightly looser ESP, and modified software for the most fancy piece of tech in its chassis, an electronically controlled locking differential.
Also new for the Competition is a carbon-fibre V-brace around the engine bay. It too is making a special guest appearance from the M3/M4. By tying the front bodywork more rigidly together, it sharpens the steering's precision and feel.
The Competition's engine, codenamed S55, has two turbos, effectively making it operate as a pair of three-cylinders end-to-end. As a consequence the puffers can be small and light so they spin up quickly to cut low-rev lag, but as there are two they can push plenty air at big revs. The old M2 engine (which was a single turbo) would go to 7,000rpm and was smooth doing it, but the new one will hit 7,600rpm. And it has 40bhp more at big revs. That's a total of 404bhp.
A slight facelift has come with the arrival of the Competition badge. It isn't just for show. The grille kidneys are bigger, and the new teeth-sucking lower bumper has enlarged inlets to send cooling zephyrs over the multiple-radiator system, again taken from the M3/M4.
Inside, the Competition gets M signifiers: the purple-blue-red triple stripe appears on the seatbelts, and the seats have an illuminated M badge. Like you'd forget.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
This is a brilliant car, one of the best four-seat drives you can lay your hands on. One of the best drivers' cars full stop, for anything like the price, at least until you sacrifice a lot of habitability to go for a Lotus.
The approachable handling is more fun on real roads than the M3 or M4, and the engine is a joy too.
Yet it's not at all a bad everyday car, with noise and harshness under kept in moderation.
It really does tick a whole lot of boxes. You know you want one.