The second generation 2 Series Coupe is every inch a proper small sporting BMW, thinks Jonathan Crouch
Few people had a bad thing to say about the first generation 'F22'-era BMW 2 Series Coupe, a pure bred rear-driven sports two-door launched in 2014, then updated three years later. For its successor, the Munich maker never seriously considered the front wheel drive set-up used on the supposedly sporty 2 Series Gran Coupe four-door model.
Instead, this second generation 'G42' 2 Series Coupe was developed alongside the brand's current Z4 roadster and is based on the same rear-driven platform as that used by larger 3 and 4 Series models. What's been produced as a result is a proper small sporting BMW. Of the kind you might have thought this brand had lost interest in making. Not a bit of it.
Amongst driving enthusiasts, this second generation 2 Series Coupe will vie with Toyota's GR86 for the title of most rewarding small sports coupe. Choose this BMW and you certainly get a lot more engine options. These kick off with a 220d mild hybrid 2.0-litre diesel variant offering 190hp. And a 2.0-litre turbo petrol powerplant, available with either 184hp (in the 220i) or 258hp (in the 230i), the latter available with xDrive 4WD. Beyond that lies the six cylinder M240i, which offers 374hp (34hp more than its predecessor) and can only be had in xDrive form. In late 2022, a flagship M2 variant will follow with an even more powerful 'S58' version of that 3.0-litre straight six twin turbo engine - expect around 430hp; and the option of a manual gearbox if you want it.
With all 2 Series Coupe models, under the skin, much is shared with the current Z4 roadster, including a CLAR (Cluster Architecture) platform that's up to 40% stiffer than that of the old model. BMW claims that steering precision and body control are vastly improved as a result, aided by near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution. All variants come only with an 8-speed Steptronic Sport automatic gearbox with paddleshifters and launch control that incorporates a Sprint mode for short-term acceleration boost. Adaptive M suspension is optional. And there's a powerful lightweight braking system.
Design and Build
It's recognisably a 2 Series Coupe - but this time a slightly larger and certainly more modern-looking one. There's no Convertible body style option this time round. The Coupe we're left with is now 4,537mm long and 1,838mm wide but is 28mm shorter than its predecessor, standing 1,390mm tall. More attractive 'M Sport' styling, which includes 18-inch wheels and is standard in the UK, adds extra pavement presence too. And sporty touches include a low front apron, flared wheel arches and swollen rear haunches. The faster M240i variant gets squared-off sports exhausts, a colour-coded rear spoiler, grey trim features, a unique front splitter and special 19-inch M Sport alloy wheels.
Inside all variants, the front sports seats are mounted low in front of the satisfyingly thick M Sport steering wheel and a driver-focused dashboard. This shares much with 3 and 4 Series models, pairing a 12.3-inch centre screen with a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel, complete with M Sport graphics. The upholstery is a mixture of Alcantara and Sensatec man-made leather and can be had in three different colours, with full 'Vernasca' leather optionally available. A 51mm wheelbase length increase means there's more space in the back than they used to be. And there's a decently-sized 390-litre boot, extendable with a folding backrest.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £35,000 for the base 220i; you'll need around £1,900 more for the 220d diesel. The M240i xDrive variant costs from around £46,000. These figures represent a bit of a step up from the previous generation line-up. But they do now include standard 'M Sport' trim, which is what most customers are expected to want. That gets you a sporty front apron, dark gloss exterior trim and dark metallic finishes in the lower sections of the skirts and the rear diffuser, plus large 18-inch wheels. Standard interior features include sports seats trimmed in Alcantara and Sensatec man-made leather. Plus M-branded tread plates, pedals and floor mats, along with an M-specific anthracite headliner and a chunky M Sport wheel.
Other standard features include acoustic glazing for the windscreen, auto headlamps and wipers, power-folding mirrors, LED interior lighting and 3-zone automatic climate control. A key option is Adaptive M suspension, which offers a wide spread between sporty and comfort-orientated responses. You might also want to consider the optional M Sport braking set-up - which is standard on the M240i. Luxury options include full Vernasca leather; and a glass slide/tilt electric sunroof that's 20% larger than before. There's also now a much wider range of driver assistance systems, including Front Collision Warning autonomous braking and a package of optional camera driven 'Driving Assistance' features.
Cost of Ownership
If you've heard talk that diesel engines are planet-polluting brutes, then shelve that for a moment while you examine the black pump-fuelled powerplant on offer here because it's nothing like that. The mild hybrid technology now used in all BMW's diesel combustion engines draws on a powerful 48-volt starter generator and an additional battery, so it has significantly expanded possibilities when it comes to brake energy recuperation. The energy obtained by means of recuperation and stored in the 48-volt battery is also used to supply the 12-volt electrical system and the electrically-operated vehicle functions connected to it.
Enough with the tech; what about the WLTP figures? Well, the 220d variant manages up to 60.1mpg on the combined cycle and up to 122g/km of CO2. The 220i petrol version manages 44.8mpg and up to 144g/km. Move up to the six cylinder M240i xDrive model and you're looking at up to 34.9mpg and 185g/km. There are no Plug-in PHEV or EV drivetrain options.
What else might you need to know? Well, routine maintenance is dictated by 'Condition Based Servicing' that monitors oil level and engine wear, taking into account how long it's been and how far the car has travelled since its previous garage visit. You can check all of this using menus in the 'iDrive' centre-dash display and the car will give you four weeks' notice of when a check-up is needed so you have plenty of time to book it. To help plan ahead for the cost of regular work, at point of purchase you'll be offered a 'BMW Service Inclusive' package that lasts for three years and 36,000 miles.
If pushed to name BMW's most convincing sports car, many would walk past the mighty M5, ignore the powerhouse M3 and M4 models, pause briefly to admire the lines of the Z4 and end up at the baby of the range, this 2 Series Coupe. With a selection of fantastic engines and the draw of a fully-fledged and awesomely capable M model at the top end, this two-door 2 Series demonstrates once again that light is right. Not for nothing does this model enjoy the lowest average owner age profile of any that the Bavarian brand makes.
It'll certainly help BMW that this car doesn't really have many rivals directly able to square up to it. Affordable rear wheel drive models like Toyota's GR86 don't have the quality or the necessary range of engine options. And something like a Porsche 718 Cayman is just too expensive.
This 2 Series isn't perfect of course. You might suggest that its shape isn't the most alluring we've ever seen from this Munich maker - but at the same time, you'd have to admit it to be an aesthetic step forward from the previous generation model. Anyway, what'll sell this thing to you is its roadgoing experience, its lust for life and the way it'll remind you of what driving used to be about when all that's ahead is a ribbon of twisting tarmac. Ultimately, it's the kind of car that BMW does better than almost anyone.