What Car? says...
The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé has more than a little in common with the BMW 1 Series family car. In fact, you can think of it as that model’s more glamorous sibling; in essence, it’s the same car, but very slightly stretched, with a lower roofline and a swoopy, eye-catching makeover.
Its main rival is the similarly style-focused Mercedes CLA, which itself is a sleeker coupé version of the Mercedes A-Class family car, but it also counts cars such as the VW Arteon and the Audi A5 Sportback among its competition.
The Gran Coupé’s kinship to the 1 Series extends to its mechanical underpinnings, with front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive versions available, unlike the two-door BMW 2 Series Coupé, which remains rear-wheel drive in the time-honoured BMW tradition. The 1 Series confounded naysayers by proving terrific to drive – can the Gran Coupé follow in its footsteps?
Of course, to be worth your consideration, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé has to more than just drive well; it has to stack up well against executive car rivals when it comes to comfort, efficiency and much more. Read on to find out what it’s like inside and how much it’ll cost to run, as well as how it performs on the road.
And whether a Gran Coupé or any other model takes your fancy, visit our New Car Buying pages for a great deal without the hassle of haggling.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé is available with three different engines, each of which can also be found under the bonnet of the BMW 1 Series. The line-up opens with a 138bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that brings a 218i badge and can get you from 0-62mph in a respectable 8.7sec.
Although that’s quicker than the equivalent Mercedes CLA 180’s time, the BMW suffers from a shortage of low-down pull, so it feels a bit sluggish unless you work the engine hard. Once up to speed, it cruises along happily enough, and at least acceleration is smooth and linear when the gearbox wakes up.
The other petrol option is the hot 302bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine of the M235i. Performance is brisk; it pulls really strongly all the way through to the rev-counter’s red line and, while its exhaust note may sound slightly contrived, it’s still a powerful and exciting engine. For reference, it can match the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 for pace, but the hotter CLA 45 S is quicker.
The 188bhp four-cylinder diesel 220d completes the lineup. This is a strong, gutsy engine that offers good performance and will happily chew through motorway miles. The 218i gets a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the other two engines get slick-shifting eight-speed automatics.
No matter which version you go for, the 2 Series Gran Coupé is good to drive, and its responses are sharper than the CLA's. The steering is excellent, feeling very lively and alert with every interaction you have with the wheel. The M235i has its own bespoke steering and suspension to help it keep flatter in corners, and, with its limited-slip differential and four-wheel drive, has superb traction on greasy, winding roads.
Three types of suspension are available: standard, M Sport (which is 10mm lower and stiffer), and adaptive (this is available optionally only on the M235i). All setups are very slightly softer than their 1 Series equivalents, but not by enough to make the 2 Series Gran Coupé much less fun to drive.
What’s more, the Gran Coupé manages to maintain tight control of its body movements while remaining impressively cosseting. The stiffer springs of M Sport versions exaggerate any initial jolts, but even this setup is never crashy and manages to stay comfortable on ragged surfaces.
The interior is pretty quiet. You’ll hear some road noise and a bit of wind noise, but it’s easier to hold a conversation while travelling at speed than it is in the Mercedes CLA, which has a lot more suspension noise.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Slip inside the 2 Series Gran Coupé and you'll find the same excellent dashboard as graces the BMW 1 Series. As standard, you get analogue instrument dials with a digital fuel-economy display between them. M Sport cars get fully digital instruments (as do Sport versions if you tick this feature on the options list).
The driving position is top drawer; there's lots of height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel and plenty of movement in the comfortable, supportive driver’s seat. It seems a bit stingy that adjustable lumbar support is only offered optionally, although this is a criticism you can also apply to the Mercedes CLA. Also optional is fully electric seat adjustment.
BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is outstanding. It gives you a touchscreen display, along with a rotary dial controller on the centre console, and it’s the easiest of its kind to use, whether you’re parked up or on the move. It also comes with voice command, and gesture control is an optional extra. Apple CarPlay smartphone integration comes as standard, while Android Auto is due to be added later in 2020.
If there’s one area in which the Mercedes undeniably trumps the BMW, though, it’s the visual pizzaz of its dashboard, thanks largely to the eye-catching widescreen layout of its infotainment system. However, there’s no doubting the rock-solid build quality on display in the 2 Series Gran Coupé. Indeed, build quality is one of the strongest areas of the car.
The view out of the front is as good as that of the CLA’s, but just like that car, the view out of the back is compromised by its sloping roofline and sharply angled rear window. However, with front and rear parking sensors as standard, along with a rear-view camera and an optional system that enables the car to park itself, manoeuvring isn’t a problem.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
You’ll have no complaints about space in the front; there’s plenty of head and leg room, and lots of elbow room, too. The door bins are a decent size, and you also get a big glovebox and a generous cubby hole under the central armrest. Add the tray at the front of the centre console and there are plenty of places to stow your bits and pieces.
In the back, leg room is identical to that offered by the BMW 1 Series and slightly more generous than that of the Mercedes CLA. It also gives passengers more foot space under the front seats than the CLA. Unfortunately, though, that shapely sloping roofline really cuts into rear-seat head room. So much so that a six-footer won’t be able to sit up straight without their head being wedged uncomfortably against the ceiling.
The boot is actually bigger than that of the 1 Series, and gives you some handy underfloor storage spaces, but it’s slightly smaller than the CLA’s overall, and its 60/40-split rear seats don’t match the flexibility of the CLA’s three-piece 40/20/40 arrangement unless you pay extra for that option. The practicality of both cars is also hampered slightly their small boot openings.
Accessibility & Motability
Usability for people with disability or their carers
Coupés tend to be low and sleek, putting looks ahead of practicality, but the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé could still be a decent choice even if your mobility is restricted.
For a start, the doors open to an exceptionally wide 67 degrees so they’ll be well out of the way when you’re getting in and out. Bear in mind, though, that there are no frames around the windows. That means you won’t be able to use the top of the door as support – the windows will wobble and you might damage the electric window mechanism.
Inside the 2 Series Gran Coupé, the door pulls are set quite far forward on the door trims so they should be easy to reach when shutting the door.
The driver’s seat sits just 516mm from the ground when it’s in its lowest setting, forcing you to drop down more than you would when getting into an SUV, for example. It can be raised by more than 60mm, which will make getting on to the seat easier, but this does mean that you’ll be closer to the top of the door aperture, so just be aware that you may have to bend your neck.
The door sills are quite low, with the top edges just 390mm from the ground, so there isn’t too much of a step up into the vehicle. However, an 110mm drop from the top of the sill to the interior floor could present a bit of a barrier when you’re getting out.
In short, make sure you can get in and out of the car fairly comfortably before you sign on the dotted line.
The 2 Series Gran Coupe has a boot opening rather than a tailgate, which makes it inherently less usable than a traditional hatchback. Nevertheless, the load area itself is a decent size, at almost a metre long when the rear seats are in use. When the 60/40 split rear seats are folded down, the load bay is more than 1700mm long. The boot opening is 960mm wide at its narrowest point.
The result is that you can fit a wheelchair in the boot even when the rear seats are raised. You’ll need to make sure it’s collapsed first, though, because the boot area isn’t high enough to take a fully opened up wheelchair.
Folding down the rear seats is straightforward – you just tug on some easy to reach handles in the boot compartment. The seats fold down virtually flat, which makes sliding items towards the front of the boot easier. There are also loads of storage cubbies around the interior and the door pockets are large.
Ease of use and options
All engines for the 2 Series Gran Coupé are available with the option of a smooth-shifting automatic gearbox. We would personally opt for the 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol unit in the 218i. It’s brisk enough (although you’ll have to rev it a bit), is happy on faster roads and is pretty quiet too.
All models also come with plenty of tech designed to make your life easier, including parking sensors at both ends, a rear-view camera and the option of a parking assist feature. These are particularly handy because the view out of the back of the 2 Series Gran Coupé is somewhat compromised by its sloping roofline and sharply angled rear window.
We should also mention that BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is simply outstanding – by offering both a touchscreen display and a rotary dial controller it is a breeze to use when stopped or on the move. It also comes with voice command and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring – gesture control is a gimmicky optional extra.
We would, however, add the Comfort Pack 2, as it gets you electrically adjustable front seats with a memory function for the driver’s seat.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The 2 Series Gran Coupé only carries a very slight price premium over the closely-related BMW 1 Series. So, if you aren’t worried about the compromises in practicality that we’ve outlined above, and you really like its looks, it has value on its side, too. That’s especially true when you consider that it undercuts the Mercedes CLA, the VW Arteon and the Audi A5 Sportback.
Two trim levels are available – Sport and M Sport – while the M235i stands alone as a trim in its own right. Sport trim highlights include 17in alloy wheels, cruise control and dual-zone climate control. M Sport brings different suspension and steering, 18in alloys and some slightly sportier styling. Along with the performance upgrades highlighted earlier, the M235i brings more styling tweaks and adds sports seats to its equipment list.
Official CO2 emissions and fuel economy figures aren’t exactly outstanding, but the 2 Series Gran Coupé is certainly competitive with rivals in this respect. Euro NCAP has yet to put the car through its rigorous crash tests, but the 1 Series scored the full five stars when it was tested in 2019. Every model has automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition and speed limit assistance, as well as a system that will warn you if you get too close to the car in front. However, it should be pointed out that the Mercedes A-Class out-scored the 1 Series for safety in each individual test areas, and the CLA has achieved similarly outstanding results.
On top of all the standard safety features, you can also add the optional Driving Assistant package (available on all trim levels) for blindspot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert. The latter provides a warning of approaching traffic when you're reversing out from a driveway, for example.
The 2 Series Gran Coupé is covered by a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, matching the cover offered by Mercedes for the A-Class and bettering Audi’s three-year warranty, which is limited to 60,000 miles.
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