What Car? says...
Not everyone wants a practical five-door hatchback – or perhaps you’ve just got a bigger heart than head. If either applies to you, the BMW 2 Series Coupé should probably be on your shortlist.
The latest 2 Series Coupé (not to be confused with the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé or the rather more sensible BMW 2 Series Active Tourer) is best thought of as a shrunken 4 Series Coupé. It shares many nuts and bolts with that car – unlike its predecessor the original BMW 2 Series, which was essentially a 1 Series with a boot.
What does that mean? Well, it means that, like some of the most iconic driver’s cars in BMW's history, most versions of the 2 Series Coupé are rear-wheel drive.
It also means that there are some fine engines to choose from, including a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol in the range-topping M240i version. Plus the interior is suitably upmarket and you get the fantastic BMW iDrive infotainment system.
Although the BMW 2 Series has no direct rivals, the Mercedes CLA offers swoopy looks for a similar outlay and, thanks to rear doors, will make life a little easier for your backseat passengers. Or if you’re prepared to put up with minuscule rear seats, the Audi TT also costs a similar amount, has a fabulous interior and is great fun to drive.
So, is the BMW 2 Series one of the best coupés around? Over the next few pages of this review, we’ll tell you what it’s like to drive, how practical it is and how well it stacks up financially. We’ll also tell you which engines make the most sense and the options you might want to consider forking out extra for.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
BMW expects around two thirds of 2 Series Coupé buyers to go for the entry-level 220i, which has a 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet. Acceleration is strong enough (0-62mph takes 7.5 seconds), although you do need to rev the engine hard to get the best from it.
There’s a more powerful 241bhp version of the same basic engine (badged 230i) plus a 188bhp 2.0-litre diesel called the 220d. We haven’t tried either of those yet, but we have tested the range-topping M240i. With a 369bhp 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine providing the firepower along with four-wheel drive, acceleration is explosive no matter what speed you’re doing. Launch the car from a standstill and you’ll be doing 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds – that’s faster than an Audi TTS and not far behind a Mercedes CLA 45 AMG.
The M240i also sounds fantastic, pumping out a soulful howl whenever you put your foot down – especially when you’ve selected the Sport driving mode. Another highlight is the eight-speed automatic gearbox that all versions of the 2 Series come with as standard. It’s smooth when left in automatic mode, yet reacts quickly when you decide to do the job yourself by pulling paddles behind the steering wheel.
The 2 Series doesn’t disappoint in the corners, either. It’s certainly no poor relation to the BMW 4 Series dynamically; it’s more compact than its bigger brother and it feels it. The nose is eager to dart into corners and grip levels front and rear are also well balanced.
Perhaps surprisingly, we found the steering slightly more impressive in the 220i than range-topping M240i. In the latter, you can lose the sense of connection to the front wheels when you hold a prescribed amount lock to get around a corner, something we found less of a problem in the 220i. This is likely to be due to differing weight (the M240i is heavier) or different tyres, because BMW assures us the fundamental steering setups in both cars are the same.
The 220i comes with 18in alloys as standard, although our test car had optional 19s fitted. That might explain why the ride was fairly firm – not jarring or crashy but bumpier than in the best versions of the Audi TT. Our M240i, meanwhile, had optional adaptive suspension fitted, so was actually more comfortable than the 220i (as long as you stick to Comfort mode). There’s no option to add adaptive suspension to the 220i.
There’s some road noise at faster speeds, but the 220i and M240i engines are both subdued at a steady motorway cruise. Overall, the 2 Series is a relatively peaceful companion to while away the hours in – especially compared with more focused sports car alternatives, including the Porsche Cayman.
The interior layout, fit and finish
There are so many similarities between the 2 Series Coupé and the BMW 4 Series inside that, from behind the wheel, you’d genuinely struggle to tell which of the two cars you were in. That’s a huge compliment to the former because it’s the cheaper car by a sizeable margin.
There are small differences, including a different design for the insides of the doors featuring larger door pulls. You also get part-Alcantara seats rather than the real leather seats that are standard in the 4 Series (real leather is standard only on the range-topping M240i).
The BMW iDrive infotainment system is brilliant. All versions get a 10.3in display that you can use as a touchscreen or operate by twisting and pressing a rotary controller between the front seats. The controller is much less distracting when you’re driving and the operating system is super-intuitive.
All models get built-in sat nav, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring (so you can run phone apps through the touchscreen). It’s worth considering the Harman Kardon sound system upgrade if you love listening to music, and wireless phone-charging is on the options list too.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
While the 2 Series Coupé has plenty in common with the larger BMW 4 Series, its dimensions are significantly more compact. You won’t really notice the difference when sitting in the front, though, because there’s still plenty of head room and the seats slide back a long way on their runners.
Six-footers won’t fancy a long trip in the rear seats, but adults will fit more easily than in the back of the Audi TT (the Porsche Cayman is a two-seater only). If you plan to carry more than one passenger on a regular basis, you’d be better off looking at the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé or Mercedes CLA. As a bonus, they have rear doors.
Alternatively, if you can find the extra cash, the brilliant 4 Series – our 2022 Coupé of the Year – is far more accommodating for people sitting in the back.
The 2 Series' boot is a respectable size, and will take a set of golf clubs or a few small suitcases. The saloon opening means the aperture is quite small, so you can forget about squeezing in a bike (surprisingly, we did manage to fit one into the boot of the Audi TT, thanks to its large hatchback opening).
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The 2 Series Coupé is a relatively sporty offering from a premium German brand, so you're probably not expecting a bargain price tag. That said, it’s quite a bit cheaper than the larger BMW 4 Series and the M240i version is attractively priced compared with, say, the Audi RS3 hot hatch.
The range-topping M240i is fairly thirsty, but the 220i promises a respectable 44mpg. The 220d diesel is even more frugal (officially up to 60mpg), but BMW expects the vast majority of buyers to opt for a petrol. Diesel just isn’t very fashionable these days.
You won’t have to worry about choosing a trim level because, in the UK at least, there’s only one: M Sport. That gets you a decent amount of standard kit, although you will have to fork extra if you want leather seats, keyless entry or adaptive cruise control.
The M240i is considered a model in its own right, so there’s no trim level as such. You do get a few more luxuries than on lesser engines, though, such as leather seats. We’d recommend adding the M Technology Pack and adaptive M suspension at the very least, though.
The 2 Series is too new to have featured in our most recent What Car? Reliability Survey, but BMW as a brand came a middling 13th (out of 30 manufacturers) in the overall league table. In terms of safety, it was awarded four stars out of five by Euro NCAP.