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First Drive

2016 BMW M2 review

The BMW M2 impressed us when we tested it abroad. But does this latest performance car from BMW's M division shine as brightly in the UK?

Words ByAlan Taylor-Jones

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There is a school of thought that BMW's M performance division lost its way with the latest M3 saloon (and its M4 CoupΓ© sister car). Some say that what was once a small, lightweight, racing car for the road has become an overweight shadow of its former self.

True, the M3 has more than doubled its horsepower over the years to compensate for piling on the pounds, but that can mean it struggles to put down its power on tatty UK roads. Throw in the layer of moisture that is all too common in this country, and you're left with a car that can be a handful to drive quickly.

Early reports have suggested that this new BMW M2 may be the answer to the problem. It’s smaller than the M4, yet it still has a turbocharged straight-six engine, albeit with a slightly more sane 365bhp. That’s enough for a 0-62mph time of 4.5sec and a 155mph top speed.

But as good as it is on smooth, foreign roads, how does it handle our tortuous Tarmac? Can it beat the all-weather appeal of four-wheel-drive hot hatches such as the Mercedes-AMG A45 or Audi RS3?

What is the 2016 BMW M2 like to drive?

Put simply, the BMW M2 is the kind of car that you’ll be looking for excuses to drive. Its combination of a beautifully balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis, tuneful engine and decent everyday usability makes it hugely desirable.

The straight-six might not be quite as potent as that found in the M3, but it’s unlikely you’ll want for more acceleration. Not only is it plenty quick enough, you find yourself using more of the power more of the time, without worrying that the rear tyres will break traction and start spinning.

That’s not to say you can’t get the rear of the M2 mobile, though. If you cycle through the car's Comfort and Sport modes and up into Sport +, the traction and stability control will allow more slip before kicking in. Turn the electronic nannies off entirely and it's easy to steer the M2 on the throttle.

Thankfully, making sure the rear tyres get exactly the right amount of power is easy. There's just the briefest of pauses between you putting your foot down and the engine responding; the M2 is much better than the majority of turbocharged cars in this regard.

What's more, the weighting of the steering itself is just about spot on, and there’s plenty of feedback filtering up through the front tyres. The M2 does move around and tramline a little bit, but that’s to be expected with such wide tyres.

Adding even more driver interaction to our test car was a six-speed manual gearbox. But while the shift itself is short and enjoyable, you do find your body canted over to one side due to the M2's slightly offset pedals.

Despite resisting body roll very well in corners, the suspension avoids being overly stiff. It's firm, but it deals with bumps quickly and effectively, never crashing or becoming unsettled, even on quite rough roads. If you’re used to something a bit sporty, you’ll happily live with it every day.

What is the 2016 BMW M2 like inside?

As a driving environment, the M2's interior is an effective one, if not the most luxurious. Getting comfortable is easy thanks to a wide range of adjustment for both the steering wheel and seat. And that seat is fantastically supportive, gripping you tightly during cornering.

There’s a fair amount of leather and Alcantara spread around the interior, too, along with soft-touch plastics in all the areas you interact with the most. However, when you investigate further you find some scratchy surfaces that highlight the sub-Β£25k starting price of the base 2 Series.

The M2 is a more practical car than plenty of rivals. The fact you get two rear seats immediately makes it easier to live with than Porsche's two-seat Cayman (below), although anyone over six-feet tall will struggle for head room. Leg room will also disappear rapidly should a six-footer climb into the seat in front.

Adding to the usability is a sizable 390-litre boot – 10-litres bigger than you get in a VW Golf and easily enough for a couple of big suitcases. The boot opening is a little narrow, though, and nowhere near as practical as a hatchback's.

Should I buy one?

Yes. If you’re on the lookout for a performance biased compact coupΓ©, the BMW M2 offers a great blend of talents. You could argue that the RS3 and A45 will be much, much faster should it become soggy outside, but neither offers the same level of driver satisfaction.

It isn’t just about fun though, the M2 is comfortable enough to use every day, it offers a decent boot and enough room to seat a couple of adults in the back, albeit only for short journeys if your friends are on the lanky side. All these things combined make it the current performance coupΓ© to beat. Whether or not it stays that way when the new Porsche 718 Cayman hits our roads remains to be seen.


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What Car? says...

Rated 5 out of 5


Rivals

Audi RS3

Porsche Cayman


BMW M2

Engine size 3.0-litre, turbocharged

Price from Β£44,070

Power 365bhp

Torque 369lb ft

0-62mph 4.5sec

Top speed 155mph

Fuel economy (Official) 33.2mpg

CO2 emissions 199g/km