The BMW 2 Series coupe range was bolstered by the addition of a new mid-level option last month, called the 228i.
A powered-up version of the existing 220i with a more highly tuned 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, the 228i gives BMW fans the option of a racier baby coupe that requires only a fraction of the substantial step up asked for the flagship M235i.
Priced from $64,400 plus on-road costs, it slots neatly between the 220i (from $51,000 plus on-road costs) and flagship M-badged variant (which starts at $75,765 plus costs). Keep in mind also the larger 420i kicks off at $70,000 on the nose, and that car is a proper 2+2 coupe.
Same goes in terms of its power and performance. Its 2.0-litre engine (found in a plethora of BMW models) shares its capacity with the 220i, but its 180kW/350Nm outputs are 45kW/80Nm up. It bridges to gap neatly to the 240kW/450Nm six-pot in the M235i.
BMW claims the 228i can dispatch the 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds, 1.3sec faster than the 220i and 0.7sec slower than the M235i. Fuel consumption on the combined cycle is claimed at 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres, or 0.2L/100km more than the base petrol model.
So, there are the numbers. But of course, all the truly great BMWs are about more than just numbers. A BMW coupe with a performance tilt is expected to carve up the corners like virtually nothing else in its price bracket. That’s the brand’s core pillar, after all.
Given the fact that we’ve experienced this particular TwinPower turbo engine in numerous, larger BMW models, and given our knowledge of the 220i’s benchmark dynamic abilities, we went into this test with a sneaky suspicion that this could very well be the range sweet spot.
After all, it’s got a welcome extra dose of punch, but less weight over the front wheels than the bigger M235i inline-six, which should offer even sharper turn in and the potential for greater balance.
It should also be more comfortable day to day, and it’s on this area that we’ll begin.
Step through the large frameless door into the snug cabin and you’re greeted by a familiar BMW interface with the dash angled towards the driver. The ergonomics are spot-on, and the chunky little steering wheel is great.
The iDrive wheel that operated all key areas of the car is the most intuitive system we can name - BMW has been doing this a long time and it shows.
Other positives include the well-bolstered leather seats that extend in the base to provide a breadth of knee support, and the classy glossy black surfaces and exposed stitchwork. These surfaces, plus the silver door handles and chunky wheel, are part of a no-cost option pack called Sport Line.
That said, it’s not a patch on an Audi S3 (to use an example of a car fresh in my mind) — which costs the same — when it comes to feeling upmarket and ‘special’. It all feels high quality, but not particularly tactile or high end.
Most of the cabin plastics, be they on touchpoint surfaces or buttons, feel serviceable but built to a price — a price that isn’t $65K, we might add — and items such as the red dials could easily come from a car half the price. It’s a small gripe perhaps, but one worth making.
Naturally the rear is tight, but there’s room (and anchors) for two capsules if you can contort enough to fit them, or two smaller kids. Passengers back there get vents, map pockets, nifty flip-up adjustable headrests and lovely leather armrests.
The boot (with no spare wheel compartment, given the car uses run-flat tyres) has room for a big suitcase and a few soft carry-on bags. It’s sufficient for a two-person weekender, unless that weekender is in Siberia.
The standard features list includes features such as front/rear parking sensors, ConnectedDrive, bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and auto headlights, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth/USB streaming, satellite navigation and leather seats.
Our car had options including $1000 automatic parking, a $2300 Professional Multimedia Package with features including a more advanced navigation system, a larger 8.8-inch screen, a Harmon/Kardon sound system, 20Gb storage and DAB+ digital radio among other things and a $2400 Comfort Package (heated, electric leather seats and keyless entry). Metallic paint (such as Valencia Orange) also costs $1142 — cough.
You can see a more detailed story outlining full specifications here.
I spent a fair chunk of time behind the wheel doing mundane, everyday commuting. Traffic, low speeds, roads riddled with divots and tram tracks, car parks and more, all of which the BMW dispatched without fuss.
Without drawing too many historical parallels, one could see this car as a modern interpretation of the classic 2002, a loveable but liveable nimble sportscar suited to the everyday.
Set the Driving Experience Control button to Comfort mode and the drivetrain is pared back, the eight-speed transmission holds high gears and the car doddles around like a small hatchback. ECO mode adds some cool green trickery. This car has hybrid-style brake-energy regeneration.
The ride is also disarmingly compliant and comfortable considering factors such as the car’s dynamic abilities, and its 18-inch wheels on stiff-walled, run-flat low-profile tyres.
Switch over to Dynamic mode, and the throttle response sharpens, the gearbox holds lower gears and the variable-ratio electric steering gets a little more resistance.
With all 350Nm of torque available across a broad part of the rev band — from 1250-4800rpm — the engine feels muscular and quite free of lag. It also has a husky drawl, albeit one that remains a little too subdued under duress.
What you do get is ample punch out of corners and immediate, rapid acceleration. This effect is abetted by the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with lovely metallic paddleshifters on the wheel, which in BMW tune remains about the smoothest transmission we can think of.
Of course, you can order a six-speed manual gearbox as a no-cost option (it should be cheaper, right?). Personally, I’d be tempted to opt for this for the purity factor alone. But it’s a taste thing, and the auto is supremely intuitive.
Furthermore, this small rear-drive coupe offers benchmark handling. Its body control and balance mid-corner is sublime, as is the way it turns in and dispatches rapid-fire sequences and switchbacks.
The variable steering also loads up at speed, meaning you can pare back your inputs further, while there’s plenty of feel and feedback from the super-sharp front end. The car in all facets felt light, nimble and eager to dance its way along our favourite piece of mountain blacktop.
Tip it into Sport+ mode and the slightly grabby stability control system is dialled right back, meaning with a stab of the throttle on exit or a lift-off mid-corner, you can coax the grippy 245/35 hoops to let go a touch, causing the rear to step out. The BMW's balance keeps things manageable, though.
It’s one of those cars that make you feel like you’re somehow part of its machinery, for lack of a better analogy to hand, a pure experience that encourages you to nudge your boundaries without scaring you to death either.
So there you have it. You might have worked out we rather enjoyed our time with this baby BMW coupe, though you could make the case it’s a little too expensive.
That point aside, it really is what a proper BMW should be. Simple, honest and nimble without feeling sanitised.
The M235i may be the firework of the range, but we’d be quite content with this mid-spec cracker in the driveway. Especially if we could talk the dealer down a few grand.