2018 BMW 230i LCI review

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A two-door Beemer with performance credentials for under $70,000 – sounds like a good deal. But, is the 2018 BMW 230i the pick of the bunch or are you better off with the cheaper BMW M140i?

There's a subset of people out there who prefer the impracticality of a two-door coupe over the spaciousness and ease of use of a five-door hatch (you can see which side of the fence I sit on!).

BMW hears your pain and anguish with the BMW 2 Series existing for the cool cats that wouldn't be seen dead in a hatchback. The brand's most popular 2 Series model, the 230i has received an update.

We leapt at the chance to jump behind the wheel of the 2018 BMW 230i LCI across, arguably, some of the best driving roads in Australia, let alone the world, in the heart of Tasmania.

Over two days we had the chance to drive BMW's range of 1 Series and 2 Series LCI vehicles, including the manic M2.

The 230i is intriguing because it's $3010 more than the more powerful M140i, which also packs two extra cylinders and has two more doors.

Priced from $63,000 (plus on-road costs), the 230i is powered by a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque.

Mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, it moves from standstill to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds, consuming a combined average of 5.9 litres of fuel per 100km.

Changes to the exterior of the 2018 2 Series LCI range include LED headlights across the range with the 230i picking up circular LED daytime running lights, along with LED tail-lights and the option of new wheels.

While exterior changes are fairly limited, it's inside the cabin where the bulk of changes can be seen.

New stitching is highlighted by Pearl Chrome trim finishes and chrome window elements, along with a high-gloss black centre console.

The 230i now comes standard with BMW Navigation Professional and iDrive 6, which comes in the form of an 8.8-inch LCD display that now also includes a touchscreen.

Buyers can option Apple CarPlay for $479, but we'd give it a miss given how good iDrive is.

iDrive 6 features speed improvements, along with a new menu layout. While the menu layout is a little confusing (we prefer the previous iteration), the advances in speed and clarity of speech recognition is excellent.

To get a better idea of the changes to the entire BMW 2 Series range as part of the LCI, read our 2018 BMW 2 Series LCI pricing and specs story.

There's plenty of room up front, along with seats that feature a host of electric seat adjustment to make finding the right driving position easy.

Visibility out the front and sides is good, with rear vision ever so slightly compromised by the narrow rear window line.

There's not a great deal of leg room in the rear as you'd expect, so the seats are only worth using as occasional transport. The boot is slightly bigger than the 1 Series, offering 390 litres of capacity.

We hit the road with a strong fleet of 1 and 2 Series vehicles to see how the 230i would stack up along some of Australia's best driving roads.

While the 2.0-litre engine lacks the urgency of the 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit in the M140i and M240i, it's a little fire cracker when you get stuck into it.

Peak torque hits between 1450-4800rpm, making the torque band accessible in virtually any gear. One of the highlights of the entire drivetrain is the smooth gearbox that fires through gears quickly and can be controlled using the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters.

The roads were sopping wet, but despite this there was still plenty of traction available with the front-end eager to turn in with plenty of grip.

There's more body roll evident in comparison to the M140i, despite the use of M Sport suspension under the skin. Unlike the M140i and M240i, the 230i misses out on adaptive suspension, which can be optioned for $1077. Despite using M Sport suspension, the ride is still quite compliant and smooth.

The steering rack features a variable ratio and while it turned in quickly in the Sport setting, it lacked the feel on offer in the M140i and M2. It didn't communicate enough of what was happening at the front wheels.

But once you became comfortable with the driving position and steering feel, the 230i could be driven with pace. We were actually really surprised how capable it was, despite featuring two less cylinders and less power and torque.

The brakes felt great and offered plenty of feedback. The pedal did get a touch spongy on a particular downhill stretch – even when rowing back through the gears, the engine won't engine-brake as much as the bigger six-cylinder cars, meaning more braking was required.

Up front, the 230i uses four-piston calipers with vented rotors, while the rear features two-piston calipers with solid rotors. With 18-inch wheels all round, the front end uses 225mm wide tyres and the rear 245mm wide treads.

Another thing missing from this package is the noise. While the exhaust can be heard barking on upshifts, there's little induction noise and there's a certain lack of emotion when you're behind the wheel.

It's less of an issue with the 230i's drivetrain, but the stability control can be a little intrusive at times. If you get some wheel-spin from one of the inner rear wheels, it can kill torque delivery excessively while traction is regained. It's not a huge issue, but certainly noticeable when the speed picks up.

If you think it's expensive to service a new 1 or 2 Series, think again. Buyers can purchase BMW Service Inclusive Basic, which includes five years (or 80,000km) of servicing for $1340. It comes out to $268 per year, which is a relative bargain.

The 2018 BMW 230i LCI is a stack of fun to drive and turned out being more enjoyable than we thought it would. It's little surprise that it's BMW's best selling 2 Series model.

But it's not as engaging as the M140i or M240i. It lacks the emotion and sense of the 'ultimate driving machine'. If you love the idea of a quick BMW, but don't necessarily want face-tearing performance, it could be the coupe for you.

For us, though, the M140i represents ultimate bang for buck in this price bracket – you get a stonking six-cylinder that looks and goes like the clappers. What else more could you want?

Click on the Gallery tab for more images of the BMW 230i.

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