Gone are the days when even the most mundane of automobiles had a stylish coupe derivative, but BMW has a stoic reputation for two-door compact cars. A tradition that continues with the 2 Series range, which gets a few subtle updates to keep it ticking in 2018.
Since a coupe can’t ever really be a practical purchase, two-door cars ought to be blatantly hedonistic. In the case of the BMW 220i Coupe, there’s no overwhelming sporty edge, but the heaped-on Luxury Line approach ensures the right amount of indulgence.
Few brands have embraced niche products quite like BMW. The German brand is obsessed with coupes and has applied the label to everything from two-door cars like the 2 Series, to cars with four doors, five doors, and even SUVs.
The thing that makes the 220i Coupe stand out in its current form is its purity – its resistance to trends and fashion. There are no hidden rear doors or hatch, and no chance of confusing it with another member of the BMW range.
Here stands a ‘traditional’ two-door coupe, with good old fashioned rear-wheel-drive dynamics, a compact stance, and a slightly selfish yet oddly feel-good approach to accommodating passengers.
There’s no promise that the next 2 Series will follow the same lead either, with a change to front-wheel drive most likely for the next-gen car, and who knows what BMW might do to the silhouette – coupe, fastback, liftback, or hunchback? Anything’s possible.
The tricky part then will be deciding how you’d like to tailor your 220i in its current form. There are performance-inspired interior and exterior styling touches if you opt for the M Sport package, or if activewear-posing isn’t your thing, the classic appeal of the Luxury Line might be a better fit.
In the case of the 2018 2 Series, ticking the Luxury box results in a set of more classically styled bumpers, additional exterior brightwork, multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seat trim (Cognac brown in this case), and a more sedate-looking full-face steering wheel compared to the racier M Sport alternative.
The result is a mix of plush, comfy interior bits and classic luxury car design cues, stuffed into a small footprint that’s pretty handy for shuffling in and out of city traffic.
Under the bonnet lives a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine producing 135kW of power and 270Nm of torque. Outputs at the lower end of what a turbo 2.0-litre is potentially capable of (the same-sized 230i produces 185kW and 350Nm for instance), but well balanced all the same.
As it stands, the 220i fits the luxury bill just right. It may not be an outright powerhouse, but the engine is flexible enough to keep things lively without needing to be constantly whipped as a means of delivering solid torque.
After a moment of hesitation from standstill, the engine awakens as boost comes online, and from that point on the 220i is a willing little unit. Hardly a muscle car of any kind, but well suited to general commuter duty.
Officially its fuel consumption is 5.9L/100km, and after an even mix of city and highway the trip computer indicated low sevens, but by the end of our week with the car and extra urban driving, that had pushed itself to 8.0L/100km.
Where the 2 Series range most betrays its age (having been on sale for four years this year) is the interior. And not because it’s particularly out of date, but because BMW’s later-model products, like the more expensive X3 and 5 Series lines, have made such massive improvements in interior presentation.
Front seat passengers will be happy with their lot. As far as small cars go, the 2 Series feels roomy. The roof line may be a little low, but leg room is plentiful.
Rear seat passengers don’t do as well, though. Despite fairly easy loading thanks to a long front door and seats that fold well out of the way, there’s a serious shortage of head room and leg room runs out quickly for anyone over 170cm.
If practicality is a bigger concern to you, there’s 390 litres of boot space – bigger than the 1 Series hatch and decent enough to even manage a set of golf clubs, or two at a squeeze, plus the rear seats can be folded from inside the boot.
BMW’s constant product evolution does mean that the 2018 220i comes with the latest version of the brand’s iDrive infotainment system, although the standard 6.5-inch system doesn’t pick up the touchscreen functionality of the optional 8.8-inch display.
Also new is a revised instrument cluster with a black panel display for the speedo and tacho, and a more comprehensive information display window.
Other standard gear includes dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and tail-lights with a subtly revised design (part of the 2018 updates), DAB+ radio, satellite navigation, speed limit info, front and rear park sensors, and a suite of connected services.
BMW asks $53,900 plus on-road costs for the 220i Coupe, meaning there’s still a premium to pay for the ‘exclusivity’ of a two-door, particularly when compared to the $46,900 120i hatch, albeit in Urban Line not Luxury Line trim.
Some of the features of the car we tested, like the powered front seats with memory, proximity key, and heated front seats, are part of a $2400 Comfort package, arguably features that should already be included as part of the Luxury Line. A $2000 sunroof was also fitted.
Despite the premium focus, the ride quality of the 220i is most at odds with what the little coupe sets out to achieve. Stiff and abrupt over the kinds of small bumps that litter city streets, the 2 Series becomes trying on extended urban runs.
Over bigger bumps, the 220i fares much better with progressive control and secure, stable handling. The niggles are likely traced to the ‘self-supporting run-flat’ Continental tyres, which trade sidewall compliance for the ability to keep rolling even with a flat tyre.
BMW never skips a beat when it comes to steering, with a firm feel and excellent feedback through the tiller. Likewise, the well-planted suspension and playful rear end prove that even when it’s not indented as a performance machine, BMW can’t help but instil some excitement.
On the safety front, the 220i goes unrated by ANCAP but does come with six airbags, a rear-view camera, load-limiting front seatbelt pre-tensioners, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and collision mitigation (not quite full AEB though).
The less glamorous side of owning a prestige vehicle is, as always, maintenance. BMW, like most of its luxo-competitors, offers a pre-paid service program. It's essentially a capped-price program that covers five years or 80,000km (whichever comes first) for $1395 including filters, spark plugs, and brake fluid as required, which is actually quite competitive.
Speaking of luxo-competitors, BMW is almost on its own with the 2 Series, although coupe fans will find cars like the larger Infiniti Q60 and Lexus RC 300, both with more powerful 2.0-litre engines, a little more expensive.
Instead, the Audi TT, available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, is a closer competitor. And if you’d like your coupe with a smidge more practicality, a Mercedes-Benz CLA delivers sleek styling with the added advantage of rear doors.
Inevitably, the 220i will always be called into a comparison with its more performance-oriented stablemates like the 230i and 240i. Of course, it just can’t sprint like those cars can, but does it need to?
With a focus on comfort and trimmings that recall the glory days of ‘personal coupes’, the 220i Luxury Line never intends to be a sporting superstar.
If you’re at the stage of your life where you want to treat yourself to something a little less mainstream, the premium-feeling 2 Series makes a sensible entry point to BMW’s coupe range without feeling anything like an entry-level model.
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