Sure, the BMW 3-Series may be the lineal successor to the vaunted BMW 2002 that essentially defined the “sports sedan” segment, it’s the 2-Series that really fills that classic’s shoes. In part, that’s because the 2-Series shares both part of its name and its two-door body style with the 2002. But the 2-Series also embodies more of the driving thrills enthusiasts covet than the 3-Series does these days.
We’ve scored the BMW 2-Series a 7.2 out of 10 overall, giving it extra points for its pert style and its stellar road-holding. It’s available in 230i and M240i flavors as either a coupe or a convertible.
For 2017, the 2-Series’ nomenclature changes to mark the arrival of new 4- and 6-cylinder turbo engines designed to reduce emissions and improve driving performance.
BMW 2-Series styling and performance
With its relatively large greenhouse—the glassed-in area above its doors—the 2-Series attempts to channel the classic 2002 to a relatively high degree of success. It’s taut and simple, positively German in its design and detailing. M235i variants turn things up a bit with their own bumper and wheel treatments, while the convertible is available with several soft top colors.
Inside, it’s business as usual for BMW, with the 2’s dashboard looking like a scaled-down version of what you’ll find in the larger 3-Series. In its base form, the 2’s interior can feel a little thrifty, but adding on leather seating surfaces helps out. There’s an even mix between materials that feel properly luxurious and some hard plastics generally well hidden.
Under the 2-Series’ hood sits a choice of new engines for 2017: 230i models utilize a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 248 horsepower, while 240i variants shoehorn in a 3.0-liter turbo-6 rated at 330 hp. Both of those figures are increased over the 228i and 235i that were in BMW’s stable last year. A choice of 8-speed automatic and 6-speed manual gearboxes are on offer with either engine, as is BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system. However, the stick isn’t available with all-wheel drive.
It’s worth noting that the 2-Series provides a basis for the brand’s M2, a more dedicated performance model with its own engine.
No matter how you spec it, the 2-Series is a balanced, fun-to-drive vehicle. The optional sports suspension focuses its light-and-lean approach even better.
You can step up the performance, if you don’t mind losing some ride quality, with the Track Handling Package. Available on both rear- and all-wheel-drive 230i models, the package adds the Adaptive M Suspension system, variable sport steering, M Sport Brakes, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, 18-inch wheels, and revised springs that reduce ride height slightly.
BMW 2-Series comfort, safety, and features
Whichever version of 2-Series you may prefer, you’ll find the cabin surprisingly spacious for a sports coupe, with ample front seat space in every dimension and a wide range of adjustability for seating and steering wheel position. Up front you’ll find two cupholders, a glove box, and large door pockets for small-item storage.
The rear seat is markedly roomier than the 1-Series that preceded this car, but remains far from comfortable for the full range of adult body sizes. An “Easy Entry” function improves accessibility, though. That’s critical in the Convertible, which is narrower in the back seat due to top packaging and hardware for its pop-up roll protection. The cloth convertible top, by the way, raises or lowers in 20 seconds, and can be operated at speeds of up to 30 mph.
Cargo space is on par with rivals, about 13.8 cubic feet available in the trunk. And the rear seats are split-folding, offering room for larger cargo when necessary—but a bicycle, for instance, is a tough fit due to the way the body’s structure intrudes.
The base 230i is reasonably well-equipped, but options add up quickly once you’ve piled on features might expect like leather seating surfaces, a power driver’s seat, and a backup camera. With typical options, it’s not hard to add $10,000 or more to the base price.
The Premium Package blends some of what ought to be standard at this price point, like power seats, satellite radio, and adjustable lumbar support, with nice luxuries like a moonroof, auto-dimming mirrors all around, and a proximity key.
The IIHS puts the 2-Series on its Top Safety Pick+ honor roll, thanks to top “Good” scores in all of its crash tests, as well as an “Advanced” rating for front crash prevention—when you opt for the Driver Assistance Plus package and its forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Its optional HID headlights also earn the top “Good” rating.
The federal government hasn’t yet tested the 2-Series, and seeing that it’s a relatively low-sales-volume car, we don’t expect it to anytime in the near future.
Despite the powerful engines and sprightly acceleration, the 2-Series manages fair gas mileage in rear-drive form, with the rear-drive automatic 230i returning up to 24 mpg city, 35 highway, 28 combined. In M240i xDrive form, mileage drops as low as 21/31/25 mpg, which still isn’t bad.