Car reviews - BMW - 2 Series - 220i
Looks, feels and drives like a BMW ought to, with the added bonus of a comfy ride at last
Room for improvement
Manual’s $2K hike, trawling the options catalogue could almost double the price
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5 Jan 2015
Price and equipment
BMW is back in the coupe swing of things with the 2 Series.
Bigger than the old E82 1 Series it replaces, with usefully more space inside, the F22 two-door three-box Bavarian is unique among luxury branded models in that it really has no direct rivals right now.
Sure, there are ‘close’ competitors such as the Mercedes CLA and Audi TT, but these are fundamentally different machines with front or all-wheel drive and transverse engineering solutions.
For that we should be grateful, for who else offers rear-drive, two doors and a near 50:50 weight balance in a handsome and well-proportioned coupe costing under $100K? Ok yes, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ do, of course, but what about the premium sphere where BMW hunts?On the F22’s local launch earlier this year in Tasmania, we were wowed by how true-to-brand the base 220i coupe felt, prompting a return visit in order to properly assess the Munich marvel on more familiar turf.
So here it is, at $50,500 plus on-road costs with either a six-speed manual or – as tested – eight-speed automatic.
Note however that BMW’s decision to charge the same price is a sneaky move to make manual fans pay more for their car since the old 1 Series’ equivalent was $2K cheaper.
It’s no barren Bavarian wasteland though, this base 220i, thanks to satellite-navigation, cruise control with a braking function, Bluetooth connectivity, stop/start, fog lights, rear parking sensors, a split/fold rear backrest, climate control air-conditioning and 17-inch alloy wheels.
But vinyl seat trim known as Sensatic is a bit too much of a ‘70s 2002 throwback. Leather adds thousands more, as does a sunroof, while the new bundled-up packages like the $1820 Advanced Parking Package, $3250 Visibility Package and a tech-heavy Professional Multimedia and Comfort packages cost from $3120 apiece.
Our car had these and more, pushing the price beyond $65,000…Again, like we said, this is a true BMW.
First off, the 2 Series has lost its predecessor’s hemmed-in feel.
For the record, everything bar the coupe’s height grows in this car’s evolution from the E82, including length (by 72mm), width (up 32mm), wheelbase (up 30mm – to almost 2.7m) and tracks (up 41mm and 43mm for the front and rear respectively.
The last three measurements help bring noticeably more head and leg room to both rows of seats, edging the 220i closer to the hallowed E36 and E46 3 Series coupes from the ‘90s to mid ‘00s.
What transpires from all this is a feeling of cosiness rather than feeling cramped. It raises the delightful spectre of this car sufficing as a second family car if you have smaller kids, rather than it being just a vanity plaything.
Certainly, there is nothing toy-like about the grown-up dashboard, angled towards the driver in classic BMW fashion and lacking nothing in terms of the marque’s usual ergonomic layout.
Thanks to a vast amount of adjustability from both the seats and the perfectly sized steering wheel, finding the right driving position is effortless. And once there the low-slung snugness of the supportive seat adds to a sportscar sense of occasion.
Illuminated in orange, the analogue dials could be out of any bigger BMW, the iDrive controller for the display screen perched up high like an afterthought in the centre console is now surely one of the easiest to master, and the ventilation couldn’t be more straight forward to fathom.
Vision out isn’t as bad either – and is ably aided by both the sensors and reverse camera fitted to our 220i.
However, while there is nothing wrong with the interior’s build quality, the lower-console materials aren’t up to brand expectations (or even Volkswagen’s – let alone an Audi’s), the automatic lever’s infuriating insistence on having to press the right button borders on the anal-retentive, and for a digital speedometer buyers must cough up even more – albeit for an excellent heads-up display.
Oh well, it’s not as if the speedo isn’t concise enough.
A shoulder-length lever helps with rear-seat access while adults can travel back there for short distances in reasonable comfort, but really those twin perches are for much smaller folk.
Finally the 390-litre boot is surprisingly capacious. Larger by 20L compared to the 1 Series’ equivalent, it features a split-fold arrangement in either a 60/40 or optional 40/20/40 configuration according to how deep your pockets are – handy for those extra long packages.
Engine and transmission
Here’s where the 220i coupe can be all things to all people.
Behind that shark-like snout is BMW’s EU6 emissions-rated 2.0-litre four-cylinder TwinPower single-turbo engine, delivering 135kW of power between 5000 and 6250rpm, and 270Nm of torque between 1250 and 4500rpm.
Matched to that ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic, it always feels strong and responsive like this company’s engines ought to, but with a newfound level of low-rev flexibility and alertness not always associated with lower-line variants.
The auto is surely one of the best available anywhere, with its intuitive tip-shift manual mode questioning the wisdom of opting for the six-speed manual alternative – though there’s always something to be said about a well-sorted stick shifter.
In Eco Pro mode – which reduces consumption through a host of measures by taking the peaky edges off everything from engine performance to air-con output – the 220i powers along as you might expect, but with a laid-back attitude that is very pleasant if you just want to commute. There’s even a coasting mode for extra-quiet open-road travelling.
Included is a swift-acting idle-stop system works, seamlessly switching on and off to save you fuel. Lovely.
The driver has to consciously choose that setting, otherwise the default mode is Comfort – more of the same, but with all ancillary outputs pretty much restored.
Toggle the lower-console mounted switch up to Sport, however, and the steering weight rises, the engine downs a Red Bull, the gear changes blurt out their ratio swaps with more serious intent and traction control software relaxes its grip on the chassis for a looser, lighter and faster driving experience.
Here is where the 220i coupe’s performance really steps up a notch for rapid off-the-line launches combined with sharper dynamic responses that are akin to a powerful hot hatch.
On the move – and particularly with the gear lever shifted over to Sport mode – the BMW will lunge forward much more hungrily in response to your right foot’s motion, accompanied by a deeper mechanical growl.
Funnily enough, needing 7.0 seconds to hit 100km/h, the 220i Coupe’s acceleration figures are readily eclipsed by a Volkswagen Golf GTI’s and Renault Megane RS265’s, but the BMW’s sheer civility and unique rear-drive alacrity are what helps set it apart.
Speaking of which, if it’s safe to do so, the Sport+ mode mutes the electronic safety nannies to really get things drifting sideways in ways that only this sort of drivetrain configuration can. That a $50,500 BMW offers such interactivity is just awesome! Conversely, if you’re frugally focussed enough, you might be able to approach the official 6.0L/100km fuel consumption average – though we struggled to keep ours under 10L/100km thanks to the call of the Sport mode siren.
Ride and handling
The 220i coupe’s joy-inducing ways seem to know no limits.
While it isn’t as sharp and talkative like the better hydraulic units of yesteryear were, the electric power steering system is still reactive and communicative enough to really involve the driver.
Walking the line between effort and comfort, the helm is beautifully measured and balanced in its response, so if you’re up for a blast up and down a mountain road, the wheel will come alive in your palms, pointing the coupe exactly where it needs to be without kickback or the need to constantly re-correct.
Aiding all that is an agility and poise that reflects the rightness of the 220i’s engineering, underscored by exceptional stopping ability that adds to the car’s confidence and composure.
But the real revelation with this generation of BMW is just how supple the ride is around town on 245/45 R18 runflat tyres, only firming up when road surfaces become particularly bad.
About the only negative is a propensity for some road-noise intrusion on certain bitumen surfaces – a common German-car observation – but otherwise the 1365kg 220i coupe is astonishingly complete and fun to boot!Safety and servicing
BMW offers a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty on all its vehicles in Australia.
Additionally, the 2 Series coupe scores a five-star ANCAP crash-test safety rating.
Lastly, according to BMW’s helpful real-time online helper, while there is no published fixed-price service offer on the 2 Series coupe, the owner or prospective buyer can come to some sort of arrangement:“You can arrange servicing packages with your local dealer.”Verdict
So you’re after a premium-priced coupe with style, performance, handling, comfort and practicality, hey? Seriously, look no further.
In some ways the BMW 220i Coupe is the company’s worst enemy, since it fits needs and satiates desire in equal and at times spectacular manner.
Why would you need to step up to a 4 Series or even a 6 Series Coupe?Frankly, finding fault beyond the usual expensive-options gouge is difficult, since falling in love with the latest Bavarian coupe is so damn easy.
Infiniti Q60 GT Premium (from $64,400 plus on-roads).
That’s more like it! A rebadged G37 Coupe but at nearly $12K less, the strong, silent and seductively refined Japanese four-seater grand tourer is now one of the market’s secret bargains, offering effortless power and involving handling to boot.
Audi TT 1.8 TFSI Coupe (from $68,950 plus on-roads).
Soon to be replaced by a near-identical but all-new third-generation version, the TT is an enduring style icon that also delivers the goods as a driver’s car, especially in its lightest entry-level guise. Don’t put people in the back though.
Mercedes-Benz C180 Coupe (from $59,900 plus on-roads).
Far better than its rather dumpy sedan-like styling suggests, the C-Class Coupe brings real comfort, space and practicality to the table, while keen drivers will also appreciate the supple yet responsive chassis and engines combo.
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