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Car reviews - BMW - 2 Series - 228i Convertible

Our Opinion

We like
Engine performance, handling, drop-top comfort
Room for improvement
Cabin rear-seat room, small boot, the 220i may be a better deal

BMW logo2 Sep 2015

By NEIL DOWLING

Price and equipment

NO-ONE makes cheap convertibles because (a) they are more expensive to make than a coupe, and (b) people are prepared to pay more for less metal.

But the entry point of BMW’s 2 Series 220i is a relatively affordable $54,900 plus on-road costs, up only $3900 on the equivalent coupe version.

The 228i adds $14,000 to the 220i’s price and initially, that’s hard to justify especially if the buyer intends for a leisurely life in suburbia.

Both look almost identical and a few options – mainly the upsized wheels – will make it a hard task to identify the more expensive model.

But that’s not the point. Overall, the 228i is better equipped and a closer look at upspeccing the 220i makes it a pointless exercise.

Just look at the 228i’s feature list over the 220i: 18-inch alloys, leather upholstery with sun block, heated front seats, front and rear park sensors, dual exhaust pipes and bi-Xenon headlights.

Plus despite having the same basic engine, output is up 45kW/80Nm and the 0-100km/h sprint is sliced back 1.6 seconds to 6.0 seconds. Not that we’re counting.

On top of that, both share a reversing camera – an interesting point given the coupe equivalents don’t have one – and low-speed crash avoidance, lane-departure warning, tyre pressure warning and four airbags.

The electrically-operated fabric roof smartly stows in 20 seconds and can be erected or collapsed at speeds of up to 50km/h.

It also gets satellite navigation with BMW’s ConnectedDrive connectivity that introduces internet apps into the cabin through a six-speaker audio. It must be pointed out that the graphics for the colour monitor are the best in the business.

The convertible body has been muscled up compared with the convertible that it replaces.

And on size improvements, the boot is also bigger and there’s more flexibility thanks to a modified rear seat.

Options include BMW’s Line packages that bundle trim items. Pleasingly, some are no-cost options.

These include Sport Line (including a high-gloss interior and sports steering wheel), Luxury Line (fitted to the test car and including leather upholstery and woodgrain trim) and – at a cost of about $2400 – M Sport Line with M Sport suspension and aerodynamics kit.

Interior

There’s a sense of deja vu in a BMW cabin, the 228i impressing with its simplicity and attention to detail but mirroring so many of the marque’s other models.

It’s a comfortable and logical cockpit with an iDrive central control knob that is clearly marked for ease of operation, clear and bright dash monitor, a button-rich steering wheel and simple gauges.

Lifting the visual appeal is trim in gloss black around the centre console and chrome-edged airvents. The 228i also has standard “shadow line” body-trim treatment, evident in places such as the line between the rear panel and the cloth roof.

The leather upholstery has a coating to resist the effects of UV, making it as durable as the man-made leather used on the 220i.

First-timers will applaud the driver’s seat for its non-threatening introduction, while passengers – er, passenger for the rear-seat room is marginal at best – will remark on the well-built and neatly-tailored cabin.

The rear seat is beautifully scalloped for two occupants but I’m afraid to say they are made for smaller people who are only there for an even smaller journey.

The rear seat is too vertical to be comfortable and legroom is at so much of a premium – even with me at 177cm behind the wheel – that it’s best left for children. Small children.

The BMW isn’t alone here. Most convertibles give token acknowledgment to the fact more than two people will be in the car.

Bigger advances are seen in the fabric roof, now with five layers to reduce noise. BMW claims cabin noise is down by up to 50 per cent compared with its predecessor.

It’s also faster to open and close – now 20 seconds, down from 30 seconds – and can be operated at up to 50km/h compared with 40km/h.

The cloth roof, chosen because it’s light and compact when closed, now helps improve boot space. Over the old model – and attributed mainly to the newer, bigger body – the luggage space grows 12 per cent to 335 litres when the roof is up and to 280 litres when down.

Because the 2 Series has run-flat tyres, space is also collected by the lack of a spare wheel.

Convertibles are the least flexible vehicle for versatile load carrying but the 228i scores well with a fold-down rear seat backrest and a larger through-cabin aperture. This opening, often termed a ski-hole, is 450mm wide (up from 150mm in the old model) and 246mm high.

BMW’s ConnectedDrive consists of Navigation Business satellite navigation for the 220i and 228i, emergency call facility and online connection for vehicle data to the owner’s preferred service centre.

The reversing camera is standard and gives an impressively clear rear view even at night. Guidance markers are incorporated into the monitor to ensure accurate parking and front and rear park sensors are standard on the 228i.

Engine and transmission

Cleverly, the 220i and 228i use the same basic 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine but through engine management, exhaust systems and intake hardware, create two different personalities.

Under the TwinPower label – a misnomer given there’s only one turbocharger in the four-cylinder engines – the 228i pumps 180kW at 6500rpm and torque of 350Nm delivered flat from 1250rpm to 4800rpm.

Drive is to the rear through a conventional torque converter eight-speed automatic transmission, chosen ahead of a dual-clutch gearbox for its smoothness.

Any perception that a dual-clutch gearbox would be a better choice is dampened by the unexpected response of the automatic’s shifts and willingness to hold on to the gear up to the tachometer’s red line.

The quick lock-up of the gears and the speed of the paddle shifters actually contribute as much to the sparkling performance of the car as the engine.

Torque delivery is spontaneous and compelling, launching the convertible to 100km/h in only 6.0 seconds. Impressive is the engine’s ability to punch right through the rev range so the progress is smooth and linear.

Aside from the engine roar, there’s a sense that all forward motion is being delivered in a relatively unfussed manner.

Fuel consumption is quoted at 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres which is a tiny thirst given the car’s potential performance. On test it averaged 8.9L/100km, more in keeping with the practicalities of daily motoring on the freeway and through the suburbs.

It runs only 95RON petrol, or above, and drinks from a 52-litre tank giving a potential suburban range of about 590km.

There is an idle stop system as standard that may peg back the fuel thirst in congested traffic.

Ride and handling

The first corner reveals the structural work done on the body. It is strikingly rigid, free from any flex or creak that occasional accompanies a convertible through a fast corner.

Much of the work in ensuring the body stays rigid was done without consulting similar work on the 228i’s coupe sister. So the open-top went its own way and obviously for the better.

Four things contribute to how good this convertible feels through the bends – the 20 per cent increase in torsional rigidity, the 50:50 weight distribution, the wider track, and thanks to the cloth top, a low centre of gravity.

Add to that the precise steering – electric assist, would you believe? – and the 228i is one of the most impressive convertible cars around. Especially at under $70,000.

The 228i – and its convertible siblings – is longer, wider and sits on a longer wheelbase than the model it replaced.

It also sits more confidently on the road on a track that is up 41mm at the front (to 1521mm) and 43mm at the back, to 1556mm.

Though rigidity is improved, the car is only marginally heavier thanks to an increased use of high-tensile steel.

It weighs 1555kg against the 1510kg of the previous 125i, the variant closest in specification to the 228i, and that’s despite the substantial equipment upgrade.

Perceptions that the ride quality will suffer because of the more rigid body and sports-tuned suspension prove incorrect. The bolstered and low-set seats and excellent ergonomics for the driver produce a very comfortable driving position.

There is a suppleness in the suspension that cushions hard road shocks, particularly through corners, and collaborates with the rigid body to allow the car – and occupants – to shrug off any surface imperfections.

Few cars do this so well, and even fewer convertibles. It’s a car that doesn’t tire the driver physically or mentally, making it almost perfect for a long weekend away.

Safety and servicing

BMW dishes up a comprehensive safety pack, starting with four airbags, tyre pressure monitor, heated mirrors and the mandatory electronic stability and traction aids.

The 228i benefits from upgrades over the 220i, notably the addition of lane-departure warning, low-speed crash avoidance, front park sensors and bi-Xenon headlights. It also adds a self-parking function.

There is no spare wheel, rather like many BMW models the four tyres are run flat units. These are designed to allow continued travel – albeit at a lower speed and shorter distance – for the vehicle after incurring a puncture.

There may be considerations here for country buyers who travel substantial distances from the nearest service centre.

BMW doesn’t have a required service interval though does suggest an annual visit to the dealer. Service needs fall under BMW’s Condition Based Service (CBS) program, which identifies the condition of a vehicle based on actual use.

This ensures regular servicing and minimal owner outlay. The CBS operates on information within the car’s ConnectedDrive program.

BMW gives new owners the option of paying a single amount upfront for future service and maintenance. There are two packages – BMW Service Inclusive Basic provides scheduled servicing cover and BMW Service Inclusive Plus combines scheduled servicing and selected maintenance items.

The company said owners select the option based on their needs. Usually there are annual and distance options, starting at three years and 60,000km. It can be extended and even transferred to future owners before expiry.

For the 228i, the basic package starts at $1140.

BMW has a three-year, unlimited distance warranty with a three-year roadside assistance program. The 228i Convertible has a three-year residual of 64 per cent, one of the best resale values of any convertible in its price range, according to Glass’s Guide.

Verdict

Dismiss any thought of vanity and enjoy this car as a sports coupe that just happens to have a removable roof.

It is a surprisingly comfortable and well equipped car but best for two occupants. The bigger boot is appreciated, as is the expanded standard equipment package.

Buyers who want all the appeal of the car without the higher cost will be just as happy with the less-expensive 220i (previously tested by GoAuto).

Against the rivals, only the more involving Audi S3 makes a dent, though less powerful variants from Audi have similar appeal as the 2 Series. If I have to pick one, the 228i has better ride comfort and cargo space.

Rivals

Audi S3 Cabriolet from $70,500 plus on-road costs
Takes the new BMW head on in price and features but adds a quicker 5.5 second acceleration sprint and all-wheel drive. Features include five airbags, 18-inch wheels, leather and 10-speaker audio. But no rear camera. The fabric topped four-seater has a boot space of 285 litres. Its 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine claims 210kW/380Nm for 7.1L/100km. The warranty is three years or unlimited kilometres. The annual service can be pre-paid to reduce costs. Glass’s Guide forecasts a 54 per cent value after three years.

Renault Megane CC GT-Line from $44,490 plus on-road costs
Pleasantly-styled Megane is the only metal-roof cabriolet here. Like its rivals, it’s electrically operated and benefits with low noise and greater security. The Megane has a 103kW/195Nm aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine claiming 8.0L/100km, down both in performance and fuel economy here. Boot space is 211 litres (roof down) and 417 litres with the roof up. Features include leather, sat-nav, six airbags, eight-speaker audio and 17-inch wheels. Also has no rear camera.

Renault has a five-year, unlimited distance warranty with five-year roadside assistance. The capped-price service costs for three years is $897 and the three-year resale value is 52 per cent.

Holden Cascada from $41,900 plus on-road costs
New Opel-sourced Cascada and Astra siblings share platforms and drivetrains. The Cascada has a 125kW/260Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. Holden claims 7.5L/100km. Boot space is from 280-380 litres depending on the roof’s position. It’s the longest and heaviest four-seater convertible in this comparison. Features include 18-inch wheels, leather, sat-nav, four airbags and a reverse camera with front and rear park sensors.

The warranty is three years or 100,000km with a one-year roadside assistance program. It has nine-monthly service intervals and a capped-price program costs $916 for three years. The three-year resale value is estimated at 62 per cent.

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