Car reviews - BMW - 2 Series - 230i Coupe
Peppy and potentially frugal powerplant, chassis balance, sound system, telematics connectivity
Room for improvement
Rear room, ride quality, small fuel tank
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23 May 2017
Price and equipment
PRICED from $61,900 plus on-road costs, the 230i Coupe sits toward the bottom of the 2 Series range as well as sitting it among a varied range of competitors from its European home soil as well as Japan.
The most obvious and immediate opposition comes from Mercedes-Benz, with the entry-level C200 Coupe priced from $66,400, but while its features and passenger accommodation might be comparable, the three-pointed star isn’t as bright in terms of outright performance.
The Benz is a little heavier and uses a nine-speed auto and a 2.0-litre turbo engine, but it’s not as highly strung as the Beemer, producing 135kW and 300Nm.
Infiniti’s Q60 GT coupe is also in the ballpark at $62,900 and gets closer to the BMW with 155kW and 350Nm, but that’s being asked to move almost 1700kg.
Also in the frame is the Audi A5 2.0 TFSI at $69,990, which is endowed with 140kW and 320Nm and a less-hefty kerb weight than the Q60, but it’s driving the front wheels (or all of them if the step up the pricelist is made to the Quattro models).
All of the aforementioned models make the perky little Beemer look like performance value for money.
The svelte two-door coupe has no shortage of features on its list, including cruise control (with a braking function that shames some adaptive systems for holding a set speed), power-adjustable, power-folding auto-dimming (centre and driver’s side) heated exterior mirrors with a kerb-dip function, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, keyless entry, exterior ‘puddle' lights, auxiliary, USB and 12-volt outlets as well as Bluetooth link to the six-speaker digital-radio-equipped sound system within the new-look 8.8-inch centre screen.
Also within that system is the excellent telematics internet and emergency system, 3D satellite navigation (with three years of map updates included), the electronic owner’s handbook, 20-gig of file storage, a comprehensive trip computer and myriad personalisation settings, some of which are a little harder to find than in the outgoing BMW infotainment system.
Also now standard is the M Sport package, which adds a lip spoiler at the rear, 18-inch M alloy wheels, the M Sport suspension tune (which can be deleted or optioned up to full adaptive for $1538) and M Sport brakes with four-piston front and dual piston rear callipers.
If that’s a little garish the Luxury Line package is offered as a no-cost option, upgrading the infotainment to include a harman/kardon 12-speaker sound system, changing the alloy wheel style, interior trim tweaks (wood and chrome upgrades) and the addition of front seat electric lumbar support.
The compact dimensions of the coupe naturally mean the well-lit (inside and out, thanks to puddle lights) cockpit is a snug place in which to dwell, but even at 191cm, we were able to get comfortable behind the reach and rake adjustable wheel.
A good range of electric adjustment for the front seats (which also have the manual squab extension, a BMW staple and welcome under-thigh support) resulted in a good driving position behind the sports leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone, audio and cruise controls, a helm that’s nice to grip without being too chunky, which some drivers with petite hands don’t like about the M wheel if they equipped it.
The driver gets the benefit of handy features like the kerb-dipping left-hand mirror to help prevent expensive alloy wheel scrapes, as well as a rearview camera and parking sensors front and rear.
The main change to the otherwise-familiar BMW interior is the new-look centre screen that sits atop the dashboard, looking a little more integrated and now running upgraded satellite navigation and a new-look side-to-side menu system.
It appears to offer more information but the new system means it’s not always easier to find – perhaps a little bit of change for the sake of it – but when hunting for some system menus it took some time to find.
The instrumentation is clear and easy to use, but given there’s no digital speed display on the smaller screen (only when showing the speed set for the excellent cruise control with braking function), it’s a good thing the dials are easy to decipher at a glance.
Front occupants get power-adjustable and heated Alcantara and cloth trimmed (leather is on the options list unless you go for the Luxury line or the convertible) front seats that are accommodating and supportive when the sports modes are being utilised, but the two rear occupants won’t want to be AFL key forwards.
Kids cope and so would four small adults, but lanky adults won’t be spoilt with masses of head or legroom – not unexpected given the body style and size.
Boot space of 390 litres is useful without being cavernous, expandable by using the 60/40 splitfold rear seat, with useful in-cabin door and centre console storage up front with USB and 12-volt outlets contained therein.
Engine and transmission
The main reason why the 1475kg 230i is the pick of the litter in many respects is the little turbocharged four-cylinder that propels it.
Employing a twin-scroll turbocharger, the engine is fed by direct injection and managed by intake valves that have variable lift and timing, as well as variable timing for the exhaust valves.
Imminently flexible but not an outright fireball, the twin-scroll single turbo endows the engine with more than adequate torque across the rev range teamed with a solid amount of peak power – 185kW and 350Nm, the latter from 1450 through until 4800rpm, with the power peak 400rpm later.
Directed aft by the sharp and clever eight-speed auto, the drivetrain delivers its outputs with an enthusiastic soundtrack from the dual exhausts, although perhaps not quite as pleasing to the ear as some of the brand’s naturally aspirated engines of ye olden days.
The 530i sips 5.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle (down slightly on its predecessor) and the sprint to 100km/h is 5.6 seconds.
The latter is more likely to be achieved in the real world than the former – our time in the little deuce coupe yielded 10.5 litres per 100km at an average speed of just under 40km/h, which is more an indictment of the spirited driving we can indulge in rather than deficiencies in the engine’s fuel-saving features.
It has idle-stop and brake energy regeneration functions, as well as an EcoPro mode (as well as Comfort and two Sports modes) that taunts the driver into getting better fuel economy, which would be a good idea if fuel pump stops aren’t your favourite past-time – the fuel tank is only 52 litres.
Ride and handling
Around the metropolitan area – with its multitude of surfaces – the 230i deals with road disturbances reasonably well given its primary purpose isn’t ride comfort.
Optional adaptive dampers for the MacPherson strut front and multi-link coil-sprung rear (with anti-roll bars front and rear) would widen the breadth of chassis capability in terms of ironing out road ruts and bumps but the standard suspension passes only the worst of them onto the occupants.
The presence of run-flat tyres would have once warranted a disclaimer for the suspension’s ride quality shortfall but that is less of an issue than it has been.
The run-flats have improved and the standard suspension fare is far from shabby, leaving the driver to tailor throttle, steering and transmission temperament from frugal to fanatical – the variable-ratio steering in Comfort mode is heavily assisted and perhaps overly so, but opt for the Sport or Sport Plus modes and the weight improves.
Also more aggressive is the eight-speed auto, which can be directed by wheel-mounted paddle shifters in full Sport+ mode with the automatic also popped across to its own Sport mode, the 230i becomes far more amusing.
The flat torque offering is considerable given the displacement, as is the power, so a chassis that can apply it all to good effect is required and the little Beemer delivers.
A run along a favoured back road found the middle child of the 2 Series coupe range is well worth some attention – it turns in with some enthusiasm and can be made to awaken the rear end’s traction aids.
Sport + mode all but removes them from the equation and the 230i will demand attention from the driver if corner entry speed and throttle inputs during cornering are excessive, but it keeps itself amusingly tidy without panic from the driver.
More sensible throttle use allows the 230i to fire from corners on the solid surge of torque and swiftly get to the next bend.
But flicking the rocker switch back to Comfort mode and loping along is also in the coupe’s repertoire, something that isn’t always the case when a BMW has an M lurking in the badge somewhere.
Safety and servicing
BMW calls it “Driving Assistant with Approach Control, Lane Departure and Pedestrian Warnings with light city braking function and Attentiveness Assistant,” which means the car will warn the driver about an impending impact (audibly and then with a jab of the brakes) or a more solid application of the brakes if pedestrians are in the equation.
It also has lane departure and blind spot warning, six airbags and the stability control system, which incorporates traction control, anti-lock, emergency braking (flashing) brake and hazard lights, brake assistant and cornering brake control for the upgraded M Sport brakes with four-pot front and two-pot rear callipers.
Run-flat tyres and pressure sensors are wrapped around the 18-inch alloys and the safety features also include parking sensors front and rear and a reversing camera, as well as bi-Xenon headlights, foglights and rain-sensing wipers which also turn on the headlights during inclement weather.
In the event that all that fails to prevent an accident, the BMW Intelligent Emergency Call function automatically relays vital information to the emergency services, or vehicle occupants can fire up the same system by way of the SOS button.
BMW’s factory warranty is three years and unlimited kilometres and the German brand retains its condition-based servicing, inspections are scheduled to suit the way in which the car is driven, although industry guides suggest 12 months or 25,000km.
The 230i can be had with the scheduled servicing costs covered for five years or 80,000km, (whichever comes first) with the BMW Service Inclusive package which starts from $1340 for the Basic package or the more expensive Plus package (price on application), which adds brake pads and discs, clutch and windscreen wiper blades to the list.
There’s much to like about the little 2 Series Coupe, even before you take it for a back-road run.
Enough room – just – to complete the school run, with looks that won’t leave you dropping children off unsighted around the corner, it’s a useful runabout in the city. Outright raucous is left to the M2 but the 230i has the punch and balance to deliver on BMW’s promises of driver enjoyment.
Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe, from $66,400 plus on-road costs
The new Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe is bigger in every dimension and as a result is a little heavier. That counts against it in the nimble sports coupe stakes but helps with interior room, putting it into the cruiser column. The base model uses a nine-speed auto and a 2.0-litre turbo engine, but it’s not as highly strung as the Beemer’s similarly-sized powerplant, producing 135kW and 300Nm.
Infiniti Q60 GT coupe, from $62,900 plus on-road costs
The Q60 gets closer to the BMW with 155kW and 350Nm from its 2.0-litre turbo, but that’s being asked to move almost 1700kg – nearly 300kg more than the more powerful BMW’s kerb weight – so it too ranks as a cruiser. A busy dashboard is not as easy to navigate as any of the Germans and the less prominent brand might not deliver as handsomely on the resale front either.
Audi A5 2.0 TFSI Coupe, from $69,990 plus on-road costs
Svelte and handsome, the newest kid on the coupe block is from Audi. The new A5 is endowed with 140kW and 320Nm from its dual-injection turbo 2.0-litre, with a twin-clutch auto instead of the outgoing model’s CVT as well as a less-hefty kerb weight than the Q60. But it’s driving the front wheels (or all of them if the step up the pricelist is made to a Quattro model), something at which some purists will baulk.
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