Car reviews - BMW - 2 Series - Gran Coupe
Improved interior layout, extra boot space, peppy three-cylinder engine, strong standard spec levels, BMW-like steering
Room for improvement
Firm ride, some torque steer under strong acceleration, dark and slightly bland cabin, cramped rear quarters
BMW expands appeal of small car range with practical 2 Series Gran Coupe sedan
23 Mar 2020
ON THE whole, sedans in Australia seem to be on the nose – particularly in the medium and large segments, where buyers are flocking towards SUVs in droves.
However there is one corner of the market where sedans are still thriving, and that is the small car segment where buyers can find the small dimensions of a hatchback with the added practicality of a larger, sedan-style boot.
BMW is the latest brand to join the fray with its 2 Series Gran Coupe, essentially a four-door version of the new-generation 1 Series that launched late last year.
With competition coming from the likes of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan and Audi A3 sedan, does the 2 Series Gran Coupe have what it takes to carve out its own niche in the busy small car segment?
First drive impressions
BMW Australia’s product portfolio covers the vast majority of the passenger car and SUV segments, so it was something of a surprise that the German brand had a new niche it was yet to fill.
The desire to bring a small sedan to market was not simply to fill a gap because it was there, but rather the attention its compatriot rivals were getting in the segment.
In particular, the Mercedes-Benz CLA, which has seen a good deal of success since launching locally in late 2013.
Enter the 2 Series Gran Coupe. The name may confuse some – the Gran Coupe is more closely related to the 1 Series hatch than the existing 2 Series coupe and convertible, with the new offering sharing the same UKL2 front-drive underpinnings as the 1 Series.
As such, 1 Series owners will feel a distinct sense of similarity when entering the cabin of the 2 Series Gran Coupe – GoAuto only sampled the entry-level 218i grade – with the layout and specification essentially carrying over.
The new-generation cabin marks a big step up in quality and refinement over the old rear-drive 1 Series, with a step up in tech made clear by the fitment of an all-digital 10.25-inch instrument cluster to go with the infotainment screen of the same size, a feature no doubt influenced by the all-digital dash of the new-generation A-Class.
Projecting BMW’s Operating System 7.0 multimedia system, BMW’s infotainment set-up is one of the easiest and most intuitive to use, particularly when combined with the iDrive controller.
Most infotainment features are included as standard, including sat-nav, DAB+ digital radio and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Our one gripe with the system is the instrument cluster screen does not offer as much customisation as rivals such as Audi does with its virtual cockpit, or even Mercedes and its MBUX system.
Standard interior spec on the 218i Gran Coupe is strong, with features such as a 9.2-inch head-up display, wireless charging and a leather-wrapped steering wheel all coming as standard.
Our test vehicle also came with the $2300 Comfort Package, which includes heated and electrically adjustable front seats with lumbar support, and comfort access.
Despite the strong spec, it is still clear the 218i is the entry-level offering with a largely dark and bland colour scheme made up of black soft-touch plastics and hard trim elements that remind you this is one of the more affordable models that BMW offers.
Dimensions for front passengers are comfortable, however rear occupants might be a bit cramped with a roofline that will trouble those standing six feet or taller, and legroom that requires a short front passenger in order to be comfortable.
With up to 430 litres of space available, the 2 Series Gran Coupe gives customers an extra 50L of luggage volume over the 1 Series, which combines with the longer body length to provide a slightly more practical package than its hatchback cousin.
As the entry-level grade, the 218i Gran Coupe is underpinned by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine developing 103kW at 6500rpm and 220Nm from 1480-4200rpm, driving the front wheels only via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Taking 8.6 seconds to reach 100km/h, the little three-pot is not the most potent power plant in BMW’s arsenal, however it is nevertheless a peppy and willing unit.
The 1.5-litre engine is well suited to everyday applications, with a smooth character and good mid-band of torque that makes it zippy in urban environments.
Engaging sport mode and putting the foot to the floor does provide a good level of acceleration, however when in full sprint the new front-drive layout does provide some torque steer coming up through the steering column.
The only part of the new powertrain we don’t love is the dual-clutch auto, which has the same non-linear and slightly lazy power delivery characteristics as other dual-clutch units, but admittedly the impact is not as severe in the BMW.
During our drive we managed an average fuel consumption figure of 6.9 litres per 100km, a solid figure for day-to-day driving and up on the 5.9L/100km official figure.
Driving around town and on the highway, the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s suspension set-up is definitely on the firmer side, with a ride quality that would not be called uncomfortable but could certainly be more supple.
The fitment of 18-inch alloy wheels as standard exacerbates the problem, however the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are still commendable for an entry-level variant, with a quiet interior ambience.
While many decried BMW’s move to a front-drive architecture for its small passenger cars, the brand made sure an engaging drive experience remained, and we can confirm the brand has done a good job of keeping the 2 Series Gran Coupe exciting.
Granted, it loses the engaging, tail-happy characteristics of its rear-drive siblings, however it is still a quality car to drive given the 218i is not a performance variant.
Steering is still well calibrated and weighted, and feels like the excellent steering typical of BMW models.
As a trailblazer brand that came to market with the likes of the X6, i8 and i3, it is a surprise that BMW has taken such a long time to bring its own small sedan to market.
Especially when you consider Mercedes has been making a killing for years with the CLA and now the A-Class sedan, it makes the arrival of the 2 Series Gran Coupe all the more timely.
BMW expects the 218i to sell in greater numbers than its performance-honed M235i sibling – no doubt due to its greater affordability ($42,990 vs $63,990) – and it is not surprising, as BMW has put together a well-specced and dynamically competent little sedan that is sure to keep Mercedes on its toes.
Model release date: 1 March 2020
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