► Latest 2-series Coupe tested
► 220d turbodiesel = 7.1sec 0-62
► M Sport chassis still sparkles
Of course everybody buying a 2-series really wants an M235i, and who could blame them? With its epic, very subtly turbocharged straight 322bhp allied to deeply satisfying, unrepentantly rear-drive dynamics the M235i is deeply desirable: just practical, comfortable and refined enough to be everyday useful, but with the compact size and feisty performance of which Munich legends – 2002, E30 M3 – are made.
But the M235i is also a £35k car with an insurance group of 39 and an official combined mpg of 34.9 (reckon on 29mpg in reality). On paper an M Sport 220d Coupe is infinitely more sensible – £29k, 187bhp, insurance group 27, 64.2mpg – but how much of the M235i’s brilliance is petrol and six-cylinder based?
Insert standard-issue four-cylinder turbodiesel here?
Indeed. We can’t sit here and pretend the 220d has anything like the M235i’s charm but this is a decent engine, and of course all that you need 90% of the time. It doesn’t sing to its redline but neither does it feel overtly turbodiesel in its delivery, rewarding held gears and spinning pretty freely on the way to summoning that 187bhp peak.
There’s handy torque too, but the 2-series isn’t a particularly light car at 1465kg and 0-62mph comes up in a slightly tardy 7.1 seconds. The 215bhp 225d is a second quicker and feels considerably more brisk but we digress, and the truth is that the 220d still has enough to let you enjoy the car’s rear-drive balance. The four cylinder’s urge is enough to help you finish corners and roundabouts with a flourish, just so long as you’ve remembered to de-activate the two-stage stability control.
It’s a little gruff, with a pronounced diesel tremor through the clutch pedal, but it’s a willing ally and joyously paired with BMW’s delightful six-speed manual gearbox. The other controls are equally encouraging, from the strong, easy-to-modulate brakes to the taut steering.
The BMW 220d M Sport is fun then?
Yes, despite the workmanlike engine. M Sport suspension brings a slightly firmer set-up than standard and drops the ride height 10mm, but even so it’s nicely judged for UK tarmac, and a world away from the concrete M Sport dampers of yesteryear.
Adding adaptive suspension to your drive mode option is still a fine investment at £515 but the car doesn’t need it. Out of the box the 2-series is agile, comfortable, composed and engagingly transparent in its dynamics, with a keen, uncorrupted front axle and a trustworthy, communicative rear. It’s not about coming out of every junction like Ken Block, just a satisfying balance regardless of the engine you put up front.
And the rest of the time?
The 2-series is bigger than the old 1-series coupe, and offers more generous interior accommodation as result, but it’d still take a committed pair of rail-phobes to eschew the train and want to jump in the back for a long haul. It’s cosy back there, in a dark, pretty sparsely appointed way.
Up front everything’s a little brighter and better, with just enough colour accents to break up the black and a dash design that, while almost painfully trad, nevertheless feels right in this timeless compact rear-drive coupe – even the handbrake’s an actual handbrake.
There’s no play or quirk in here, nothing to lift your mood or impress friends – enjoy instead a kind of solemn ergonomic solidity. If only the standard 6.5-inch iDrive screen was appreciably bigger than your phone (upgrade to 8.8-inch with the Navigation package) and that overall noise suppression was a little more convincing – a 3-series is considerably more hushed.
The 2-series Coupe’s defining qualities are its breadth of ability and its engaging, entertaining chassis. This is a coupe for all occasions, whether you’re threading the kind of mythical tarmac python beloved of advertising copywriters or trundling to Ikea with a hankering for meatballs and a wobbly wardrobe.
In this respect it’s a considerably more grown up choice than something like Mazda’s much smaller, rawer MX-5 and the similarly Toyota GT86 with its almost unusable rear seats. The 220d M Sport Coupe’s closest rival is arguably Audi’s ever-desirable TT (£30,110 in TDI ultra Sport guise) but it’s a grudge match with one clear winner thanks to the BMW’s altogether more talented, nuanced chassis.