BMW M235i Convertible (2015) review

Published:23 March 2015

The 235i is the fastest drop-top 2-series
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

► 2-series convertible arrives in time for summer
► Tested here in 235i guise
► Looks great. How much?

What’s new pussycat?

Just in time for what will surely be another long, hot British summer of Pimms, parched cricket greens and balmy garden parties, BMW has replaced the 1-series convertible with a drop-top 2. Longer, wider and considerably prettier than the 1-series convertible, the new range runs from the entry-level 218i SE (£26,045) through diesel and petrol 2.0-litre options and a 242bhp M Sport 228i to the M235i, which weighs in at 322bhp, £37,710 before options and a portly 1675kg (more than an M3).

Still, so potent is the turbocharged 3.0-litre six that the braced, reinforced and power-hooded 2-series remains a quick car: 5.2 seconds to 62mph in manual form, 5 seconds dead if you opt for the eight-speed auto. On all versions the heavily lined, noise-smothering roof can be had in a range of three colours, drops and reappears in 20 seconds at speeds of up to 30mph and – impressively – fails to ruin the 2-series' sleek styling in either position.

A supremely impractical way to spend a lot of money?

Yes and no. For a four-seat BMW it’s not overflowing with space. The cabin and boot may be bigger than those of the outgoing 1-series convertible but rear legroom is tight, access to the back seats challenging and boot space fine day-to-day but incapable of taking on the occasional big stuff; runs to the tip, moving house, four and their suitcases to the airport.

But think of the 2-series as practical sports car, rather than an impractical coupe, and it makes a lot more sense. After all, this is one of the great engine/gearbox combinations, and the lack of a roof just makes working them hard even more enjoyable.

Does it drive like a sports car?

Drop the roof, nudge the car into Sport or Sport Plus modes (the throttle response in Comfort and Eco Pro is painfully gloopy) and chances are the car’s price and weight will be forgotten and the complaints of your rear-seat passengers lost in the breeze. Every other iteration of 35i may be faster but this feels like the fastest, your exposure to the elements bringing another dimension to the 235i’s pretty riveting cross-country turn of speed.

Being a stop short of a full-blown M car the 235i enjoys some pliancy to its ride too, and while it’s not Elise-low or accurate, the car’s balance, tidy handling and unintimidating transition from all-hooked-up to moving around a bit make it a quick and engaging cross-country tool.

Verdict

If open-top driving doesn’t fire your imagination the pricey, compromised M235i convertible isn’t the car to change your mind – the cheaper, lighter and quicker 2-series coupe or 1-series hatch will suit you much better. But that lofty price does at least mean a decent level of standard equipment (keyless drive, bluetooth, Drive Performance Control, iDrive infotainment, rain-sensing wipers, DAB radio, rear parking sensors and a multi-function steering wheel), and to that only heated front seats (£295) could be considered anything like a must-have option.

So go easy on the options, drop the roof in all weathers this side of a monsoon and you’ll find the M235i convertible making much more sense than it has any right to.   

Specs

Price when new: £44,135
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 2979cc 24v 6-cyl turbocharged, 322bhp @ 6000rpm, 330lb ft @ 1300rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 33.2mpg (claimed), 24.5mpg (tested) 199g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1675kg / steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4453/1774/1403mm

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • M235i packs 322bhp from its twin-turbo straight-six
  • The M135i hatch and M235i coupe are faster, but the cabrio is still really quite nippy
  • At 1675kg, the M235i cab's no lightweight
  • You're looking at over 37 grand to get into an open-topped M235i
  • Fairly serious brakes on the go here
  • M badges, but this is an 'M performance' model, rather than a full-blown M car
  • Roof goes from dark to sunny to dark again in 20 seconds
  • There's more space in the front than the back
  • 0-62mph takes 5.2 seconds with the manual gearbox, two tenths fewer with the auto

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

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