- Sporty yet graceful exterior
- Modern, restrained interior
- All-wheel-drive option
- Ample chance for tech upgrades
- Reasonably good mpg
- Tight back seat
- Encroaches on 4-Series prices (M235i especially)
- No convertible offering to date
The 2016 2-Series may be an entry-level model in BMW's lineup, but it builds on a rich lineage, as a well-rounded luxury sports coupe with all the looks, handling and features that you might expect.
The 2016 BMW 2-Series occupies an important place for fans of the Bavarian roundel. While the 3-Series may be the lineal successor to the vaunted BMW 2002, the new 2-Series is really the spiritual successor to that famous car. The BMW 2002 is the holy grail to a generation of automotive enthusiasts, as such the 2-Series has a remarkably high bar set for it already.
Two years ago, the 2-Series replaced the previous-generation car, which had been badged the 1-Series; but the package essentially continued with the same mission. Among BMW's model lines, it's the one that most eschews tech and comfort items, and it remains focused on a light-and-lean driving experience above other priorities. With that last redesign it actually earned improved styling, better handling, and upgraded materials, while keeping its fundamental place in the automaker's lineup.
The 2-Series is related to the 1-Series from which it follows, but this version is a smoother and sharper take with better, rear-drive proportions. According to the tale of the tape, the 2-Series is wider, longer, and bigger inside than the 1-Series. It's gained some elegance in its slight stretch, with a curvier exterior that we find more appealing in a tasteful way. It's a scaled down version of the 4-Series, which isn't a bad thing, and the 2-Series uses its long hood, stubbed tail, and arched roof as a modern take on the old sportscar dimensions.
Inside, the 2016 BMW 2-Series has a design that's clearly driver-centric. Instruments and controls are oriented for easy access, and there's a little less of the horizontal, shelf-like layout of BMW's larger cars. You can of course add a wide range of trim and material upgrades, but the 2-Series is at its best in simpler, understated form inside to go along with the focused feel of the car.
The 2-Series lineup has two different engines, each with a choice between manual and automatic transmissions; and some shoppers will be delighted to find that all-wheel drive is even possible.Â
At the base level there's a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 in the 228i, rated at 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque; while a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 in the M235i is good for 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. BMW 228i Convertible models are the only ones in the lineup to drop the manual and go automatic-only; but let's be real, those are the cruisers of the lineup.
And truly, across the entire lineup, performance is brisk. The base 228i posts an enviable 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds, while the M235i does the dash in only 4.8 seconds. Add all-wheel drive, with better grip at takeoff, and both figures drop a couple tenths. Steering and handling, even in the lesser versions in this lineup, are about the best it gets today—more engaging than in the more affordable versions of the 3-Series and 4-Series, for sure. Ride quality is just as supple as it needs to be, while this is a car that rarely feels out of its element in hard braking and quick changes of direction.
You can step up the performance, if you don't mind losing some ride quality, by opting in for a track package. Available on rear- or all-wheel drive 228i models, the track package adds an adjustable suspension, sport steering, better brakes, sticker Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubbers wrapped around 18-inch wheels, and lowered springs.
The 2-Series is surprisingly spacious for a small, two-door sports car. There's plenty of room up front for adults, plus a wide range of adjustability in many directions. Small storage bins add some functionality to the front seats, with enough room for small cups and a raft of small electronics.
While we've found the rear seats in the 2-Series to be more spacious than found in the outgoing 1-Series, they're still not fit for full-sized adults. Easier entry is afforded through a new feature—cleverly named "Easy Entry"—and the system is critical in the convertible, which has less head room due to its top and pop-up roll bars. The convertible raises or lowers in about 20 seconds, at up to 30 mph, which is helpful for anyone who's ever been caught out in a rain storm.
Cargo space is fair, if not impressive, with 13.8 cubic feet available in the trunk—about the same amount you'll find in subcompact sedans, and other compact coupes. And the rear seats are split-folding, offering room for larger cargo when necessary—although with a rather small pass-through due to the body structure.Â
The IIHS puts the 2-Series on its Top Safety Pick+ honor roll, thanks to top "Good" scores in all of its crash tests, as well as an "Advanced" rating for front crash prevention—when you opt for the Driver Assistance Plus package and its forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
The federal government hasn't yet tested the 2-Series, and seeing that it's a relatively low-sales-volume car, we don't expect it to anytime in the near future.
BMW has done a delicate dance with the 2-Series, definitely stepping up the roster of available convenience and technology options versus the previous 1-Series, but keeping it simpler than what's offered in the 4-Series. Some other basics that are now becoming standard on luxury-badged vehicles, like power heated seats, are optional here.
The 2-Series is moderately equipped as standard, but a long list of available options can add high-tech features such as BMW's iDrive infotainment controller, driver assistance, telematics, an 8.8-inch central display, and advanced safety features.
On the entertainment front, 10-speaker audio is standard, but you can opt for a Harmon Kardon HiFi audio system, get enhanced smartphone integration and apps capability, and choose between several performance and appearance packages.
For 2016, what was previously considered the Sport Line package is now standard on all 228i Coupe and Convertible models. It brings sport seats, black gloss interior trim and front splitter, a sport grille, red steering-wheel stitching, the M Sport suspension, and black mirror caps with standard 17-inch alloys.
Despite the powerful engines and sprightly acceleration, the 2-Series manages fair gas mileage in rear-drive form, with the 228i returning up to 23 mpg city, 35 highway, 27 combined. In M235i form, mileage drops as low as 19/28/22 mpg.