2018 BMW 2-Series

2018 BMW 2-Series

The Basics:

The 2018 BMW 2-Series coupe and convertible carries forward the banner that made the roundel famous. Whether as a 230i or as a M240i, the two-door coupe or convertible with the Bavarian roundel is the spiritual successor to the lightweight, prep-school mainstays that popped the brand’s collar in the States.

The 2018 BMW 2-Series is a competent coupe with plenty of power—even in base trim.

We give the 2018 BMW 2-Series a solid 6.8 out of 10 on our overall scale thanks to its attitude on the road and in the parking lot—it just looks sharp. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Not much has changed for the 2-Series this year aside from some package reshuffling, a couple new paint colors, and some small improvements. That’s not a bad thing, we say—if it ain’t broke, you know.  

A base BMW 230i starts at $35,795, including destination, and will tempt many as the most affordable offering on the lot. As far as relatively inexpensive two-door luxury coupes go, the 230i is one of our favorites because base models showcase two delights about owning a BMW: a tight, composed driving feel with a willing engine and smart interiors; and, the automaker’s unflappable dedication to emptying wallets. Want proof? The 2018 BMW 230i’s base price is $1,600 more than last year’s model, with power-adjustable front seats as the only tangible evidence of improvement from the automaker.

In other words, the 230i goes long on myriad options and performance upgrades even though the coupe is short.

Want to know a secret? The 2018 BMW M240i is shockingly fun and relatively good value at just over $46,000. Our colleagues at Motor Authority may have picked its bigger brother M2 as their Best Car to Buy 2017, but we find no faults at saving several thousands of dollars and opting for the M240i.

The BMW 2-Series isn’t the most spacious, and BMW’s habit of charging much for little is evident in these models ($300 for Apple CarPlay!), but if the reservations are for two only, the 2-Series is plenty filling.

The 2018 BMW 2-Series channels the classic BMW 2002 two-door coupe that helped propel the brand to new heights in the 1970s. The new 2-Series has a little more glass than you might expect, and a lower window line than normal upon further inspection. There are a mish-mash of lines flowing around the sides and across the hood, none of them too offensive, nor are they hugely expressive.

Starting from 5, we give the 2-Series points for a good interior and exterior shape. It gets a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 BMW 2-Series is a competent coupe with plenty of power—even in base trim.

If we had to pick between the body styles, we’d say that convertible models look the best; the coupe’s roofline hurries to the rear end, which is more pronounced in profile. Both versions have a pleasing nose and tail that hit the Goldilocks spot among their contemporaries without being too dull or too dramatic.

Inside, the BMW 2-Series is a little plainer and more straightforward, which is indicative of its relatively low starting price. Although the material quality is a little questionable in places (there are some hard plastics that are well-hidden, and cheap-feeling leatherette that’s not), the compact dimensions manage to shave away some of the expanse that we don’t like in the 3-Series.

Two engines, two transmissions, two powertrains, but no bad choices. The 2018 BMW 2-Series comes equipped with a turbo-4 or a turbo-6, an 8-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual, rear- or all-wheel drive.

The BMW 2-Series is good everywhere, particularly the base engine. We give it a point for good engines, good transmissions, and good steering—and it only gets better. It earns an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

We’d be fine if the conversation started and ended with that base turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 248 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. It’s that good.

In 230i models that we’ve tested, its power came on strong and stayed strong all the way through the powerband. Its chunky engine note, which is mostly due to its direct injection, was strangely endearing and the busy turbo-4 was competent and willing enough for us to reconsider our fierce loyalty to the old inline-6 that made us misty-eyed.

The 230i models are quick, and when mated to an 8-speed automatic, they’re incredibly approachable. The 230i will run up to 60 mph in just over five seconds, but the wall of thrust will make it feel faster. A new generation of drivers will feel the same way about the turbo-4 that us geezers have felt about the old “straight-6.” It’s just that good.

All-wheel drive, which BMW calls xDrive, is available on coupe and convertible models to add all-weather traction if needed. Adding the all-wheel drive system, which tacks on $2,000 to the bottom line, can help the 2-Series carve a tighter line around corners, but we’ve found that asking rear-drive models to rotate is a worthwhile experience—even if it costs us more in tires in the long run.

Stepping up to the M240i makes us proud, even if it makes buyers poor. The engine upgrade costs about $10,000 and it shaves nearly a second off of the 0-60 mph sprint. The turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 makes 335 hp and adds muscle to the two-door’s tone.

Without the M2, which we cover separately, the M240i certainly would feel complete as a performance pick. It’s potent, and with most of its torque available low in the rev range, it’s also hugely entertaining. For its price, it’s a sneaky pick for a smart money luxury coupe with nearly everything we could ask for.

Paired to an available 6-speed manual, the M240i is a throwback. Our only gripe with the manual transmission is that it doesn’t shave anything off the final price; rowing your own gears is one step closer to becoming a luxury, not a standard.

The 2-Series benefits from BMW’s corporate understanding of electric power steering systems, which is to say it’s incredibly precise, albeit a little numb.

An available limited-slip differential adds $2,500 to the bottom line, and should be a consideration for any buyer looking to make an occasional track-day appearance.

Taken alone, the BMW 2-Series is a small compact coupe or convertible that adequately seats two adults, and occasionally more.

Add context, and the 2-Series isn’t much smaller than BMW’s 3-Series from fewer than 10 years ago.

It’s a matter of perspective, we say. The front seats work for anyone, the back seats will only work for a few—preferably young, limber, small, or all of the above. It earns a point above average for good seats, then gives it right back for seating less than advertised. It earns a 5 out of 10 for comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Stem to stern the BMW 2-Series is 14.5 feet long, which is only 6 inches shorter than the 3-Series. But most of that space eats into the rear passengers’ leg room, which is officially 33 inches and feels even less than that.

Front-seat riders get adjustable seats that are comfortable and supportive, plus a wide array of cupholders (a big deal for a German car) and storage options. The front seats slide fore and aft thanks to a handy feature BMW calls “Easy Entry,” but getting into or out of the 2-Series second row is still tricky.

The coupe’s trunk is sizable for this class 13.8 cubic feet; 11.8 cubes for the convertible with the top up, or 9.9 with the top collapsed.

The convertible top takes roughly 30 seconds to raise or lower, and can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph, which is a convenience for surprise rain storms.

The BMW 2-Series earns top "Good" scores in most tests from the IIHS, but it lacks a complete set of ratings from the agency. Federal testers haven't rated the 2-Series at all. Until more data is available, we're withholding our safety score. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2-Series offers plenty of advanced safety features to complement its standard airbags and traction control systems. That forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking helps it earn the coveted IIHS award, but it can be pricey—it’s almost $2,000 in optional extras.

All-wheel drive, which can aid in overall safety, is an option for coupe or convertibles for $2,000—a big ask, according to us.

Thankfully, this year BMW made standard a rearview camera that was optional in prior years. Which is nice.

Be strong: An iron will and strong focus can keep a 2018 BMW 2-Series in touch with reality when it comes to price.

Be realistic: That low, low lease or purchase price is spotted less often than Bigfoot.

Most cars will be equipped with some kind of add-on, and it won’t be cheap. Knowing what you need (and what you don’t) can help the 2-Series stay within your budget.

We give the BMW 2-Series one point above average for good base equipment and another for a good base infotainment system. It earns a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All 2-Series come equipped with power adjustable front seats, leatherette upholstery, HD radio, 17-inch wheels, automatic climate control, BMW’s telematics service, a 4-year/50,000 mile new car warranty, and 6.5-inch infotainment display with controller and a rearview camera, which BMW calls iDrive.

Stepping up to an M240i adds 18-inch wheels and a handshake. (BMW isn’t in the mood of giving much away for free.)

Premium paint colors and interior trim add pizazz where you might want it, an available rear limited-slip differential adds track-ready hardware if you want it.

All-wheel drive is available on all 2-Series models for $2,000 above base price. It's an all-weather convenience, but hardly better than a good set of winter tires that are much less expensive.

Losing the roof for coupe models adds $5,800 to the bottom line of rear-drive 230i models, while convertible M240i cost $4,600 more than their coupe counterparts.

Base 230i models with an 8-speed automatic transmission manage 24 mpg city, 35 highway, 28 combined, according to the EPA. That’s good enough for a 7 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Opt for a manual model and that score drops to 21/32/25 mpg. Lose the roof and it averages around 27 mpg combined in any trim.

The EPA says that the M240 coupes manage 24 mpg with the automatic, or 22 mpg with the manual.

That’s not particularly efficient, but they’re all fun to drive at least?


Buying Tips:

Stick with the 230i if you’re doing everything but track days. The new turbo-4 is just that good.

Other Choices:

  • 2018 Cadillac ATS
  • 2018 Audi A3
  • 2018 Buick Cascada
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

Reason Why:

The Audi A3 may be the closest competitor to the BMW 2-Series in terms of size and power. We like the BMW’s base engine more, but Audi offers better interior tech and comfort. The Mercedes CLA-Class is technically a four-door, compared to the BMW’s 2 doors, but they’re priced and sized the same and we like the BMW’s ride more. Buick’s Cascada is a traditional boulevardier droptop compared to the BMW 2-Series convertible’s athletic profile. Cadillac’s ATS has the look, but some interior parts fall down compared to the BMW’s composed confines.

The Bottom Line:

The 2018 BMW 2-Series is a competent coupe with plenty of power—even in base trim.

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