I recall my first drive in the BMW M235i back in 2015. It was a traditional BMW in the sense that it had a big straight six-cylinder engine and rear wheel drive. Although not a full M car from the motorsport division the 235i did produce 322hp and could certainly move. Now some five years later BMW have taken the new 1 Series hatchback and morphed it into a good-looking Gran Coupe and again borrowed some expertise from the motorsport division. For a start the engine size has dropped in favour a punchy turbocharged 2.0 litre four-cylinder unit and it has been mated to an all-wheel-drive xDrive system. Prices kick off at €52,030 before you start ticking option boxes and our test vehicle also had the, M Sport brakes, 19-inch M V-Spoke alloy wheels, M Sport seats/steering wheel, Harman/Kardon premium sound system, adaptive LED headlights, two-zone climate control air-conditioning, power-adjusted front seats and a subtle rear spoiler. This pushed our test car north of €60k and firmly inline with its competitive friends in the form of the Audi S3 and Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG when you give them a little spec!
The 2 Series Gran Coupe is a nicely proportioned car that borrows some design elements from 4 and 6 Series Gran Coupe including the frameless side windows. It doesn’t portrait that hardcore coupe line looking somewhat more saloon but its nicely styled and the new bold kidney grille actually looks really good on this car. Our test cars storm grey metallic paint looked great against the contrasting shadowline diffusers and fog-light surrounds and give it a modern and mean stance. Inside it’s a beautiful cabin with ample space especially up front. Although this M235i is technically bigger that the old E46 3 Series BMW inside, headroom is still a little compromised for rear passengers if you are anyway close to the six foot mark. Luggage space is pretty generous at 430-litres but like many cars in this sector, long objects can be a struggle thanks to the narrow aperture. The M Sport seats are a work of art and incredibly comfortable to spend time in with excellent side bolstering. On the tech side you get a modern 10.25-inch central display with an equal-sized screen used for the digital instrument cluster. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that no longer require the paid subscription are also included. For Waze navigation users like me, you now have the ability to project directions on the head-up display when using any navigation app. Like most new BMW’s you can also make use of the Intelligent Personal Assistant that allows you to perform various tasks via voice activation starting with the “Hey BMW” command.
So what is it like to drive compared to that M235i of old? Well for this test we decided to put the 2.0-litre turbo, which is actually BMW’s most powerful production four-cylinder engine to the test in Mondello Park. First off lets look at the figures. Producing 301hp and 450Nm of torque through all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission results in a 0-100km/h time of just 4.8 seconds. This is exactly the same as the turbocharged 3.0 litre 6-cylinder of old. It doesn’t feel earth-shatteringly quick, but throttle response is sharp and gear changes seamless and there’s a meaty exhaust note that lets out the pop of un-burnt fuel when changing gear. The all wheel drive system favours the front wheels and sends power to rear axle when needed but crikey, it doesn’t half grip! Even pushing hard through the twisties at Mondello there is huge traction. The M Performance suspension is incredibly compliant even on the big 19-inch alloys and it absorbs the rumble of an apex surface with ease.
As expected, standard equipment includes collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function. Lane Departure Warning with active lane return is also included, as is Cruise Control with braking function. The optional Driving Assistant additionally comprises the Lane Change Warning system, which prompts the driver to guide the car back into the correct lane at speeds from 20-250km/h by means of a visual warning and, if necessary, a steering input. The Driving Assistant’s other functions include the route-ahead assistant, rear collision warning and crossing traffic warning, which reduces the risk of a collision when reversing into roads obstructed from the driver’s view, and Active Cruise Control system with Stop & Go function. Altogether it’s a strong safety package from BMW.
Priced at €52,030, the M235i xDrive is considerably more expensive than the three-cylinder, entry 218i at €34,010 or indeed the diesel 220d at €44,180. Standard kit in all cars includes a head-up display, wireless phone charging, all the Connected Drive tech and a reversing assistant that will self-reverse about 50 metres in the same direction you just drove forward great for getting in and out tricky situations. The M235i’s 2.0-litre turbo consumes 7.6L/100km combined, compared the 218i’s frugal 1.5-litre three-cylinder’ 5.9L/100km consumption and the 220d does 4.9L/100km combined. Like all of the current BMW range, it is covered by a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
To summarise I’d say this is a strong offering from BMW in a sector they needed a new car to compete. The M235i offers a great overall package and drives very well. The ride comfort and suspension setting were just perfect in all driving modes, especially in COMFORT and ECO PRO for everyday use. In SPORT, the car becomes sharp and precise as we discovered in Mondello park making this the perfect week day commuter with a cheeky side, for weekends. It drives better than its predecessor of old but the big question is would you pay €60k for one or buy the 220d and a trackday toy? That’s a choice for you to make.