"All BMWs must be rear-wheel-drive," the diehard enthusiasts scream. For many years, all BMWs were based on RWD platforms but starting with the current-generation X1 crossover and subsequent X2, the company has decided to leverage the FWD-based UKL platform that also underpins the Mini Cooper. RWD purists may take solace in the fact that BMW only offers the 2 Series Gran Coupe in two variants for the US, the 228i and M235i, both of which come with xDrive all-wheel drive as standard. In Europe, BMW sells a hatchback version of this car under the 1 Series moniker but here in the United States, we get a Gran Coupe model under the 2 Series umbrella. Gran Coupe, for those who are unfamiliar with BMW's naming conventions, basically means a four-door car with a coupe-like roofline.
Lesson two of BMW's naming scheme teaches us that anything with more than one digit after the letter M is not a true M vehicle, but in fact an M Sport model. Therefore, the M2 is an M car but the M235i is not. As a Gran Coupe, BMW has positioned this new 2 Series directly against the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. The hotter M235i version stacks up nicely with the AMG-tuned CLA35 and the similarly-powered but older Audi S3. Has BMW built a worthy entry-level adversary for the Audi and Mercedes or does the 2 Series Gran Coupe suffer too much from its Mini DNA in this competition? We got the opportunity to test drive the hotter M235i variant to find out.
So, what's new? Everything. The all-new 2 Series Gran Coupe is a brand new model in BMW's lineup, and interestingly, it shares its bones with the X1 and X2 SUVs rather than the RWD BMW 2 Series Coupe and Convertible. It makes use of a four-cylinder engine in two different states of tune, with no six-cylinder on offer, much to the chagrin of BMW enthusiasts. The FWD-based platform, fortunately, makes use of only all-wheel-drive in the US market.
BMW cars are meant to stand out but we don't think the 2 Series looks any more special than a mainstream compact sedan. The Gran Coupe was saved from the obnoxiously large grille found on other BMWs and the acceptably-sized kidneys are flanked by full-LED headlights with signature four-eyed halos serving as daytime running lights. The rear end is also graced with LED lighting in the form of slim, sharped-edged taillights and traditional round exhaust tips grace the 228i, while rectangular tips are housed in an M Sport diffuser on the M235i xDrive. Having seen the European 1 Series hatchback, we can't understand why the Gran Coupe's trunk ends in such a flat surface. This car was clearly designed to be a hatch from the get-go and it almost looks as if the designers gave up when penning the rear end of the Gran Coupe. 17-inch wheels come standard on the 228i, and the M235i receives bigger 18-inch bi-color wheels while larger 19-inch wheels are available.
In terms of dimensions, the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is bookended by the slightly smaller Audi A3 sedan and the larger Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. Its 105.1-inch wheelbase means its slightly shorter than the Merc's 107.4-inch measurement, and the BMW has an overall length of 178.5 inches. It has a 70.9-inch width (mirrors excluded), and stands 55.9 inches tall, emphasizing its low-slung approach to the road. The 228i carries a curb weight of 3,534 lbs, which is heavier than both the Audi and the Merc. A heavier curb weight of 3,605 pounds accompanies the M235i, thanks to its added sport bits for the suspension and brakes.
BMW makes a total of ten exterior colors available for the 2 Series Gran Coupe, though the M235i doesn't get access to all of them. The 228i has two no-cost exterior paint options available, those being Jet Black and Alpine White, while the M235i is only available in the latter at no cost. Our tester was shipped wearing the free shade of Alpine White, which doesn't do the car any favors in terms of standing out. Seven metallic hues are available for the 228i at an additional cost of $550, and understated choices include Mineral White, Mineral Grey, and Seaside Blue. More adventurous shoppers can choose from Black Sapphire, Melbourne Red, Misano Blue, and Snapper Rocks Blue, although the latter two are exclusive to the M235i. The most premium metallic hue is Storm Bay that clads the Gran Coupe in a silky grey lick of paint for $1,200. Notably, the M235i doesn't get access to Seaside Blue or Mineral White.
A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot is shared by both the 228i and the M235i, but the M-badged four-door gets some extra power. The 228i manages a six-second run from 0 to 60 mph, which is over half a second quicker than the acceleration time of the base Audi A3 sedan (although slower than the 228-hp A3) and is 0.3 seconds quicker than the CLA250 4MATIC. The M235i, however, catapults its occupants from 0-60 mph in a sprightly 4.6 seconds with its overboost function. Both models in the range come standard with AWD, BMW electing not to bring solely-FWD models to the US unlike Mercedes and Audi who offer their base cars with only two driven wheels.
When equipped with all-season tires, the 228i manages a top speed of 130 mph but that number increases to 151 mph with performance rubber. A slightly faster top speed of 155 mph can be reached by the M235i when it is equipped with performance tires. Though the M-badged Gran Coupe offers way more power, the 228i doesn't struggle by any means when it needs to get going from a standstill, though if you're a performance-driven shopper, the M235i is the better choice by far, tackling performance marques like the Mercedes-AMG CLA35 and Audi S3.
The siblings of the 2 Series Gran Coupe range share the same turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but the engine in the M235i gets a massage from BMW's M-Division and puts out considerably more power than its reserved relative. The 228i manages power outputs of 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which only slightly bests the Mercedes-Benz CLA Class' 221-hp figure, though the two share the same torque figure. Some extra grunt is shown by the M235i and its performance-enhanced engine punches out 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque - the same outputs you'll find in the most recent Mini JCW range - making the M-badged coupe more powerful than the Audi S3's 288 hp and 280 lb-ft offerings, but on par with the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35. An eight-speed automatic transmission is shared by both models and performs seamlessly regardless of which engine tune it's mated to; if adaptive cruise control is opted for, the transmission works hand-in-hand with the navigation and cruise control to mitigate incorrect gear changes, while in general driving the 'box manages shifts impressively well.
While we are happy to see BMW offer the 2 Series Gran Coupe with all-wheel-drive, the xDrive system can only send up to 50 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential on the sportier M235i model. This means when you take the car through a corner too fast, you are met with gobs of understeer. BMW's near-actuator wheel slip limitation (ARB) system is supposed to step in to nudge the car around corners but we found the system to be unpredictable, often kicking in far too late and throwing the car into unexpected oversteer. This might all be forgivable if the 2 Series was engaging to drive but much like other recent BMW cars, the steering feels numb and lacks feedback. Small cars like this are supposed to feel nimble and tossable but the 2 Series manages to feel larger than its footprint would imply.
As a backroad barnstormer then, the M235i falls flat on its face. If anything, it almost feels like a German muscle car: great in a straight line, but lackluster through the bends, but with no accompanying muscle car soundtrack. As a luxury cruiser, it fairs a bit better with a surprisingly compliant suspension (so long as you do not get the all-season run-flat tires) and a very insulated cabin. The M235i offers a stiffer M Sport suspension that drops the car by 10 mm but we didn't find it to be too punishing. With over 300 hp on tap, the M235i variant makes quick work of passing maneuvers in Sport Mode though Normal Mode can feel a bit sluggish for downshifts. BMW's Eco Pro Mode makes the car feel Prius levels of unresponsive, which actually means that the mode is doing its job of trying to save fuel by limiting the throttle response.
Though the M235i is highly enjoyable in a straight line, it doesn't sound great while accelerating. Like most modern BMW cars, it features a synthesized engine note that plays loudly through the speakers. The turbo-four sounds just fine with the system turned on but with the system off, it makes some rather unpleasant noises. You do get an occasional pop from the exhaust on upshifts but we've heard better execution from AMG and the Hyundai Veloster N.
Fuel economy is something that the 2 Series Gran Coupe range excels at, especially when we look at the M235i. The 228i boasts EPA estimates of 23/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined, which beats the Audi A3 quattro's 22/30/25 mpg figures, but Audi does offer a slightly less thirsty model with less power. The 228i manages to be on par with the CLA 250 4MATIC that shares the same estimates. The M235i, however, beats both of its rivals' figures and its EPA estimates of 23/32/26 mpg outshine the S3's 22/29/25 mpg figures. We fell short of EPA estimates with 22.6 mpg observed during a week of mostly city driving and many hard acceleration runs. When we drove economically using the Eco Pro Mode, it was easy to get well over 30 mpg. When the 13.2-gallon fuel tank is full (premium gas is a requirement), the 228i will get just under 360 miles to a tank, while the M235i will allow for slightly less traveling distance at around 343 miles.
The inside of the Gran Coupe models is akin to the interiors of the X1, meaning it delivers a premium but minimalist cabin. It feels very driver-focused and, for the most part, it offers a more spacious interior than the S3 sedan and Mercedes CLA-Class. On the downside, many of the desirable features are optional, making the 2 Series pricey when nicely equipped. Overall, though, it does well at offering a luxurious interior and bears classically BMW characteristics, even if the shifter and center console are positioned lower than other BMW models due to sharing hardpoints with the Mini Cooper.
BMW claims that Gran Coupe models offer nearly the same amount of space as the 3 Series, but we're willing to bet that it's a little cozier in the four-door coupe. Ten-way power-adjustable front seats allow for maximum visibility and comfort for both the driver and the passenger, with the seats in the M235i adding lumbar support, and the BMW offers 41.4 inches of front legroom, which is more than both its rivals from Merc and Audi. If you want to jazz up the interior, the optional M Sport front seats for $750 are a must-have. The BMW also does well at offering more space in the rear than the CLA Class coupe, though six-footers aren't likely to have a good time trying to get comfortable in the back seats with only 34.4 inches of rear legroom. Ingress and egress are easy tasks for front-seat occupants but those climbing into the rear will need to duck beneath a sloping rear roofline.
Premium materials are used throughout the inside of the BMW and if BMW has utilized any cheap materials for the coupe, they can only be found low down where you won't be putting your hands very often. The 228i comes with standard Sensatec leatherette upholstery that's available in either Black or a combination of Oyster and Black. Dakota perforated leather is optionally available for $1,450 on the 228i but comes standard with the M235i in either Magma Red, Mocha, Black, Oyster, or Black with Blue highlights. As for trim inserts, the 228i comes with either Illuminated Boston or Illuminated Berlin as standard options, while the M235i adds specIlluminated Brooklyn to the spectrum.
Coupes, in general, offer disappointing trunk capacities. BMW's Gran Coupes tend to be more spacious than traditional sedans because they sometimes feature a liftback hatch design. Sadly, the 2 Series Gran Coupe makes do with a traditional trunk. It does offer a more capacious trunk than the Audi A3 sedan with 15.1 cubic feet of space. This is also larger than the CLA Class' 13.1 cubic-foot trunk. The BMW offers enough trunk real estate for some serious grocery shopping or a full-sized suitcase, though the low roofline means taller objects may have to sit in the back seat. 40/20/40-split folding rear seats add further versatility but the 2 Series Gran Coupe lacks the practicality of its European hatchback sibling.
In terms of general storage space, the BMW does well thanks to considerable door pockets and a deep center console. The glove box isn't too disappointing either, and two cupholders can be found in the front with a small storage area and wireless charger in front.
This is one of a few categories where the 2 Series leaves much to be desired, as BMW has been quite stingy with its offering of standard features. Nevertheless, standard features are inclusive of a leather-clad sport multifunctional steering wheel that is also tilt-and-telescopic, along with push-button start, cruise control, and dual-zone climate control. Ten-way power-adjustable front seats with memory are mentioned on the list of standard conveniences, too. The M235i adds keyless entry, an M Sport steering wheel, and ambient lighting. Wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot can be added for an extra $500. Adding the Premium Package to your 228i will cost $3,050 and it will include features like a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, adaptive LED headlights, heated steering wheel, heated seats with lumbar support, and ambient lighting. Adding the same package to the M235i will cost $2,650 and adds the same features with the absence of a panoramic sunroof or heated seats. Standard safety features from the base model come equipped under the Active Driving Assistant umbrella and include lane departure warning, pedestrian monitoring with braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning with mitigation and rear collision preparation.
A notable absence of Android Auto is always seen on BMW's cars, but it's due to come to select vehicles in July 2020, according to the German automaker. Both Gran Coupe models boast an 8.8-inch touchscreen with iDrive that can be operated either by voice, the touchpad controller, or via the touchscreen itself. The infotainment system caters for navigation, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth streaming, HD Radio, and four USB ports. SiriusXM functionality only makes an appearance on the M235i, but both models boast a ten-speaker sound system. Adding the Premium Package to your 228i will cost $3,050 and it will add features inclusive of a head-up display and SiriusXM. Two 10.25-inch screens can be added for use as a digital instrument cluster and central display on both models by means of the Live Cockpit Pro add-on, and a premium Harman Kardon 16-speaker sound system can be added to both for $875. We especially love BMW's continued inclusion of eight programmable physical buttons for radio stations and navigation destinations.
Being a brand new model for 2020, the 2 Series Gran Coupe hasn't suffered any recalls as yet and no reliability reviews can be consulted from previous years because, well, there are none. For the Gran Coupe, BMW offers a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a drivetrain warranty for the same time period and mileage limit. A 12-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion warranty is on par with the Audi A3 and superior to the CLA Class' four-year/50,000-mile corrosion warranty. Roadside assistance is standard for four years/50,000 miles.
Neither the IIHS nor NHTSA have reviewed the 2 Series Gran Coupe , and it thus does not have any ratings as yet. But, BMW boasts a slew of safety awards as an automaker, so that should ease your mind.
Safety features on both spec levels of the 2 Series Gran Coupe are commendable and come under the Active Driving Assistant suite. Traditional features like an eight-airbag system include front and rear head protection, seat-mounted front side-impact airbags, and dual-front airbags along with two knee airbags as well as a rearview camera and park distance sensors at the front and rear. In the way of advanced driver assists, the Active Driving Assistant adds frontal collision warning with mitigation, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, pedestrian monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The usual suspects like ABS and stability control are also present.
The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe functions fine as a comfortable daily driver that's priced neatly between the Audi A3/S3 and the Mercedes-Benz CLA. Its interior feels nicer than the soon-to-be-replaced Audi but nowhere near as opulent as the Mercedes. The ride is surprisingly compliant even in the M235i version and the fuel economy is impressive. Sadly though, the 2 Series isn't as enjoyable to drive as you'd expect from a BMW, leaving it as a tough vehicle to recommend at its price. Enthusiasts might be quick to blame the FWD Mini-derived underpinnings for the lack of fun but we've driven the Clubman and Countryman with this exact drivetrain and found both to be more enjoyable than the M235i. Perhaps then the parts are good, but BMW hasn't put them together correctly. We've seen how well former M boss Albert Biermann has done with the FWD Veloster N, so we know this drivetrain layout can produce a brilliant car with the right person at the helm.
We were hoping the M235i could feel like a Golf R with a BMW badge but it feels too numb to ever be considered an enthusiast's car. So if you want a sporty car with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, we recommend saving a huge chunk of money and opting for a less expensive hot hatchback like the Golf R, Civic Type R, or Hyundai Veloster N. As a luxury item, the 2 Series feels more premium than most of these cars (with the possible exception of the Golf) but if all you want is a comfortable car with a BMW badge, get the regular 2 Series Coupe, which we feel is the best modern BMW to drive.
In terms of price, the 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe is essentially the premium peanut butter of an expensive four-door coupe sandwich. The $37,500 figure on the 228i's price tag means that it sits in between the Audi A3's $33,300 MSRP and the Mercedes-Benz CLA's $36,650 sticker price. This excludes a destination charge of $995 and any licensing, taxes, or registration costs. The sporty M235i is bookended yet again by the Audi S3 and the Mercedes-AMG CLA35, with an MSRP of $45,500. The price of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe isn't wildly expensive when you consider the price points of its rivals.
The 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe range comprises two trim levels in the US, the reserved 228i and the sporty M235i. Both models share the same turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot, but the M235i puts out quite a bit more power than the base model thanks to some performance-focused tuning from BMW's M Division. An eight-speed automatic transmission is shared by the siblings as well as an all-wheel-drive system. The M235i also adds some sporty bits to its skeleton in the ways of M Sport brakes, steering and suspension, along with a Torsen limited-slip differential.
Standard features shared between the two include push-button start, dual-zone climate control, and cruise control as well as ten-way power-adjustable front seats with memory. An 8.8-inch touchscreen enables iDrive 6.0, which adds navigation and makes way for Apple CarPlay, HD Radio, Bluetooth streaming, and four USB ports that punch audio out from a ten-speaker sound system. The Active Driving Assistant suite welcomes standard safety features to both models that are inclusive of pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning with braking and rear cross-traffic alert as well as lane-departure warning and rear collision preparation.
The M235i receives the M Sport package as standard, with stiffer suspension and beefier brakes. SiriusXM functionality is only standard on the M235i as well as keyless entry, an M Sport steering wheel, ambient lighting, and lumbar support to its seats.
A horde of add-ons is available for both the 228i and the M235i, making personal configuration easy; but how much do these cost? One of the most notable additional packages would be the Live Cockpit Pro that adds two 10.25-inch displays that serve as a digital instrument cluster and central display screen along with iDrive 7.0 for $1,100. Adding the Convenience Package to your 228i will cost an additional $1,700 for keyless entry, a panoramic sunroof, and SiriusXM functionality.
The Premium Package costs $4,750 to be equipped to the 228i and adds Live Cockpit Pro, adaptive LED headlights and a head-up display as well as keyless entry, SiriusXM functionality, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats with lumbar support and ambient lighting. The Premium Package adds the same features for a lower price of $2,650 on the M235i with the exception of the sunroof and SiriusXM, as these are included as standard on this model.
For the 228i, a Dynamic Handling Package is available for an extra $700 and adds 19-inch wheels along with M Sport brakes and Extended Shadowline trim.
Our M235i tester sported an MSRP of $51,295 thanks to few pricey options, though it was still missing features like a moonroof, heated seats, or adaptive cruise control. For a fraction of the price, you can get yourself a lot more equipment and similar performance in hot hatch land and although the CLA 35 can be much more expensive with its own pricey options, it feels more premium than the M235i. If you are looking to buy a 2 Series Gran Coupe, we see no reason why the standard 228i shouldn't be enough car. The M235i isn't fun enough to justify its M badge and price increase.
BMW might be new to the compact four-door coupe segment, but it was Mercedes-Benz who pioneered it with the CLA-Class. Now in its second generation, the CLA gets swoopier styling in comparison to the 2 Series' chunky aesthetic, but this comes at the expense of interior and trunk volume, making the 2 Series a more practical life partner. Both are powered by 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engines, but at a base level the BMW is marginally more powerful, while when it comes to the CLA35, the Merc offers a single pony more. Both get the option of AWD, but the Mercedes offers standard front-wheel drive on lesser trims, making it cheaper to access than the 2 Series. The two are otherwise very similar in how they drive and behave, and much of the choice will come down to brand preference, but from an objective point of view, the BMW is easier to live with.
While the A3 might not be a four-door coupe, it shares similar proportions to the BMW. But it starts off at more than $4,000 less than the BMW, albeit with only FWD and a much less powerful engine developing 184 hp, although a 228i-matching 228 horsepower is available for several hundred dollars less than the BMW. Both offer similar packages with similar levels of tech and performance, although the Audi's interior quality feels a little classier in our opinion. The Audi is, surprisingly, the more interesting car to drive, which is a scathing indictment on BMW's choice to turn away from RWD shenanigans. However, the Audi can't match the BMW's trunk size, nor its impressive gas mileage. Still, we'd go with the Audi - it's a complete package, where the BMW misses out on a few points.
Check out some informative BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe video reviews below.