Prices for BMW's smallest model are already very affordable.
If you ask a handful of purists what their opinion of BMW is right now, they'll probably tell you brand has strayed too far from its roots. BMW no longer sells any normally aspirated cars, most of its high-performance M cars are automatic only, most will be all-wheel-drive, and the cars just keep getting bigger - just take a gander at the new X7.
But BMW still knows how to make a properly-sized sports car, it's called the 2 Series. We've often sung the praises of the 2 Series, especially the M2 variant, but we realize it is out of reach for most buyers on a budget. Luckily, the regular 2 Series (in its 228i and M235i forms) are both very affordable on the used market.
The 2 Series is the smallest sports car BMW currently sells in the United States (unless you count the quirky i3). The larger 4 Series takes a lower and wider approach while the 2 Series has a more traditional three-box design with a higher roofline and shorter overall dimensions, which reminds us of the E30 3 Series. With a scant 105.9-inch wheelbase, the 2 Series is actually shorter than an E46 M3 and feels more agile as a result. If you lament the fact that BMW cars feel too big, the 2 Series is the perfect car for you. We think the 2 Series is a decidedly more handsome car than the 1 Series it replaced and it also comes with a more modern interior.
The 2 Series has only been around since 2014 (2015 in the case of the convertible) but over the past five years, the little coupe has seen some massive depreciation. You can now pick up a base 228i for less than $13,000 with 80,000 or more miles on the odometer. We don't recommend buying a high-mileage BMW, so check out examples with fewer than 50,000 miles for around $16,000 to $20,000. To start finding a 228i with a certified pre-owned warranty, you'll need around $20,000.
If you crave more power under the hood, a high mileage M235i can be found starting at around $16,000. The CPO examples start at around $26,000. BMW's CPO program isn't the best, with just one-year and unlimited miles from the expiration of the four-year/50,000-mile factory warranty, so we'd actually recommend checking out an aftermarket warranty.
Before being renamed to the 230i and M240i respectively, the 2 Series was available in 228i and M235i trims with rear-wheel-drive or xDrive all-wheel-drive in coupe or convertible body styles. Buyers could choose between a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic on RWD models but AWD models are automatic only. The 228i utilizes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder dishing out 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque, enabling a 0-60 mph run of around 5.1 seconds.
The M235i is much quicker because it is motivated by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six channeling 320 hp. 0-60 mph takes just 4.5 seconds and BMW's N55 engine was also highly tunable, so the M235i could easily be improved.
The 2 Series does not have BMW's best interior but it does share most of its center stack and other components with the more expensive 4 Series. BMW's iDrive system is easy to use and features most of the modern technology enthusiasts would want, such as Bluetooth connectivity. The M235i does see a slight improvement with a nicer M steering wheel but neither interior is a bad place to sit.
As BMW's smallest coupe, you may expect the 2 Series to be lacking in practicality. But this isn't actually the case. The trunk offers up to 13.8 cubic feet of storage space, which isn't far off the larger 4 Series. Since the rear seats fold flat, it's easy to fit larger items in the car. The back seat itself isn't a spacious place for most adults but nor is it on the larger 4 Series or even the brand-new 8 Series for that matter.
The 2 Series has long been our favorite new BMW model and thanks to depreciation, it is now easy to purchase on a budget. We see the 2 Series as the logical upgrade from a Mazda Miata or Toyota 86 for someone craving more power, tuneability, and a luxury badge, or a hot hatchback owner looking to make their first entry into the world of RWD sports cars. So if you have one of those cars and are looking to upgrade, take a look at a used 2 Series.