A quick, compact car (with some luxury) doesn't have to be expensive.
After a series of teasers, BMW has finally released the 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe and in all honestly, we're not overly enamored by it. The side profile is just too short and stubby, so it lacks the drop-dead gorgeous nature of its larger siblings like the 8 Series Gran Coupe. Under the hood, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is shared with the X2 and the power outputs are nearly identical.
The 228i xDrive trim level produces 228 horsepower while the sportier M235i xDrive model produces 301 hp, both going out to all-wheel-drive through an eight-speed automatic. Pricing has not been announced but we expect the 2 Series to cost slightly less than the equivalent X2 (between $38,400 and $46,450). That is a significant sum to pay for such a compact vehicle but if you are seeking a small car with some performance chops, we've come up with six cheaper used alternatives.
So you like the idea of a sporty German sedan with a coupe-like design? Why not buy from the company that invented the four-door coupe? You can now find a Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 starting in the low $20,000 range with high-mileage. Even a certified pre-owned example can be found under $30,000. Unlike the M235i, which is not a fully-fledged M car, the CLA 45 is an AMG through-and-through with a hand-built 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo producing 345 hp. The CLA's interior might not be as modern as the brand-new 2 Series but the 45 model is much quicker with a 0-60 mph time of just 4.2 seconds.
The Acura ILX may not be quite in the same league as the 2 Series in terms of power and modern luxury, but you can get a brand-new one for thousands less. If you are willing to go used, you will find prices starting under $10,000 for the smaller 2.0-liter engine. We suggest getting the 201-hp 2.4-liter model, which used to be available with a six-speed manual. These can be found for around $12,000 to $15,000 - with the manual - and will be cheaper to maintain (and likely more reliable) than the BMW over a long period of time.
Finding the high-performance Cadillac ATS-V for less than the price of a new 2 Series might be too much of a stretch but you can easily find a regular ATS. The ATS was available with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, a 2.0-liter turbo-four, or a 3.6-liter V6 producing outputs of 202 hp, 272 hp, and 335 hp respectively. Only the turbocharged engine was offered with a six-speed manual, the rest sent power out through an eight-speed automatic. Prices for the base engine now start at around $10,000 and even the potent V6 model can be found at a similar price.
The Audi A3 and S3 are not considered four-door coupes but in our opinion, the latest 2 Series looks like more a conventional sedan than past BMW Gran Coupe models. A used S3 can be found starting for less than $20,000 and includes a 2.0-liter turbo-four sending 291 hp out through a six-speed DSG. The S3 is about as quick as the new M235i but you will pay much less if you buy the Audi used.
Like the ILX, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is a car you can purchase brand-new for much less than a new BMW. It doesn't carry the same prestige as a BMW but we'd argue that the GTI's interior is on par with almost any entry-level luxury car. The seventh-generation GTI shares many of its components with the Audi A3/S3 but because it wears a VW badge, it's much less expensive. A high-mileage 2015 model can be found starting at around $10,000 and still includes a potent turbo-four producing 210 to 200 hp. And unlike most of the other cars on this list, the has GTI has the practicality of a hatchback.
The Ford Fiesta ST is by far our most budget-friendly option on the list with used prices beginning at less than $10,000 and new prices starting around $21,000. Now is the time to shop for a Fiesta ST because dealerships still have 2019 models on the lot and are willing to discount them heavily. The Fiesta may only have a 1.6-liter engine producing 197 hp, but it is linked to a six-speed manual transmission and is the most fun car on this list. BMWs have a reputation for being fun-to-drive but if the X2 is any indicator, the new 2 Series won't be anywhere near as joyful as the Fiesta ST.