BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe road test review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 03 September 2020

BMW’s sleek new M235i delivers in spades on its performance promise.

  • Thumbs up

    Cracking engine, exceptional all-wheel-drive grip, lovely exhaust blips, top-notch infotainment.

  • Thumbs down

    Some options like heated seats should be standard, huge turning circle, laggy idle-stop, firm ride.

  • Perfect for

    Proving small sedans can be practical but needn’t be dull or conservative.

  • Verdict

    The M235i delivers on the promise of an M Performance model, but dubious specification omissions put a question mark over value.

Side view of red BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe



BMW’s new-model onslaught shows no signs of slowing and one of the latest additions to the stable is the 2 Series Gran Coupe. Confusingly, BMW has three completely separate model lines all dubbed 2 Series. There’s the 2 Series Active Tourer tallboy hatch that’s similar to the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, the 2 Series coupe/convertible sports car, and now the Gran Coupe – a four-door small sedan that fills yet another niche in BMW’s line-up.

Price and positioning

The 2 Series Gran Coupe is BMW’s smallest sedan, sitting below the 3 Series. The Gran Coupe moniker is reserved for BMW’s swoopy, coupe-style four doors. There’s also Gran Coupe versions of the 4 and 8 Series. 

Pricing starts at $49,990 before on-road costs for the 1.5-litre three-cylinder 218i, increasing to $53,990 for the 2.0-litre four-cylinder 220i. It tops out at $72,990 for the M235i xDrive pocket rocket tested here. BMW recently introduced the M235i xDrive Pure that loses some of the specification of the regular M235i and costs $5000 less.

Competitors include the Audi A3 sedan and Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan. Digging deeper, the performance-focused M235i fights for sales against the $65,800 Audi S3 quattro sedan and $72,135 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic sedan.

Each of these models has some standard features that the other two are missing, but on balance they are evenly matched. The Audi represents the best value given its pricing and equipment list. 

Our test car was fitted with a $1200 Comfort Package (heated seats and steering wheel, front-seat lumbar support) and a $3770 Enhancement Package (metallic paint, panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control), bringing the price up to $77,960 before on-road costs. It’s unacceptable that heated seats are optional at this price point. They come as standard on the Benz and Audi.

Close up view of red BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe
Side view of red BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe
Rear view of red BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe


Safety first
 

ANCAP is yet to test the 2 Series Gran Coupe. The adaptive cruise control moderates the speed well, but it should be standard, not an option. The lane-keeping aid vibrates when you get too close to line markings but doesn’t steer the vehicle back to the centre of the lane like some systems do. 

The inside story

It doesn’t feel as high end as a 3 or 5 Series interior, but the 2 Series has plenty of niceties to justify the price, starting with the racing-inspired sports seats with ample adjustability and support, and a chunky sports steering wheel. Given the target demographic of younger cashed-up buyers, the interior design is edgier than other BMW models, with touches like integrated speakers in the doors, angular dash inserts and cool ambient lighting.

The layout of centre-console controls and dials on the steering wheel are examples of simple, intelligent design. Other highlights include the stubby gear shifter and excellent head-up display. Putting a phone into the wireless charging slot, however, is fiddly.

As we’ve reported, BMW’s excellent iDrive 7.0 infotainment system includes ConnectedDrive services like the Intelligent Personal Assistant – a voice-recognition system that responds to user questions like ‘where is the closest petrol station?’ – live traffic updates and more. Apple CarPlay is standard and Android Auto is being rolled out via a remote software update later this year.

The 2 Series sits low to the ground, making for a sporty, cocooned driving position, but there’s ample front-row head room, even with the optional sunroof fitted. 

The coupe-esque silhouette means adults will need to duck their head when getting in and out of the back seats. This also affects head room for tall people, despite the scalloped roof. Leg room is adequate, but average for the segment. Kids will be fine but taller folk will find it cramped. Rear occupants have access to knee-level air vents and two USB-C ports.

The long 430-litre boot matches the Benz and is bigger than the Audi’s (390 litres). It has a tyre repair kit rather than a full-size or space-saver spare wheel.

Close up view of BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe dash and steering wheel
Close up view of red BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe engine


On the road
 

The ‘M’ attached to the 235i badge represents performance, and the sleek German sedan delivers that in spades. From a standing start, the 225kW/450Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit delivers eager throttle response, with minimal turbo lag. It spools up quickly and maintains the pace on steep ascents, ensuring confident overtaking when required. The superb eight-speed automatic transmission and pointy steering boost the car’s performance capabilities.

The throaty engine note and pops and crackles from the exhaust during down shifts (in Sport mode) add to the aural drama of the M235i. Other than the noise from coarse road surfaces, the cabin is well insulated. 

Sticky tyres and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system help keep the car planted to the ground, enhancing its cornering ability. The M235i is seriously grippy when leaning into a corner, and despite mild skipping on loose surfaces, the little BMW exhibits exceptional road-holding ability.

Once again, the payoff for this level of dynamic performance is a stiff ride. It’s not as firm as larger, heavier performance cars and you could live with it as a daily drive.

On the downside, the idle-stop system lagged too much and the 11.4-metre turning feels huge when manoeuvring in a narrow street.

After a week of mixed driving we recorded fuel consumption of 9.8 litres per 100 kilometres, up on BMW’s 7.6L/100km official claim.

 

BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe

PRICING

List price: $72,990 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $77,960 before on-road costs.

Model range: $49,990 to $72,990 before on-road costs.

DRIVETRAIN

2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Power: 225kW@5000-6250rpm.

Torque: 450Nm@1750-4500rpm.

Wheels: 235/35 R19.

FUEL

98 RON petrol, 50-litre fuel tank.

Consumption: 7.6L/100km (government test), 9.8L/100km (RACV test).

Emissions: 173g/km CO2 emissions.

STANDARD SAFETY

 

Six airbags, cruise control, lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, rear-collision prevention, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera. 

 

 
STANDARD FEATURES

Adaptive LED headlights, dual-zone air-conditioning, 10.25-inch digital instrument display, 10.25-inch infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, wireless device charging, 16-speaker harman/kardon audio system, electric front-seat adjustment with memory function. 

WARRANTY

Three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Condition-based servicing. Pre-paid servicing packages. 

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