The BMW 230i might be the least powerful of the 2 Series coupes but it’s an excellent introduction into the world of sporty BMWs. And it feels nothing like its base model designation might suggest. It’s also the second most affordable BMW on sale right now. Only the X1 crossove
r is cheaper.
With the recent discontinuation of the 2 Series Gran Coupe
, the “real” coupe is now the entry point into BMW’s non-crossover lineup. I can’t say I’m sorry to see the Gran Coupe go because a front-wheel drive based BMW never sat well me.
This new 2 Series Coupe can be seen as a window into BMW’s past, when it’s lineup was much smaller and made up of sedans and coupes, exclusively. It was all function over form, with a focus on athletic handling and unfiltered driving pleasure.
Now, the very idea of a small coupe like the 2 Series is also quickly fading, with only a handful of relatively affordable ones left. You’ve got the soon to be discontinued Dodge Challenger
, the Toyota GR 86,
and the Mini Cooper. You can stretch it to say that the BMW 4 Series and C-Class Coupe also fit the bill, but really none of these are direct comparisons, and so the 2 Series Coupe needs to be judged on its own merits.
Out of all the new polarizing BMW designs, which have broken away from tradition, the 2 Series stands out. Its got a blunt nose with boxy fenders and that classic long hood/short rear deck synonymous with rear-wheel drive sports cars.
We reviewed the M240i
last year and its performance is not far off the previous M2
. It felt like a personal German muscle car in the best of ways. In some respects, the 230i is even better. For one the starting price ($47,950) is much more palatable and the Melbourne Red Metallic paint, an $895 option, is exactly the type of colour a small BMW Coupe needs. Even better, the Cognac Sensatec (read leatherette) interior will have you living Ferrari fantasies at a large discount.
All new 2023 2 Series’ come with the new curved display seen in many new BMWs. This large curved panel is actually 2 screens under a sheet of glass. The 14.9-inch main screen and 12.3 inch driver display have some of the sharpest and most appealing visuals in the car world today. The screens are augmented by an optional head-up display that’s large and colourful and really good at keeping your attention on the road when changing radio stations or looking for navigation instructions, among other things. The latest version of iDrive is fast, and super easy to use and I also applaud BMW’s decision to stick with the rotary control knob as it’s still the least distracting way to interact with a large screen while driving.
The biggest difference between the 230i and M240i is the engine. The 230i gets a turbocharged 2-litre 4-cylinder that produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from just 1600 rpm. It’s not the silky-smooth straight-6 but the 4-cylinder has plenty of power and character of its own. It’s enough that you’ll probably never even notice the missing horses.
The smaller engine is also lighter, and when you reduce weight over the front axle the effect on driving dynamics is very positive. And indeed the steering feels even better in the 230i. There’s a light, chuckable feel that will immediately bring a smile to your face. This car gives you the confidence to push harder in the corners and explore the higher regions of the rev counter more often. And that’s makes it more fun more of the time. The M240i can sometimes feel almost too powerful and too restricted on public roads.
Like the M240i, the 230i is only available in xDrive all-wheel drive format, but it still feels rear driven as power only gets sent to the front wheels when necessary.
Both cars share that same delicate handling balance, and near 50/50 weight distribution. The BMW 230i also rides really well for what it is. It’s a small car with a relatively short wheel base and a stiff suspension but it shrugs off the worst roads, translating impacts into muffled thunks that never seem to intrude into the cabin. It doesn’t have a luxury car ride, but it’s also not so stiff that you’ll regret taking it on a road trip.
In fact, a road trip is where this 230i will shine brightest. Its 390 litre trunk is larger than you think it is and its back seat can be used to transport actual humans. It’s also efficient, returning less than 8L/100 km on the highway, and its small footprint means that you can park it just about anywhere.
It’s also quiet, and unlike the M240i it doesn’t have a shouty exhaust. The seats are also very comfortable and supportive and they don’t break down on a long drive, which greatly reduces driver fatigue behind the wheel. And since road trips are supposed to be about the journey and not the destination, the 230i will enhance every journey, guaranteed.
My biggest gripe is that this is the perfect example of a car that’s just begging for a manual transmission. I understand why it’s not offered on the M240i but the base model BMWs were where you’d historically find the three-pedal cars. Not here, though. If you want a 2 Series with a manual you’ll have to wait for the M2
, which won’t be cheap.
The 2 Series coupe gives us hope that enthusiast cars are still alive in Munich but we just don’t know how much longer that’s going to last. If the new i4 is any indication, however, we should actually be pretty stoked for the future. But for us that crave a bit of BMW nostalgia right now, the 230i is here and it’s great.
2023 BMW 230i xDrive
2-door, 4 passenger compact sedan
-Front-engine, all-wheel drive
2.0-L turbocharged inline-4 ; Power: 255 hp @ 4500 rpm Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1600-4000 rpm
: 8-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY :
(Premium-grade Gasoline in L/100 km): 9.6 city; 6.9 highway; 8.4 combined
$ 47,950 (base); $58,395 (as-tested)
: BMW Canada