BMW and niches go hand in hand as long as the automobile manufacturer has existed. They’re not the first to open up the small 4-door coupe segment, making us curious to see what the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is bringing into this classy wargame.
I’ll be honest from the start: the idea of a 3-cylinder, front-wheel driven BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe had me carrying around some resentment. That feeling originated from a polarized opinion of me holding onto the past. A past where purism would reign rather than today’s hard reality of thin margins and fiercer competition than ever before. Polarized opinions are far from constructive and thus I forced myself to let that opinion fall from thoughts. I promised to spend 4 days judging the BMW for what it is, and not for what I (and other nostalgic idiots) would want it to be. But what should you compare it with? The Mercedes Benz CLA is its direct competition.
On the first day of driving the small coupe, I had the tendency to floor it. Call it enthusiasm or whatever you will, I quickly learned that this car isn’t a car you want to do that with. Labeled 218i, the car I drove is powered by a 1.5-liter engine that pushes out 140hp and 220 Nm. That translates into a zero to a hundred times of 8.7 seconds for this 1350 kilogram car, and I’m not mentioning the top speed here. Why not? Cause that’s absolutely not what this car is about!! It struck me after a few hours that this car is very, very comfortable and refined when you behave like a good Samaritan. The 2 Series Gran Coupe is not bringing it all in terms of driving experience, it’s bring a very pleasant, soothing driving experience.
The powertrain in the daringly shaped BMW is a companion with a majority of plusses and some negatives. I’ll start with the negatives first: there’s not a pleasant engine note when you rev it, and starting the engine isn’t as quiet as you’d want it to be. But I’m already done complaining here because there’s a thing about this car I got obsessed with. It over shines the two negatives I mention and it’s called coasting! Let off the gas and this car just keeps rolling and rolling, almost in a magical way. It’s addictive and changes the way I drove within a matter of hours. It adds a new fun factor to the drive, making you look for the maximum ‘roll out’ you can achieve. Other upsides include plenty of torque and low fuel consumption. I got it down to 4.2L/100km on one drive. Nick explains how down below.
Nick’s Tech Talk
“When selected ECO PRO, the transmission control unit makes note of the lack of throttle input. The ZF 8 speed reacts to this by disconnecting the engine from the drive train, effectively switching the car to neutral which is very uncommon with an automatic transmission. This results in a considerable reduction in drive train losses, the car will coast like nothing else. The increase in roll resistance with no throttle input is caused by pumping losses from the engine. Decompression caused by the piston moving downwards in the cylinder, makes the engine begging for air. But with the throttle closed, this culminates in a very low manifold pressure that acts as a resistance to the decompression. By disconnecting the engine, BMW diminishes the roll resistance, only to change coasting for the better.”
In terms of handling, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is in line with what I stated earlier: it is a pleasant and soothing machine to operate. There’s not tonnes of feedback or directness, but rather a balance that offers a relaxed yet engaging drive. Its steering is sometimes a bit too sensitive for my liking, but that’s also me getting distracted too easily. Rarely did I notice that this BMW is front-wheel driven, and very rarely did it give torque steer. The car handles in accordance with what you and expect. And you can expect it not to kill your lower back as the ride never gets too hard.
Looks and feel
Another thing that grew on me whilst spending time with the car was its looks. Not looking pretty on press images, the car makes a very different appearance in the flesh. Sure, bigger rims would have made this 218i look fresher, I’ll give you that. But this thing, in black, looks pretty damn sleek. The looks it got when I parked at my local grocery store confirmed that other people appreciate its appearance too. The roofline and the seemingly long nose add a certain harmony to the car. There’s no massive kidney-sized grill either and seems to work very well for this car. The only thing I’m not sure about is the line on the trunk of the car. On a black version of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, it looks okay, but on different colors, it makes the rear look too busy for my liking.
Inside the small yet sexy BMW, I found that the interior is a good place to reside in too. You’re offered with all modern-day infotainment (sadly, a €2,5K option) to entertain the soul. You’re also facilitated with technical aids such as automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and parking assistance to make maneuvering the car easy at any speeds. Physically the BMW offers a comfortable ride that doesn’t start to feel uncomfortable when driving for multiple hours straight. It also offered me and my 1.9 meters enough room and a correct seating position. In terms of quality feel, I found the majority of the parts used to be worthy of the label ‘premium.’ Only rarely was there a part that felt like a cheap escape, the layout of the ambient lighting sadly being one of them.
I won’t hold on to the nostalgia and give this car a cynically littered judgment. No, as you’ve read above I’m more than convinced that BMW has made a very decent product. Nostalgia will haunt this car for a while though, as this takes a few years to wash away. People not hindered by this will be buying a car that is tremendously suited for daily use. Comfort, refinement, good ergonomics, and low fuel consumption will be what they’re offered every time they use it.
Compare this car to its only competitor, Mercedes’s CLA, and you do notice that car is one generation ahead. It killed off the majority of its criticisms in that update. Time will tell if BMW will close the gap on that car, but they made a proper start for sure.
Thanks again, Kalfsbeek BMW, for lending and trusting us with one of your cars! The car as tested would set you back €44.276 (€4826 Dutch BTW not included).