Having adopted a new naming strategy for its cars, BMW convention dictates that barring the hatchback 1 Series, sedans are odd numbered and coupes are even numbered. Among the latest of the lot is the 2 Series, which we test here in 220i guise.
Compact like the 1 Series hatchback it is based upon but in a more spacious and arguably more stylish coupe form, the 2 Series’ direct lineage is short – only the 1 Series Coupe comes before it on the family tree.
To these eyes the 2 Series looks more elegant and more generously proportioned, and on the latter point that is because it actually is larger than the 1 Series Coupe that it replaces; this car is nearly three inches wider.
For daily use, the accommodation on offer is fine, particularly for those who rarely travel more than two-up in a car. Cargo space is commendable for the car’s size too, with 390 litres available in its boot. Storage for smaller items is mostly in the door bins and beneath the centre armrest, while the rest of the centre console contains a pair of small cupholders and a shallow slot.
Those familiar with the 3 Series will be right at home with the dashboard in the 220i, as its architecture follows a similar layout.
A two-door BMW will always have sporting pretensions about it, and within most situations the 220i is a rather enjoyable device to punt about, be it on highways, within urban confines or along rural passages.
In modern Germanic fashion the 220i’s highway refinement is very good, with wind noise around the side mirrors making themselves known at elevated three-figure speeds, while high-speed stability is first-rate for a car of this size.
Its big-car manners are perhaps all the more impressive when considered in light of its inherent agility and penchant for serving up driver enjoyment on twistier, deserted roads; an environment where the 2 Series’ qualities shine the brightest.
That trademark BMW nimbleness-of-nose and all-of-a-piece body control is further heightened by the car’s compactness, and really adds to the fun factor. Ride quality can’t match those of its bigger siblings, but that is almost certainly down to its own shorter wheelbase rather than calibration; having said that it makes a decent concession for bump absorption and therefore urban ride quality.
To butcher a famous tyre ad slogan, all that controllability is rather meaningless if there is no power to harness, and on the powerplant front the 220i delivers a sufficiently potent punch to work that fine chassis. Peak figures for modern turbocharged engines are actually long plateaus across the engine’s rev range, which simply means maximum thrust is available more of the time.
This turbocharged mill is still keen to spin up to 6,500rpm, which makes it that much easier to engage a mood of enthusiasm when situations allow. Paired with an excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox, the powertrain is hardly wrong-footed in myriad scenarios – it is happy to amble along calmly, and can be ready to hustle the next moment.
It’s a compact car that is equal parts fun and refined, this 220i. The 2 Series range perhaps takes on the role originally filled by the 02 Series of the ’60s – a range which spawned the likes of the 1602 and the legendary 2002 Turbo, and which preceded the first 3 Series that came to be in 1975 – at a time when the 3 Series, like countless others, has grown bigger and even more luxurious. It is as if the 2 Series of today harks back to the original spirit of the 3 Series.
For those who might have been considering the still sporty yet even more refined 3 Series, but tend to travel light and are less demanding of cabin space, the 2 Series Coupe just might be a match.
Specifications of the BMW 220i Sport
Engine: 1,997cc direct-injection, turbocharged inline-four cylinder
Max power: 184hp @ 5,000 – 6,250rpm
Max torque: 270Nm @ 1,250 – 4,500rpm
Transmission: eight-speed automatic with manual override, rear-wheel-drive
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 7 seconds
Top speed: 230km/h
Fuel consumption (combined): 6l/100km
CO2 emissions (combined): 139g/km
Safety features: ABS, EBD, BA, TC