- Smoking hot “M Performance” version of new 1 Series Coupe replacement
- Like an M135i in a catsuit, but with bespoke chassis settings for extra fun
- Priced from £34,250 | On sale March 2013
CJ Hubbard | January 2014
Welcome the new BMW 2 Series – BMW’s renamed replacement for the old 1 Series Coupe. You’ll be able to buy a variety of 2 Series when it arrives in UK dealerships this March, motivated by a selection of powerful and efficient petrol and diesel engines. But debuting in style at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the only variant available to drive was the smoking hot M235i. Shame.
The BMW M235i is the latest in a new line of “M Performance” models. This means it’s been engineered with input from both BMW AG (the regular road car guys) and BMW M GmbH (the Motorsport Division maniacs). So it’s not a proper junior M3 or M4, but the closest we’re going to get for at least a couple of years.
Don’t worry, you needn’t be disappointed. An evolution of the highly regarded M135i hot hatch, the M235i is BMW’s idea of an ‘everyday’ performance car. Compared to regular 2 Series, this compact coupe gets more aggressive bumpers, 18-inch wheels, bespoke suspension and bigger brakes. Not to mention a 326hp turbocharged straight-six.
Priced from £34,250, this is a cheaper, more practical alternative to the Porsche Cayman – and one that’s actually faster than a Cayman S.
What is the 2014 BMW M235i like to drive?
Fair to say the M235i driving experience is dominated by the engine. Not so much in a ‘the chassis can’t cope’ kind of way – far from it, in fact – but rather because the blown six-in-a-row is just such a delicious piece of Bavarian engineering.
It’s based on the 306hp 3.0-litre turbo available elsewhere in the current BMW portfolio, but benefits from a few choice performance and durability enhancing modifications, including a forged crankshaft. Which might seem like an irrelevant detail, but it gives this car proper motorsport credentials and upholds a long-standing fast, special BMW tradition.
Combined with the optional eight-speed paddleshift automatic, 0-62mph takes just 4.8 seconds – yet you don’t even have to be moving that rapidly to understand how good this drivetrain really is. The throttle response is ridiculously eager for a turbocharged car, lighting up from little more than tickover with a noise that sounds ever so much like the cat finally did get the cream.
This purr becomes a growl as the engine hits its stride, and at motorway speeds it begins to get properly frisky. As a rear-wheel drive car, this immediacy also means you can adjust its cornering attitude at whim – something the assured handling and direct steering thoroughly endorses.
Be aware, however, that this car is at its best driven hard; treat it too gingerly and the slightly vacant steering feedback can conspire to make it feel nervous. Push on through this moment of doubt and you’ll quite possible enjoy the drive of your life. And be assured that BMW’s stability control systems are top notch.
A choice of Eco Pro, Normal, Sport and Sport+ driving modes modifies the steering weight and accelerator mapping, plus the shift pattern on the auto and the suspension where the optional adaptive dampers are fitted. We can’t make a judgment on the regular suspension at present, but on the road the adaptive system adequately balances comfort and control, even if it gets a little busy over poorer surfaces; though it is perhaps a touch soft on track.
So basically, the 2014 BMW M235i is a hooligan?
For all its ability to tear up the deserted mountain roads outside Las Vegas – and boy, does it have that ability – the M235i is decidedly not exclusively a case of brawn over brains.
The interior is everything you could want from a small BMW. It seats four, immediately making it more practical than the Cayman, and is beautifully finished, blending modern functionality with attractive design. There’s also an improved amount of space far passengers – especially in the rear, where head, leg and shoulder room are all increased.
The boot is also bigger than the preceding 1 Series Coupe model, and now offers 390 litres of space – 20 more than before. The opening is larger, too; split fold-down rear seats are standard, but you can upgrade to a 40:20:40 split for increased versatility at extra cost.
If the 326hp M235i still sounds a bit much, a 220i turbo petrol and a 220d turbodiesel will be offered at launch, both providing 184hp, while a lesser 218d is set to start the range at just under £25,000. The 220d auto may be the pick of the bunch, as it combines 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds with the promise of 64.2mpg.
Still, thanks to BMW’s latest EfficientDynamics technologies – which includes the Eco Pro driving mode, stop-start and ‘air curtain’ aerodynamic trickery – the M235i won’t necessarily break the piggy bank when it comes to fuel. The manual is quoted at 44.8mpg and the auto 47.1mpg. Just don’t expect to see either when faced with the rare pleasure of an empty, well-sighted road. We didn’t.
The M235i only comes in M Performance specification, but other 2 Series are available in a choice of SE, Sport, Modern and M Sport trims. Standard equipment is more generous than you’re probably thinking, with alloys, rear parking sensors, 6.5-inch colour screen for the iDrive, climate control, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio and automatic wipers at the very least.
MR VERDICT: 2014 BMW M235i
The BMW M235i doesn’t really need our help here: with this level of performance mated to that kind of price, not to mention the BMW image and quality of finish, well, even the sales team can take some time off: it’s going to waltz out of dealerships with customers grinning from ear to ear.
And those customers can happily come from two directions. If you were wanting a sexier alternative to an ultra-hot hatch, or a Porsche Cayman but can’t quite live with its two-seater limitations, then the M235i is quite possibly the ideal car for you.
- Porsche Cayman, £39,694
- Audi TTS, £36,045
- Peugeot RCZ R, £31,995
- Mercedes CLA45, £42,265
- BMW M135i, £30,835
Engine 3.0-litre straight-six turbo petrol
Drivetrain six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (eight-speed auto optional)
Prices from £34,250
Torque 332lb ft
0-62mph 5.0 seconds (manual), 4.8 seconds (auto)
Top speed 155mph (electronically limited)
MPG 34.9mpg (manual), 37.2mpg (auto)
CO2 148g/km (manual), 139g/km (auto)