By Wayne Gorrett
✔ Strong diesel performance * Fun to drive * Good looking.
✖ Pricey * Diesel is intrusive when pushing on.
☀ ☀ ☀
Our very own South Downs National Park became operational a little over three years ago in April, 2011. It is England’s newest National Park comprising rolling chalk downs from Winchester to Eastbourne in East Sussex. Last month, courtesy of Partridge BMW in Chandlers’ Ford – for Solent Life Magazine, I enjoyed a warm summer’s day exploring the Park’s western section, cosseted in BMW’s 225d M Sport, the first-generation 2 Series from the German marque.
It’s been nearly two years since BMW reshuffled their model designations and created a myriad of new nomenclatures to cater for identified (whether real or perceived) niche markets. Caught up in the reshuffle was the two-door coupé version of the 1 Series, which is now referred to as the 2 Series. They both share the same chassis, but the 2 Series presents itself in a package that is considerably more appealing to look at and to drive.
Longer, wider and more spacious than its 1 Series coupé predecessor, the 2 Series is sleek, smooth and better proportioned in every respect. Given that slight increase in size, the exterior lines, vents and angles fuse together in a more graceful way with the 2 Series. The relatively long nose, arched roof and stubby rear results in classic sports-coupé proportions, while at the same time managing to ‘mini-me’ the very elegant 4 Series coupé.
The interior of BMW’s new 2 Series is evidently driver-centric, with instruments and controls oriented for easy access. It’s a simple, functional design that’s made more endearing by the use of high-end materials. The 2 Series feels more grown up than the 1 Series coupé it replaces, partly due to a more relaxing and comfortable interior, which is great for long motorway journeys.
It’s not a big car, but there’s plenty of room for sports bags and the weekly shop in the boot, which measures an impressive 390 litres (Audi TT 292 litres, Peugeot RCZ 309 litres), which is 30 litres bigger than the 1 Series hatchback. Its only drawbacks are a relatively small opening and narrow shape.
The rear seats are more usable than the token gestures usually offered in a two-plus-two sports coupé, but most fully-grown adults will still find legroom restricted. Kids and teens will fit snugly into the rear though.
The dashboard and centre console are clear of extraneous buttons and clutter. Instead, you’ll find BMW’s iDrive system, which controls one of two available displays. The test car was fitted with satellite navigation via a wide-screen 8.8-inch display. The driving environment is hard to fault, with clear, easy-to-use switchgear and BMW’s excellent iDrive system. The cabin is surprisingly spacious with ample front seat space in every dimension and a wide range of adjustment for seating and steering wheel position.
Four kit grades comprise the all-new 2 Series line-up: SE, Sport, Modern and M Sport, as tested here. The M Sport has more toys than you can chuck a five-year-old at, but here are some important ones: Drive Performance Control (EcoPro, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ modes), adaptive headlights, dynamic stability control, front and rear parking sensor with rear camera, automatic lights and wipers.
Options fitted to the test car included the very impressive 8-speed automatic gearbox with flappy paddles, full leather upholstery, adaptive M Sport suspension, run-flat tyres, Harmon Kardon hi-fi, BMW media professional package and variable sport steering.
The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, twin-turbo-diesel engine has plenty of performance for all situations. With an output of 218bhp (160kW), this cracking powerplant offers a stonking 450Nm of usable torque from a mere 1,750-2,750 rpm. I’ve driven this engine in a number of BMW models but in this 2 Series, the ‘fit’ of engine to car is near perfect.
Acceleration is rapid with 62mph arriving in only 6.3 seconds and the speed tops out at 150mph – if you can find a legal place (and space) to reach it. As you would expect of a modern day diesel, economy is excellent with a combined rate of 60.1mpg with CO2 emissions at 124g/km.
The excellent eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is standard on the 225d; shifts are rapid and smooth, and it kicks down a gear exactly when you want it to. Getting used to the flappy paddle shifters is easy and offers an enjoyable dynamic driving experience, especially as all the power is received by only the rear wheels.
On the road
The BMW 2 Series selectable drive modes, coupled with its available adaptive suspension, make for a very smooth ride, whether you’re driving over the most pitted of city streets, flat motorway stretches, winding mountain passes or twisty B-road fun. Its twin-turbocharged engine provides spirited acceleration. The eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth and quick to respond to commands, making for easy passing manoeuvres and composed manners in traffic.
Cornering ability is likewise hard to fault. I found the 225d M Sport an absolute joy to chuck into a series of twisty B-road bends. With the available Dynamic Handling system set to Sport Plus mode, the stiffer suspension settings relay all vital information to the driver and the stability control allows a longer leash for experienced drivers before intervening.
Safety & Security
There’s no shortage of safety equipment on the 2 Series. You get front, side, knee and head airbags as standard, along with Isofix child-seat attachments on the rear seats. The 2 Series hasn’t been through the Euro NCAP crash safety test yet, but I expect it to mirror the five-star rating of its 1 Series hatchback sibling. Security kit includes an engine immobiliser.
The BMW 225d M Sport has the looks and the image and follows through with an appropriately engaging driving experience. A refined car at regular speeds, the twin-turbo diesel engine offer brisk performance when extended. It may not be a family car, but it most certainly is a driver’s car.
Fast facts: BMW 225d M Sport
Model base price: £32,100 (£41,330 as driven) * Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder TwinPower turbo-diesel * Power: 218bhp * Torque: 450Nm @ 1,750 – 2,750rpm * 0-62mph in 6.3 secs * Top speed electronically limited to 150mph * Economy: 60.1mpg claimed combined * CO2: 124g/km * Gearbox: 8-Speed ZF automatic.