The 2014 BMW 2 Series will never be a true heir to the classic 2002 coupe of the '60s and '70s, no matter how many photos BMW shows us of the two cars side by side. The all-new 2er is too high-tech, too insulated -- it's simply too modern to compare.

But relative to the rest of BMW's current lineup, the 2 Series is indeed a throwback of sorts. It's small and nimble, with the sort of performance-based ethos that the company has moved away from in recent years. Offered with a pair of fast yet frugal turbocharged engines, the 2 Series just might be the most engaging car BMW makes.

If you're looking for comparable fun and refinement at this modest price point, few if any rival coupes compare. Keep an eye on the options, however, as they can easily send the bottom line skyrocketing into 4 Series (or pristine used M3) territory.

But a judiciously equipped 2014 2 Series is all the car most drivers could ever want. The Ultimate Driving Machine is alive and well these days; you just have to know where to look for it.

What's New for 2014?

The 2014 BMW 2 Series is an all-new model, replacing the discontinued 1 Series.

What We Like

Authoritative acceleration; modest fuel consumption; capable handling; refined ride; improved interior

What We Don't

Tight back seat; M235i's questionable value

How Much?

$33,025-$44,025

Fuel Economy

All 2 Series models are rear-wheel-drive with the choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed automatic.

The 228i employs a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine that makes 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft. Fuel economy is rated at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with the automatic, and 22 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the manual.

The M235i upgrades to a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 rated at 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. It returns a still-respectable 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with the automatic, and 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with the manual.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 2 Series is offered in either 228i or M235i trim.

The base 228i ($33,025) comes standard with the turbo 4-cylinder engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, push-button ignition, manually adjustable front seats, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, Bluetooth, iPod/USB connectivity and the iDrive infotainment system with a 6.5-in screen.

The M235i ($44,025) adds a slew of features, including the turbo 6-cylinder engine, 18-in M-designed wheels, an adaptive M Sport suspension, upgraded brakes, variable-ratio steering, adaptive xenon headlights, a sunroof, 10-way power front sport seats with driver memory, a sport instrument cluster and dynamic cruise control.

The 228i offers a wider range of options than its high-performance sibling. You can dress up the aesthetics and handling with the Sport Line package (18-in alloys, sporty styling cues), while the M Sport package takes the 228i even closer to the M235i's standard state of tune. The Dynamic Handling package further equips the 228i with the M car's variable-ratio steering and adaptive suspension.

Both 2 Series models also offer Premium and Technology packages that provide the latest in luxury and gadgetry, along with a stand-alone 16-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system. Numerous other options and packages are available.

Trunk space is a 2 Series strength, measuring at just under 14 cu ft. That's a lot of space for a little coupe.

Safety

The 2014 2 Series comes standard with stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee, full-length side-curtain).

Other available safety features include BMW Assist (which adds automatic crash notification and roadside assistance), a lane-departure warning system and a forward-collision mitigation system.

Behind the Wheel

The 2014 2 Series feels small and taut from the driver's seat, and that's a welcome departure from BMW's current norm. It's even smaller from the back seat, which generally remains a kids-only affair, but we're used to that from the 1 Series. Eschewing the thickly padded luxury that has become the brand's trademark, the 2 Series leaves no doubt that it's here to entertain you. Happily, interior materials have improved markedly compared to the rather basic 1 Series, and the ride is quite supple, so there's more refinement than ever. But the 2er's focus is clearly on razor-sharp responses, and that makes it a special car indeed, particularly given its reasonable pricing.

Under the hood, the base 4-cylinder feels like it's punching above its output numbers, per usual. There are those who will tell you that the cheaper four is all you need, since you can always just turn up the turbo boost via an aftermarket kit. We're inclined to agree, as awesome as the M235i's inline-6 feels at full throttle. Carrying an enormous price premium of more than $10,000, the M235i is a sublimely capable car, but its value pales compared to the 228i. Either way, we like the manual shifter's snick-snick throws, but the ultra-smooth automatic actually gets better fuel economy, so that's something to keep in mind.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Mustang -- The reinvented 2015 Mustang has some European looks and manners to go with its all-American attitude.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe -- It may be in the twilight of its career, but the Genesis Coupe 2.0T offers more power and torque than the 228i for a lot less coin.

Scion FR-S -- Can you do without some of the BMW's refinement? If so, the slower, louder FR-S will reward you with superior handling. It's that good.

AutoTrader's Advice

Stick with the 228i. It's modern BMW at its most essential, and it's a heck of a bargain, too.

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