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2016 BMW 2 Series: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader March 2016

The 2016 BMW 2 Series is an anomaly in BMW's current lineup, and there aren't any direct rivals from elsewhere. It comes as either a coupe or a soft-top convertible, with the kind of performance-biased approach BMW has edged away from recently in its quest for greater comfort.

Whether powered by an eager turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (228i) or a sweet inline 6-cylinder engine (M235i), the 2 Series is among the most engaging cars BMW makes. It's compact, sprightly, agile, balanced and quick, yet still comfortable and upscale. You should keep an eye on the options, though. They can easily send the bottom line soaring into 4 Series or pristine, used M3 territory.

What's New for 2016?

The all-wheel-drive M235i xDrive Convertible is a fresh model for this year. Sport seats have become standard in the 228i. Features from the previously optional Premium bundle have been absorbed into the M235i's inventory of standard equipment. And a Luxury package with chrome exterior accents has been introduced.

What We Like

Forceful acceleration; modest fuel consumption; capable handling; refined ride; premium interior; available all-wheel drive; top safety scores

What We Don't

Tight back seat; costly options

How Much?

$33,845-$49,745

Fuel Economy

All 2 Series models start with rear-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission. A 6-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option with this drive setup. All-wheel drive (offered only with the automatic) is an option on all models.

The 228i Coupe has a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine making 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. When paired with the automatic transmission, fuel economy is estimated at 23 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg combined, regardless of how many driven wheels. The manual transmission results in 22 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

Naturally, it's the same engine in the automatic-only 228i Convertible, but fuel consumption differs slightly: 23 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 22 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

The M235i enjoys a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine rated at 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Both the rear-drive/automatic coupe and convertible return a still-respectable 20 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined. The manual transmission modifies those figures to 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined for the coupe and 19 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined for the convertible.

Both M235i xDrive body styles return 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 BMW 2 Series is offered as a coupe or soft-top convertible in either 228i or M235i trim. BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is a $2,000 option on all models.

The 228i Coupe ($33,845) comes standard with the turbo 4-cylinder engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a push-button ignition, manually adjustable front seats, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, 60/40-split folding rear seats, Bluetooth, iPod/USB connectivity and the iDrive infotainment system with a 6.5-in screen.

The 228i Convertible ($39,645) substitutes a power-retractable soft-top in black, brown or Anthracite with silver accents.

The M235i Coupe ($45,145) adds more features, including the turbo 6-cylinder engine, 18-in M-designed wheels, the adaptive M Sport suspension, a sport exhaust, upgraded brakes, variable-ratio steering, adaptive xenon headlights, a sunroof, a rear spoiler, 10-way power front sport seats with driver memory, a sport instrument cluster and BMW's dynamic cruise control.

The M235i Convertible ($49,745) shares the 228i Convertible's soft-top.

The 228i offers a wider range of options than its high-performance sibling. The aesthetics and handling are enhanced with the Sport Line package (18-in alloys, sporty styling touches and excellent manual-adjusting sport front seats), while the M Sport package takes the 228i even closer to the M235i's standard state of tune, including an adaptive suspension. The Track Handling package equips the 228i with the M car's variable-ratio steering and upgraded brakes and includes the adaptive suspension (should you decide against the M Sport package).

All models offer packages that provide the latest in luxury and gadgetry, along with a stand-alone 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Various other options are available, such as navigation, heated front seats, parking sensors, self-parking, a rearview camera and a limited-slip differential for the M235i.

Trunk space is a strength for the 2 Series: The coupe has 13.8 cu ft. of space, which is generous for a compact car. The convertible offers about 9 cu ft., which BMW says is enough to accommodate a pair of golf bags.

Safety

The 2 Series comes standard with stability control and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The coupe gets eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain), while the convertible comes with six (all except the side-curtain airbags).

Optional safety features include BMW Assist, which adds automatic crash notification and roadside assistance, a lane-departure warning system and a forward-collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking.

In independent crash testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2 Series its top score of Good in every category.

Behind the Wheel

The 2 Series feels small and taut from the driver's seat, and that's a welcome variation from BMW's current luxury theme. It's even smaller from the back seat, which generally remains a kids-only affair, but we're used to that from the similar 1 Series, the 2 Series' predecessor. Luckily, interior materials have improved a lot compared to the basic 1 Series.

The 2 Series leaves no doubt that it's here to entertain. The ride is supple and refined, yet the car's main focus is clearly on razor-sharp responses, which makes it special, especially in light of its reasonable pricing.

The entry-level 4-cylinder engine feels like it's punching above its declared output numbers, per BMW's norm. As awesome as the M235i's engine feels (and sounds) at full throttle, it carries a premium of $11,000 in coupe form, and that may not be worth the few tenths of a second shaved from acceleration runs.

The manual's shift action is superb, but the ultra-smooth automatic gets better fuel economy, which is also something to keep in mind.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Audi TT -- The TT starts out with a higher price than the 228i coupe and even less room for rear passengers, but it's compact, sporty and German.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro -- The Camaro is the closest any mainstream American sports machine has come to a European-style driving experience, especially with its new 2.0-liter turbo engine.

Used BMW M3 -- The M3 comes with a choice of sedan, coupe or convertible body styles, plus a ton of driving pleasure.

Autotrader's Advice

There's a lot of fun in taking a less powerful car to its limits, as opposed to having a more powerful car and never getting the chance to really explore its abilities, so no one will think badly of you if you buy the 228i. But if you could afford either model, you should test drive them both and then make a choice.

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2016 BMW 2 Series: New Car Review - Autotrader