2020 BMW 2-Series Review

2020 BMW 2-Series - Gran Coupe transforms 2-Series from a niche vehicle to a premium compact contender.


Until recently the BMW 2-Series was at a significant marketplace disadvantage compared to its rivals. Initially offered only as a 2-door coupe or convertible, the 2-Series literally came up 2 doors short for most shoppers in the segment. That changed in 2020 with the introduction of the Gran Coupe. Despite the name, the 2-Sereies Gran Coup is a 4-door sedan designed to directly compete with vehicles like the Acura ILX, Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A and CLA.

For comparison sake, the Gran Coupe is 4 inches longer than the 2-Series coupe and 7 inches shorter than the 3-Series. It should also be noted that the Gan Coupe is not based on the coupe/convertible chassis. Rather it's based on a front-drive architecture that also underpins the MINI Clubman and Countryman and BMW X1 and X2.

Initially introduced back in 2014 the BMW 2-Series is the German automaker's smallest offering in the US. As mentioned, it is offered as a 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible and 4-door sedan. Coupes and convertibles are offered with rear- or all-wheel drive and the sedan is all-wheel-drive only. The model lineup includes turbocharged 4- and 6-cylinder engines and a performance model called the M2 Competition Coupe.

The coupe and convertible model range consists of the 230i and 240i. 230s get a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. 240s get a turbocharged inline six that makes 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The Gran Coupe lineup consists of the 228i and 235i. The 228i gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. 235i models get a the same 2.-0-liter engine tuned to produce 301 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. All engines come standard with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Optional on rear-drive coupes and convertibles is 6-speed manual. Coupe and convertible models are offered with rear- or all-wheel drive (xDrive), while Gran Coupes come only with all-wheel drive.

Prices range from $35,900 all the way up to $53,000. Standard safety equipment on all models includes forward-collision warning with automatic braking, lane-departure warning and a drowsy driver system. Also standard across the board are LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control.

This driving impression relates specifically to the Gran Coupe.

With just 228 ponies, the 228i might seem down on horsepower, but around town and in passing situations the base four feels sprightly and eager. Mash the gas from a stop and the 228i will reach 60 MPH in a scant 5.1 seconds. Impressive indeed. The "boosted" engine in the 235i is even more impressive dropping that number by almost a second. Both engines are smooth and make wonderful sounds in hard acceleration.

Automatic transmission performance is good, for the most part. Part-throttle shifts are smooth and nearly imperceptible. Full-throttle shifts are crisp and crack off with the authority you'd expect from a performance-orientated machine. Still, there's some hesitation in gear selection when rounding corners and it upsets the drivetrain as a whole. Adding to the frustration is an overly abrupt start/stop feature.

The standard xDrive all-wheel drive system effectively masks the front-drive heritage of the Gran Coupe and provides a more neutral driving feel. It works to quickly shift power to the wheels with the most grip. However, it should be noted that the Gran Coupe's tires are not intended for Chicago's snowy winters and should be swapped out for M+S rated rubber in in the fall.

228i xDrive is EPA rated at 23 MPG city and 33 MPG highway. The M235i model drops 1 MPG on the highway with 23/32 ratings. Premium-grade gasoline is required. Over more than 400 miles of suburban commuting, the 228i returned an impressive 35 mpg. However, at 13.7 gallons, the fuel tank is a bit on small side.

Dynamically, it's hard to feel the Gran Coupe's front-drive heritage in around town driving. It's only when the road gets twisty and bumpy that you get the feeling that the Gran Coupe isn't bred from 100% BMW DNA. Still, the Gran Coupe might be the best overall handling/riding compact premium sedan on the market.

The suspension does an excellent job of softening hard impacts and provides excellent ride control. Of course, the ride is significantly firmer than you'd expect from a typical luxury car, but that's the mission and BMW is sticking to it. Powerful brakes and delightfully accurate steering only add to the sporty nature of the Gran Coupe. In all the package is impressive and worthy of the BMW spinner on the grille.

Interior noise levels are low, though the engines are more intrusive that you might expect. Also, with frameless side windows, you'd think there would be more wind and road noise, but that's not the case.

Inside, the Gran Coupe is a typical BMW -- dark surfaces, plenty of chrome brightwork and a subdued color palette. Materials are class and price appropriate, no more. The driver-focused design boasts plenty of buttons and knobs. Driver's face a digital instrument display and there's a large infotainment screen at the top of the center stack. Most controls are appropriately placed but the control dial for the infotainment system is buried behind the shifter and can be an awkward reach for some.

Front seats are plenty comfy and offer excellent support and ample adjustments. There's also decent room up front, despite the car's smaller dimensions. As is the case with most vehicles in this segment, the rear seats are best utilized by kids or smaller adults. Though, if you move the front seats forward, there is enough room for an average-size adult. Outward visibility is better than you might expect, despite thick pillars and a tall decklid. Getting in and out is complicated by the low ride height and smallish door cutouts.

Though BMW has continued to improve the iDrive infotainment system, it's still a mixed bag in daily operation. Adding to the misery is no support for Android Auto, though BMW claims that's on the way. Still, you shouldn't have to scroll through menus to change the radio station. In addition, there are so many options and features that its easy to get lost when spinning and nudging the control dial.

The trunk boasts a roomy 15 cubic feet of cargo space, impressive given the Gran Coupe's size. Plus, the rear seats fold to increate cargo capacity. Interior storage, as is the case with most BMWs, is scant, with just a few open and covered bins. In addition, the wireless phone charging plate is too small to accommodate today's larger phones.

Bottom Line -- The Gran Coupe filled a gaping hole in BMW's sedan lineup. While some might question BMW's decision to utilize a front-drive platform rather than stretch the existing rear-drive 2-Series, there's no denying the result is quite impressive. The Gran Coupe perfectly translates 90 percent of the BMW DNA into a form that's substantially more appealing to most buyers. No, it's not a Competition Coupe and it doesn't pretend to be. It's a perfectly Bavarian response to competitors from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In that sense the Gran Coupe succeeds and is likely to lure plenty of buyers.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.