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BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe review: Baby Gran

The 2 Series Gran Coupe is now BMW's smallest four-door car, but it lives up to its badge in important ways.

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BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe (white) and 218i Gran Coupe.

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BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe and 218i Gran Coupe.

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BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe and 218i Gran Coupe.

Lisbon, Portugal

WHAT we have here is a numerologist's delight. BMW is about to launch two cars, both with a "2" in their model designation. They go on sale tomorrow, the date for which you could write as 22/02/20.

That's a lot of 2s, which is precisely what BMW is hoping to deliver after the 218i Gran Coupe and M235i Gran Coupe meet the car buying public this weekend.

There's never been a 2 Series Gran Coupe before, and its introduction gives would-be BMW buyers a compact car with four-doors to ponder. Mercedes did it first with the CLA Coupe, and look how well that turned out.

Under the new baby BMW's shapely bodywork you'll find the basic bones of the brand's smaller models, like the 1 Series or X1, which in turn share bits with much of the Mini range.

BMW would prefer to draw comparisons with its larger four-door coupes, such as the 8 Series Gran Coupe, a car fashioned for bedroom poster walls if ever there was one. And why not? Gran Coupes have been a jolly business for BMW, with more than 400,000 of them out in the wild. Conservatively, if BMW banked a profit of, say, just S$6,000 per Gran Coupe, the new 2 Series is basically an extension of a S$2.4 billion idea. Who doesn't like numbers like that?

Little wonder that the 2 Series mimics its more expensive stablemates, then, and convincingly. Like them, it has a cigar-shaped silhouette, with a phallic nose and low roofline that swoops toward a stubby tail.

It has their frameless doors, which add a touch of glamour and facilitate the roof's low sweep, according to the BMW designer The Business Times spoke to.

Things are more plain inside. The dashboard is lifted from the 1 Series hatchback, which is no bad thing because that means it's laid out cleanly and strikes the right balance between being pared down and stark.

By now it's clear that the awful, cluttered digital instruments with the wrong-way-round rev counters in all the latest BMWs are here to stay, so there's no point complaining about their inclusion here.

But BMW deserves praise for retaining a healthy number of physical buttons for things like the air-con controls and driving modes, instead of burying them inside a touchscreen menu, which an increasing number of carmakers do in the name of minimalism when cost-cutting probably has more to do with it.

Praise be to the finance guys in Munich, too, for the cabin materials generally manage to avoid feeling cheap. That's crucial for a car that might turn out to be My First BMW for a large number of buyers.

The seating in the back is strictly out of Economy Class, however. That stylish roofline really wants to rendezvous with the tail, and it doesn't care if your scalp is in the way. The rear seats themselves prop you into a decidedly upright position, and there's no getting away from the fact that the 2 Series Gran Coupe is cramped in the back.

You could explain it away, however, which BMW tries to do by saying that this is a car for young couples with one kid between them, tops. Besides, grim rear seating never hurt the Mercedes CLA.

And anyway, if you're going to buy a 2 Series Gran Coupe, the only seat that really counts is the driver's one.

The range kicks off with the 140 horsepower 218i, and though it's no powerhouse it is a delightfully exuberant car. It sails around corners with aplomb, refusing to let bumps unsettle it along the way, and it always emerges from bends feeling poised for more.

What the steering lacks in feedback is made up for in precision, and it offers a beautiful balance between alacrity and steadiness. Everything just feels finely calibrated, whether for a nice romp through twisty roads or a long stretch on the highway.

Things are even better in the M235i xDrive version, which brings 306 horsepower and all-wheel drive to the party.

It offers the same sense of playful interaction but adds fiendish levels of traction, and it accelerates like someone put chilli paste up its tailpipes. In fact, the M235i Gran Coupe hits 100km/h in only 4.9 seconds, which makes the S$249,888 (with Certificate of Entitlement) price tag palatable, considering you once had to buy a Porsche 911 for the same performance.

But at S$160,888 apiece, it's the 218i that is priced to tempt buyers into the BMW fold. Though there are bigger, more powerful cars for the money, if you don't need the space and desire a car with a BMW badge, at least this one lives up to it.

Its launch may be on a date that thrills the numerologists, but the 2 Series Gran Coupe is here to delight drivers.


BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe

Engine 1,998cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 306hp at 5,000 to 6,250rpm
Torque 450Nm at 1,750 to 4,500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 4.9 seconds
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel efficiency 7.6L/100km
Agent Performance Motors Limited
Price S$249,888 with COE
Available Now


BMW 218i  Gran Coupe

Engine 1,499cc, inline 3, turbocharged
Power 140hp at 4,600 to 6,500 rpm
Torque 220Nm at 1,480 to 4,200 rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 8.7 seconds
Top Speed 213km/h
Fuel efficiency 5.9L/100km
Agent Performance Motors Limited
Price S$160,888 with COE
Available Now