The 3 series used to be the bread and butter car of BMW, and also one of the company’s most successful range. However as the wheelbase of the car expanded over time and more refinements were added, the actual drivers who were attracted to BMW was gradually left out of the market. Then came the 1 Series. I liked the 1 Series since it felt a lot more nimble on the roads, and its smaller footprint makes it more suitable for city driving. In fact the 1M was one of the cars I wanted to get when purchasing a new car. However, the limited production quantities of the 1M annuls that possibility.
Recently on a visit to the local BMW dealership, I got a glance of the new 2-series. On photos it did seem awkward, but on real life, I found it to be better looking that the 1-series coupe that it replaces. BMW’s numbering system on its cars are such that even numbers are reserved for coupes and convertibles while odd numbers are for the executive sedans and wagons. The 2 series definitely looks more like a shrunken 4 series coupe. Some auto enthusiasts are even keen to point out its similarity in terms of size to the E36 M3 which was a couple of generations ago. Outfitted with the M-sport package, the 228i does look even more amazing!
Inside, the 2-series has a similar design theme to the 3 and 4-series with the new onboard monitor extruding out of the centre dashboard. I preferred their older dashboard design with the clamshell housing covering the monitor. Or probably I have just gotten used to that in my old car which is a BMW 335is. I remember when the 1-series was first launched, there was no electric seats and that was a major drawback. The new 2-series though comes with that and the seats are similar to the 3 and 4-series as well. A major difference though was the space and it is felt in the handbrake which is shorter and the whole cabin. For someone who is 1.74m tall like me, the car fits me just fine, and I thought even the rear seats were bearable for short drives within the city.
Another thing I want to point out is how the new i-Drive operating system could display Chinese characters, and this is a step up over previous generations i-Drive. In addition, the monitor does have a nicer display!
The most impressive part of the car was how it drives! A turn of the ignition gives a very nice growl of the engine, and yet the cabin still felt comfortable. BMW does add more refinement to even the 2-series models and that felt to me like a step up over the 1-series. Settling into the driver’s seat, it just felt like being in the 335is, albeit with a slightly higher driver’s position. The shorter front overhangs of the car adds visibility and means it is easier to handle inside car parks.
Once on the road, the power inside the engine was phenomenal. If I am not wrong, the M235i is fitted with the N55 six-cylinder engine that also powers the X3 which I have driven before in my household. It is fascinating how the same engine could have slightly different outcomes on a different car. The M235i basically felt like a more civilized version of the 335is which runs on the older N54 engines. But the M235i still does go up to 80km/h rapidly so much so that it makes it really fun to drive on the roads. Steering-wise the M235i has a more precise feel compared to my 335is which sometimes does tend to oversteer a bit.
Overall I really enjoyed my time test-driving this car. The base price for the M235i is C$45,000 which is slightly more than the BMW i3 electric car. Compared to the 228i which starts from C$36,000, I thought the M235i was better value since it does come with the M-sports package already and while I did not test-drive the 228i, I doubt i would have as much fun in it as the M235i. As someone who drives alone most of the time, I would not hesitate to get a M235i as my daily car. However replacing my 335is with this car would take some re-consideration as my current car does have a better growl and features nearly the same level of performance. Not to mention, I think the older E90/92 has a better interior than the current new interiors found on the 2 and 3 series models. But if BMW is coming up with an M2, I think that is very much worth looking into, as that could well be the re-birth of the late E36 M3 models!