What are you driving?
This is the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, which might need a bit of explaining if you've not read anything about it before. Then again, I suspect that the target market care not that the original rear-drive 1 Series range sired the 2 Series Coupe and Convertible, before BMW inexplicably gave its Active/Gran Tourer MPVs the 2 Series badge on a front-drive platform, underpinnings that the new 1 Series has effectively been built on, as has this, one of those so-called 'four-door coupes', or, in BMW-speak, Gran Coupe. In case I lost you there, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is basically a four-door saloon version of the current front-wheel-drive BMW 1 Series, only the door glass is frameless, which apparently gives BMW the right to slap it with the aspirational Gran Coupe tag.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine, the same 1.5-litre unit that's used in the MINI Cooper (and a small number of other BMWs). It makes a modest 140hp and 220Nm of torque and emits only 114g/km when paired with the seven-speed automatic gearbox, as it is here.
Buyers can choose from Sport or M Sport trim levels. The former gets modest 17-inch alloys as standard (optional 18s are pictured), along with sports seats upholstered in a hard-wearing cloth material BMW calls 'Sensatec', climate control, front and rear parking sensors and an 8.8-inch touchscreen for the iDrive infotainment system. The manual version costs from €35,045 (or €272 a month on BMW Select finance), while the automatic model we drove starts at €36,507.
Name its best bits
This is a polished car. It's not exciting to drive; in fact, it's not even interesting to drive; but it is smooth and composed and more capable than anyone will ever need it to be. Even on the larger optional wheels fitted to our test car, the 2 Series Gran Coupe rides well, soaking up bumps and bad surfaces with aplomb and isolating the car's occupants from them and the rest of the outside world. It's a discreet and refined car to spend time in. Actually, it's the best of the 2 Series Gran Coupe range from that point of view, as the 220d and M235i are much louder. The three-cylinder engine is smooth and quiet, and it works well with the automatic gearbox, too. That petrol engine is even quite efficient.
The Gran Coupe is a practical car, too, with perfectly acceptable legroom for adults in the back (though the door apertures are tight), split-folding rear seats and a usefully capacious boot.
Anything that bugs you?
I've not met many people that like the design of the 2 Series Gran Coupe. Personally, it doesn't offend me, certainly no more than the 1 Series hatchback does. Actually, a caveat is that it has to be painted black, as, no matter what colour you do go for, there's a nasty black plastic piece of trim joining the rear lights. Choose black for the paint and that is not so obvious.
While we're on the gripes, there are a few bits and pieces inside that could be better. I don't have any issue with the analogue-ish dials where most other BMWs these days make use of a swish fully digital set-up, as they're crystal clear at a glance. The infotainment screen is a bit tiny though, even if the software within it and the interface are excellent. And I can't understand how BMW's designers could allow themselves to fit such a cheap-feeling volume control knob when most of the switchgear is of a high standard.
And why have you given it this rating?
The 2 Series Gran Coupe is not for dyed-in-the-wool BMW traditionalists, so it doesn't matter that they are likely to disapprove of it. Take the weight of expectation of that BMW roundel off its shoulders and it really isn't a bad car. Admittedly, it's not an exceptional one either, but, consider this parting shot: it gives buyers that want a premium-badged saloon on their driveway an entry-level option into BMW ownership, one that, in badge at least, sits above the 'lowly' 1 Series in the line-up, yet costs considerably less than the 3 Series above it. That'll be reason enough for its commercial success.
What do the rest of the team think?
There is remarkably little to get excited about in the 2 Series Gran Coupe. Its exterior styling lacks any sense of proportions or cohesion, with an interior that is good by Korean or Japanese brand standards. The more 220d's diesel engine is punchy but there's little else about how it drives to write home about. In comparison to the latest Audi A3 Saloon and sleek Mercedes-Benz CLA the BMW struggles.
Dave Humphreys - Road test Editor