BMW applies a little spit'n'polish to its smallest convertible offering, the 2 Series, for the model's Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) facelift. Not a huge amount has changed, but as the 2 Series soft-top competes in a narrow field and it was always a cracking little convertible, that's no bad thing to be reporting.
In the metal
Look closely and you will spot that BMW has modified the kidney grilles and enlarged the front outer air intakes of the 2 Series Convertible, while simultaneously adding full LED head- and taillights to both ends of the car. If you want those natty little hexagon motif daytime running lamps, though, you need to upgrade to the Icon Adaptive LED package, as the standard items are merely round in shape. Three new colours are added to the paint palette, which are Mediterranean Blue, Seaside Blue and Sunset Orange, while four fresh designs of alloys (sizes 17- to 19 inches in diameter) bring the total number of wheelsets available to 17.
Inside, there's a new fillet of trim encompassing the centre air vents; the outer air vents are a different shape; models with the Professional Navigation get iDrive 6 touchscreen capability on the 8.8-inch display; and buyers can choose from a sundry assortment of new dash trims/seat upholsteries to up the ambience. All 2 Series Convertibles now also feature the black panel instrument cluster, which means you can't see the gradations on the dials until the ignition is switched on. So, minor changes all and what you're left with is a compact convertible that looks good with its hood down and admirably proportional with it up. Meanwhile, the 2 Series' interior is a lovely place to spend some time, but people travelling in the rear seats will need to be short of stature to enjoy any comfort back there.
Nothing mechanically has changed for the 2 Series Convertible, so it's the same line-up of TwinPower Turbo petrol and diesel engines to choose from. If you don't like four-cylinder motors, then you have just two options: there's a three-cylinder 1.5-litre, lifted from the MINI Cooper, delivering 136hp in the 218i, or a 3.0-litre straight-six kicking out a mighty 340hp for the range-topping M240i; that's our personal favourite, unsurprisingly.
Nevertheless, here in Ireland buyers are more likely to be looking at one of three diesels, all based on the 2.0-litre engine. There's a 218d (150hp), a 220d (190hp) and a 225d (224hp) - the middle one is the most sensible option, as it has the best economy figures (yes, better than the 218d) and decent performance. There are a couple of 2.0-litre petrols, the 184hp 220i and the 252hp 230i, but we can't honestly see why you'd look elsewhere when the 220d is so eminently capable.
Given that the 2 Series Convertible competes in a much narrower segment in terms of competitors than its Coupe sibling (really, the only truly direct, comparable rival to the 220d soft-top is Audi's A3 Cabriolet - then its offering of rear-wheel-drive chassis capability with the enduring appeal of open-air motoring is really hard to beat. In an age when quite a few of BMW's products seem to be losing their dynamic edge in favour of comfort, the 220d manages to hold on to a good bit of driver engagement. The engine is fine, remaining smooth, muscular and quiet at almost all times, only becoming slightly raucous of voice at about 3,750rpm and upwards. The steering is particularly good, although there is a bit of slack about the straight-ahead that can disconnect you from some of the finer levels of nuance and feedback. Body control is excellent without ruining the ride quality and you can feel the car's rear-wheel-drive balance, while the brakes are bang on the money for stopping power; slightly odd pedal feel, though, at the top of the travel.
Nevertheless, while it's better to drive than front- or four-wheel-drive alternatives, caning the 220d to within an inch of its life isn't the most memorable journey you'll ever have in a BMW, nor is it this car's raison d'etre. What you really want to do is enjoy the impressive levels of refinement BMW has engineered into the 220d M Sport, which is a fabulous little sunshine cruiser - it's really supple at extra-urban and motorway speeds, there's superb suppression of noise contributors (hood up, the triple-layered fabric roof feels every bit the match of a folding metal lid in terms of acoustic damping) and the major controls are all beautifully judged to make driving the BMW a breeze (forgive the pun). It feels every bit as special and plush to be in as a 4 Series Convertible, for instance, so it does make you question why you'd need to step up to the more expensive Beemer if all you need is a genial, premium open-top for high-weather cruising. The 220d M Sport really has all the bases covered, you see.
What you get for your money
BMW offers three trims here, which are SE, Sport and M Sport; the M240i is a 'spec' all of its own. Only the 218-badged models can be had as SEs, but it's really M Sport that brings out the best in the 2 Series Convertible. The visually arresting lower bodywork helps bolster the appearance and its 18-inch alloys and firmer M Sport suspension don't upset the ride quality too much. Choose the M Sport trim and you'll enjoy air conditioning (but not climate control, which is reserved for the M240i), Hexagon cloth and Alcantara seats, a leather-bound multifunction Sport steering wheel, BMW's entry-level navigation system, DAB, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, rear Park Distance Control and more - it's quite generous on the toy count.
That the BMW 2 Series Convertible doesn't have a huge amount of direct rivals is not what makes it a great car; rather, it's that the company seems to have preserved its tradition for fine handling and providing a rewarding steer, all while mixing in the main convertible prerequisites of a comfortable ride, easy-going nature and powerful, refined drivetrain. It might not make the best noises nor be the prettiest machine you'll ever clap eyes on, but the 220d M Sport Convertible remains a four-seater soft-top that should be your first port of call if you're in the market for this type of car. It's rather excellent in all departments.