BMW is citing the new M235i Coupé as its most powerful M Performance model yet, and there's no arguing with the performance its 326hp six-cylinder engine produces. Yet it's a safe, forgiving car to drive, one that'll appeal to a wide cross section of buyers. It doesn't have much competition either.
In the Metal:
The notchback profile of the 1 Series Coupé has been carried forward to the new model and it's one that divides opinion. From some angles it looks great, from others a little awkward. The 2 Series does at least have a personality and style all its own, distinctly different to the 1 Series hatchbacks. And of course, in M235i guise, it gains a suitably enhanced M Sport body kit, along with attractive 18-inch alloys.
Thanks to increases in width, length and wheelbase there's a little more interior space than before too - and the boot is bigger. Not that coupé buyers focus too much on such things. The driving position is spot on and has loads of adjustment. Marking the M235i out is a tactile M Sport steering wheel that mimics that found in full-on M cars. The instruments are bespoke to this model too, and as standard there are part-Alcantara sports seats.
The M235i is classed as an M Performance model, which means it sits between the hard-core M cars and the rest of the conventional 2 Series Coupé line-up, aiming to offer the best of both worlds to a wider range of drivers. And it must be said that the new two-door pulls it off. Slot it into Comfort mode and it'll cruise along quietly, leaving its occupants unruffled after a long drive.
But there's a lot of fun to be had from the chassis too, if you're in the mood. The one aspect of the drive that stands out is how stable and forgiving a car it is. Grip levels in the dry are very high, much higher than most drivers would ever dare broach on the public road, yet despite that the M235i remains engaging, allowing the driver to enjoy the competence rather than it taking over.
Push beyond the limits in Sport Plus mode with the DSC stability control system turned off completely and there's nothing to be afraid of. The grip levels are well telegraphed via the steering (a variable sport system as standard) and if you try really hard to provoke the rear of the car into a slide (on a track of course) it will eventually oblige. It takes some effort to keep a drift going in such circumstances such is the grip, but it's huge fun.
Drive within the limits of the car's ability and it's no less impressive, tackling tight corners with aplomb. Turn-in is good and mid-corner adjustability on the throttle means it feels eminently agile. Strong brakes are a neat final touch and buyers of the M235i may opt to have a mechanical limited slip differential fitted by the dealer from BMW's M Performance Accessories catalogue if they're very serious about their driving.
Speaking of which, the M235i comes as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, which we would probably stick with, but the optional eight-speed automatic is really rather good. The Sport version was fitted to the test cars in the States, which brings with it launch control and tactile gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel. The transmission is as quick-witted as it is smooth in its changes so it makes for a satisfying drive. It certainly doesn't feel any less sporty because of it.
What you get for your Money:
BMW will offer the 2 Series Coupé in 218d, 220d, 225d M Sport and 220i guises along with the range-topping M235i variant. Trim levels vary from SE through Sport, Modern and M Sport with prices starting at €38,480 for the 220d SE. The minimum specification includes 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, climate control, Bluetooth and auto wipers. On top of that the M235i features the bespoke styling inside and out, including 18-inch wheels.
There aren't many similarly sized sports coupés on the market with the M235i's power and price combination. The models listed above come close and each has their own advantages, but the BMW seems good value from that perspective.
While nobody at the launch event would openly admit that an M2 is in the pipeline, we were told that a road-going version of the M235i Racing (a BMW Motorsport product sold to customer racers) was considered, but then dropped, as it might step on the toes of something else in the line-up above it... It wouldn't be difficult to imagine a successor to the fantastic 1 Series M Coupé using styling cues from the racer and some of the new M4's chassis technology.
Though considerably different in appearance to the 1 Series hatchback, the new 2 Series Coupé isn't all that far removed from it. Incremental improvements have been made throughout to ensure it's bang up to date though and the line-up is a good one. As for the M235i, well, it offers a compelling blend of everyday usability with engaging dynamics and performance that is hard to rival at this price point.