So, you get four seats – but rewarding rear wheel drive handling. A decent boot – but dynamic looks. Reasonable running costs – but all the power you could reasonably want. The result is a benchmark car in this segment.
So, what’s it like? Well, you settle in behind the wheel and everything seems just right, the driving position perfect: already, you’re feeling like driving rather than merely travelling. Punch the starter button, set off and you’ll find yourself looking forward to finding a road that will put the Bavarian maker’s bold claims for this car to the test.
Get to the first open bend and you find yourself pushing a little harder than you might normally – just to see. Sure enough, power into a corner, dab the brakes, turn the wheel and it’s true. There’s a feeling of perfect control. Yes, this Convertible model’s extra weight does detract a little from the razor-sharp handling you get in the 2 Series Coupe: that’s down to the extra strengthening BMW has added into this derivative, making it fully 20% stiffer than the old 1 Series drop-top. This model still easily sets the dynamic standard in its class though, thanks to ideal 50:50 axle load distribution, optimised aerodynamics, a long wheelbase and a low, ideally balanced centre of gravity. All of it combines with the distinctive rear wheel drive layout that’s unique amongst four-seater models in this class and there to give this car its impressive agility.
On the move like this with the roof up, you might notice that progress is surprisingly refined – in comparison with its predecessor, this car is claimed to be 4db quieter. But of course, there are some times when you really want to hear the engine – roof-down for instance. Retracting the hood takes just 19s and can be completed at speeds of up to 30mph. There’s a bit of buffeting involved of course in driving al fresco, but it’s not too bad by class standards and you can keep the blowyness in check by fitting an optional wind deflector over the back seats.
All 2 Series Coupe models get Twin Power Turbo technology and any one of them is going to be a pretty rewarding thing to own – and to drive.
It’s as well though, that the German marketeers have decided not to carry across the feeblest powerplants from the 1 Series hatchback into this 2 Series line-up. Which means that the range begins with the 136bhp 218i petrol model, plus you can talk to your dealer about the alternative of a 143bhp 218d diesel derivative. Better still is the 190bhp 220d diesel variant that’s also been engineered to work with optional xDrive AWD.
If you prefer not to fuel from the black pump, the 184bhp 220i petrol variant improves that showing to 7. 5s and 143mph.
These kinds of figures give you some idea of the performance potential lurking further up the line-up. Which of course is where the really exciting engines are to be found. Take the 228i, the petrol-powered pocket rocket that gives you a four cylinder engine with the punch and performance of a ‘six’. In this case, we’re talking of a 245bhp 2. 0-litre turbo four that catapults this coupe to sixty two mph in just 6. 1s on the way to 155mph. It’s a desirable machine then – but here, I’ve an even nicer one, the awesomely fast M235i.
At launch, it was the only six cylinder 2 Series Convertible model you could buy and the 3. 0-litre powerplant has 326bhp on tap, 11bhp more than a Porsche Boxster S if you’re interested. So it's seriously quick, with more power than the M3 Convertible models that used to adorn my bedroom wall.
Cast your mind back: how many really pretty four-seater compact convertibles can you think of? If, like me, you’re struggling to remember many, then you’ll particularly appreciate what BMW has tried to do here. In place of its predecessor’s rather apologetic look, this 2 Series has a more confident, assured demeanour.
The stretched silhouette is certainly BMW through and through, with its long bonnet, short overhangs and rear-based cabin.
But you’ll be wanting to know about the roof.
There don’t seem to be too many downsides these days to having a fabric hood rather than a metal folding one. The tough three-layered material used here is as resistant to Stanley knives and malfunctioning garage car washing machines as it will be to the ravages of the toughest snowy winter.
With the hood up like this, you get a pretty reasonably-sized 335-litre boot – that’s 15-litres more than you get from a rival Audi A3 Cabriolet. This advantage disappears though, if you retract the roof again, thanks to the way cargo room reduces to 280-litres, though that is still 30-litres more than the old soft-top 1 Series model offered.
Time to take a seat behind the wheel.
A driver-focused car should have a driver-focused cockpit – and this one does. In fact, there are very few small sporting models in the world that set you up better behind the wheel. Take a look around and as I’ve already suggested, it’s functional rather than flash, with the Munich-maker’s now-familiar design language of two black-faced instruments in a driver-focused cowl.
Time to check out the rear seat.
Once inside, you’ll predictably find leg and headroom as tight as it is with most models in this class – certainly tighter than it would be in a comparable 2 Series Coupe, though small improvements have been made here over the old 1 Series model – enough to make these pews more usable for adults on short journeys.
This is the small, compact sporting convertible that many of us always felt BMW was capable of delivering. True, it’s still not the most efficient car in its class – and there’s the usual premium pricing to consider. What’s important though, is that this 2 Series Convertible is so much more usable and self-assured than its predecessor – and now the kind of car you really don’t need to make too many compromises to own.
In the final analysis though, what’ll sell this thing to you is its roadgoing experience, its lust for life and the way it’ll remind you of what driving used to be about when all that’s ahead is a ribbon of twisting tarmac. Ultimately, it’s the kind of car that BMW does better than almost anyone.