Pricing starts at: €34,170.
Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol (140hp, 220Nm).
Emissions: 114g/km (€200 per year).
To understand the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, the first thing you need to do is ignore its name. While the tag undoubtedly adds some allure to the model, it’s a distraction.
The other Gran Coupes in BMW’s expansive line-up – i.e. the 4 Series Gran Coupe and the 8 Series Gran Coupe – started life as two-door sports coupes and then, in quite simple terms, BMW added more doors.
That’s not the case here, as the existing 2 Series Coupe is a sporty rear-drive number, while the 2 Series Gran Coupe is actually a front-wheel-drive car built on the same underpinnings as the current BMW 1 Series hatchback. In reality, what you’re looking at here is a 1 Series Saloon. Albeit one with frameless door glass to give it a bit of pizazz.
None of that really matters to most people. Oh sure, BMW diehards will snub their noses at the idea, but they’re not likely to be the target customer. Instead, conjure up an image of a new car buyer with some €35,000 to spend (or the equivalent on a monthly finance package).
The person I have in mind doesn’t have a need to carry any more than one, or maybe two children around, but they do like premium badges and they don’t want to follow the crowd into an SUV. Now, ask them, without showing them the cars, whether they’d like to put a 1 Series hatchback or a BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe in their driveway. I think most people would be swayed by the naming of the latter, even before they set eyes on the vehicle.
In fairness, the new 2 Series Gran Coupe makes for a cheaper than ever way into BMW saloon ownership. The 218i Sport we tested, for example, fitted with the optional automatic gearbox, is some €7,000 cheaper than the equivalent 3 Series. And, while the 2 Series Gran Coupe is nowhere near as imposing or impressive looking as its ‘big brother’, it’s still very much a BMW. Even the base equipment level is generously equipped, the quality is high and the switchgear just like that you’ll find through the BMW range. It’s not huge in the back, so if that’s your priority, look elsewhere, but up front it’s perfectly good.
The cabin is much the same as that of the 1 Series, which on the whole is no bad thing. Admittedly, the 2 Series Gran Coupe Sport gets an unusual upholstery finish as standard – described as Cloth Nivala/Sensatec – which is a little rough to the touch, if quite high-tech in appearance. The M Sport model comes with leather trim by default, which is much preferable. In terms of practicality, the Gran Coupe’s boot trumps the 1 Series hatchback’s official capacity (430 litres versus 380 litres) and the Gran Coupe also gets 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat backs that can be operated from inside the boot.
The range of engine options is still relatively limited, but we expect that to expand in time. Choose from regular petrol and diesel models or from the M235i xDrive high-performance model. The latter, featuring a 306hp petrol engine and four-wheel drive, is impressive, but for a niche market where buyers are willing to spend over €50,000 on such a thing. The 220d, meanwhile, offers a great mix of performance (190hp and 400Nm of torque) and economy (as high as 67mpg, officially), but it’s not cheap, from about €40,000, so it’s really only worth going for if you can make the fuel savings pay for the premium.
Most buyers should consider the entry-level 218i petrol variant of the Gran Coupe. It gets a modest turbocharged 1.5-litre engine, which is quiet and refined, but well able to hustle the Gran Coupe along when needs be. BMW quotes peak outputs of 140hp and 220Nm of torque, which may not sound like a lot, but it’s ample. This engine works particularly well with the automatic transmission. It’s a dual-clutch system, but one of the best of its kind in terms of smoothness of operation. And, while BMW’s engineers sensibly favoured comfort and refinement over outright cornering ability for the chassis of the 2 Series Gran Coupe, it’s still an accomplished car on the road, rarely putting a foot wrong, no matter what your driving style is.
Dyed-in-the-wool BMW enthusiasts have questioned the legitimacy of the 2 Series Gran Coupe and, while I sympathise with them when it comes to the naming of this new model, it’s also clear that the German company has clearly identified a cohort of buyers it didn’t previously accommodate. So, don’t think of this car as anything remotely like a coupe, but instead another four-door saloon option for those that might otherwise be considering the likes of the Audi A3 Saloon and the Mercedes A-Class Saloon (or even the Mercedes CLA, which is touted as a ‘four-door coupe’). Nothing difficult to understand about that, is there?