This vehicle is perfect for anyone seeking a bit of attitude in the design but luxury levels of space
Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader
First there were the 1, 3, 5 and 7-Series. Then they filled in the gaps with the 2, 4, 6 and 8-series, which were sportier versions. And then they got obsessed with niches, so we have, in the case of the BMW 2-Series, the coupe, convertible and Active Tourer versions and now this, the Gran Coupe. There is already an 8-Series, 6-Series and 4-Series Gran Coupe, and it essentially means a cross between a two-door coupe and a four-door saloon, so a sporty four-door, really. Customers will be those who like a bit of attitude in the design but luxury levels of space. BMW reckons the 2-Series Gran Coupe customer will be 30-40, coupled up, urban, successful, extroverted and with a “high affinity with digital touchpoints”.
The base cost of £25,815 feels like you’re getting a lot of car for the money, but this can quickly rise as you get towards the car we’d all want: the M235i Gran Coupe which, with all the bells and whistles, will cost you £37,225 plus the extra comfort and tech packs you’ll want on board. A realistic price lies somewhere in between – buy the base 218i model then spec it up a bit with use of some M Sport options, to a price point of about £30,000.
If you want to keep fuel costs right down, go for the 220d diesel option, although not if you live somewhere where they charge diesel drivers to go into the city centre…(note though that BMW’s new diesel engines are Euro6 compliant and among the cleanest there are, so will escape most diesel bans).
This car is all about style, mainly because if you want the same architecture and engines for less money, you’d buy a BMW 1-Series, which is essentially what this car is, with a longer rear. However, you can’t beat the blend of style and practicality here, which is the point of the gran coupe – it is a stretched coupe, and has a slinky low roofline that tapers off to a wide, powerful rear, with four doors and a decent boot.
We love the aggressive new styling for this car, with the headlights slanted into a scowl, the big trademark kidney grille, elegant frameless doors and flashy horizontal rear LED lights. BMW puts this car in the hands of male customers, partly because of the more aggressive styling, but we think this is the perfect design for women: it says don’t mess with me, while appearing to offer plenty of protection with all that bodywork.
Inside, the surfacing that flows round the dash onto the doors is illuminated – choose your colour via the touchscreen to suit your mood.
The car will receive software upgrades remotely, as your smartphone will. BMW’s iDrive system remains one of the best, but has only ever been compatible with Apple CarPlay, That changes from here – this model gets Android Auto too, and the information from your phone can also be displayed in the head-up graphics on the windscreen.
The basic Sport trim level gives you front and rear parking sensors, two-zone air-con and lane-departure warning as well as that smartphone connectivity and crystal-clear satnav. Go up a level and you’ll get the connected package that includes tech like voice control and gesture control. We’re told both are the future but right now both feel very much in their infancy – gesture control is unreliable and voice control can’t do very much, plus you have to start every command with “Hey BMW!” which just makes you sound like a wolly. And every time my passenger and I gestured at each other, the car would perform a task like turning the radio volume down. Grr. The digital cockpit, however, which gives you satnav between the two digital dials behind the steering wheel, is welcome.
This is the other reason you’d choose this over the 1-Series – there’s a surprising amount of leg space for four adults, plus the rear passengers don’t have to scramble to get in the back in some unseemly yoga move by pushing the front seats forwards. It’s the ideal car for a girls’ weekend getaway in our opinion, with that boot plenty wide enough for mini-break luggage for four.
And unless you plunge the drive mode into Sport and step on the throttle (which is undoubtedly fun), it’s a very serene driving experience.
The one thing we don’t like in BMWs these days, however, is the thick steering wheel they insist on putting in their cars. It’s like the Eighties minicab is calling all over again, with those thick bobbly rubber covers they used to put over the steering wheels. Apart from looking horribly boy-racer, they are really uncomfortable to grip for longer periods. Stop it, BMW.
It’s got to be the M235i. You get BMW’s most powerful 2.0-cylinder engine ever, with 306 horsepower, that boots this car to 62mph in 4.9 seconds. It also sounds the business, although some of BMW’s engine noise these days is artificial, to make it sounds like it’s exploding fuel when it’s actually sipping it – no complaints from us there. You also get M-Sport suspension and body styling which just screams at every car in front to get out of the way.
If you’re more of a wallflower, go for the 220d for supreme fuel consumption (50mpg is very possible), or the 218i for the little petrol engine, which still has plenty of verve.
You also get BMW’s brilliant, quick-changing eight-speed automatic gearbox with flappy paddles on the steering wheel.
We say defy the men in suits: just because a car is designed to be overtly aggressive, fast and a massive status symbol, why does that preclude successful extroverted female customers? There are plenty out there…