Vehicle Style: 2-door luxury coupe
Price: $64,400 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 180kW/350Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 8sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.3 l/100km | tested: 9.9 l/100km
The two-door coupe, remarkably, while not yet 'rare', is becoming 'rarer'.
There was a time when the style was rampant - Corolla, Civic, Paseo, Nissan Silvia and NX, Astra, Tiburon: across all brands, the swoopier two-door form was everywhere.
Most, at the 'average buyer' end of the market, have exited stage left.
But not the case further up-market. Like BMW, a company that has built a reputation on driver-focused cars, it hasn't given up on the bodystyle. Better still, it isn't afraid to tuck a rorty engine under the bonnet.
And better again, it channels its power to the rear wheels. There may be a family-focused front-wheel-drive BMW that wears the 2 Series badge, but the 228i Sport line Coupe under test here is for 'drivers'.
This model sits as something of a ‘middle child' in the 2 Series Coupe range, but it is every bit the sporting car.
There's a less potent four-cylinder below it in the range and a more raucous, more expensive, six-cylinder above.
But with a strong turbo four in situ, the 228i really is a ‘happy medium' - swift, sure-footed and priced within reach.
- Bluetooth phone and audio, dual-zone climate control.
- Cruise control with speed limiter, trip computer.
- Six-speaker AM/FM stereo, sat-nav, USB audio input, steering wheel audio controls.
- Leather upholstery.
- Reverse parking sensors and rear view camera.
- Boot space: 390 litres, expandable via 60:40 folding rear seat.
Earlier models, like this 228i Coupe, feel a little less 'up to the minute'.
That's not to say the interior is sub-par or badly designed, but it misses out on some of the latest top end materials - and now feels a little below the $64k price of entry.
On the other hand the ergonomics are almost flawless.
The driving position feels racey, you sit low in the seats, comfortably placed between wheel and pedals, at all times ready to 'strike'.
Rear seats, as expected for the small dimensions, are relatively tight.
Adults will still fit in, and the boxy roof-profile provides adequate head room and a generous view out the side windows, but knee space is scant.
Cabin storage includes two front cup-holders and a compact centre console. More generous storage can be found in the long door-pockets and glovebox.
At the rear, boot space measures 390 litres and can be expanded by dropping the 60:40 split fold rear seat.
The boot itself is deep and wide, but the opening is narrow thanks to the intrusion from the wide tail lights, with a high load lip as well.
ON THE ROAD
- 180kW/350Nm 2.0 turbo petrol four-cylinder.
- 8-speed automatic with sport mode and paddle shifters.
- Rear-wheel drive.
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension.
- Disc brakes front and rear, sliding calipers.
With just the right angry note approaching the top end, and plenty of frenetic energy right through the rev range, the 228i is a terrific sporting drive.
Peak power measures 180kW between 5000 and 6500rpm and torque tops 350Nm between 1250 and 4800rpm. That allows plenty of punch down low, but, give it its head and there's a building crescendo of high-performance noise and power if you keep the foot down.
Delivering that oomph to the rear wheels is the choice of either a six speed manual, or eight speed automatic. We drove the auto, and this transmission really shines.
Gearshifts are crisp, but seamlessly smooth. The more assertively you drive, the more rewarding it becomes.
Kickdown is met with a lightning-fast throttle blip.
Cycling through the drive modes, from the most conservative EcoPro through to the more athletic Sport settings, brings discernable changes to the car's behaviour.
Steering gains (or sheds) weight with each setting change. 'Sport' mode leans toward the heavy side, especially noticeable at lower speeds.
But thread it through the right piece of sinewy tarmec at speed and the setup makes perfect sense with beautiful steering feel and feedback.
As a commuter car, the 228i seems a little held back in the more conservative, fuel-saving electronic settings.
It wasn't until we opened the taps on a winding section of road in the Victorian Goldfields that the package really began to sing.
With the stability control loosened off the rear-drive chassis really comes alive. The 228i dances from corner to corner with remarkable steering precision and throttle response.
Alert steering and a communicative rear axle provide all the info you could need about the conditions passing underneath.
The front end can wash into early understeer, but there's no need to come in hot. The 228i will happily accept a large dollop of brake and slingshot itself out of a corner, hungry for the next.
Those kinds of spirited runs also explain why the 228i wasn't able to match its claimed 6.3 l/100km fuel consumption.
A few more sedate highway miles should make it easy to improve on the 9.9 l/100km figure we achieved on test.
ANCAP rating: The BMW 2 Series has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: Multi-stage stability and traction control, ABS brakes with EBD and brake assist, dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
While the coupe may be vanishing there's still a couple of options available. No one does premium, compact and rear wheel drive - BMW has that niche to itself.
For the same money however you could buy a pair of Toyota 86s (one for work, one for track, perhaps?)
The real competition comes from a small contingent of front, or all-wheel-drive coupes with an outside contender from Japan that takes the battle to the streets
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 228i makes a better sports car than it does a luxury car. For BMW brand purists that's great news.
Reviving the spirit of its spiritual forefather, the 2002 - only stacked with modern amenities.
The 228i delivers an appropriate blend of commuter civility with a sporting bent just made for weekends on the open road.
The depth of its ability won't show on the surface, and you probably won't discover it on an average test drive.
Take it from us, though: beneath the sat nav, climate control and leather seats there's a really entertaining and playful sports car just waiting for you and a rapid set of bends.
With a top-shelf M235i knocking on the door of $80k, the $64k 228i is placed right in a sweet-spot - premium sports motoring, but not out of reach.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- BMW 220i Coupe - $50,500
- BMW 220d Coupe - $52,500
- BMW 228i Coupe - $64,400
- BMW M235i Coupe - $80,400