Great cars don't always enjoy a lot of fanfare, and the 2015 BMW 2 Series illustrates the point. Before the 2 Series' debut last year, we knew it would be replacing the entry-level 1 Series -- but aside from its smoother styling, it just looked like a variation on the same sporty theme. Once you've driven the 2 Series, though, you'll likely wonder why there isn't more fuss about this attainably priced all-star. Its engines are relentlessly capable, its interior is much nicer than that of its predecessor and its superb handling makes it perhaps the purest driver's car in BMW's lineup.
Taking center stage for 2015 is the new 2 Series convertible, equipped with a fabric roof that powers up or down in 20 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. If you opt for Comfort Access (BMW's version of keyless ignition and entry), you can even operate the top remotely using the key fob. Also new this year -- and a significant departure from the strictly rear-wheel-drive 1 Series -- is xDrive all-wheel drive, offered on the coupes as well as the 228i convertible. If you want AWD in your two-door BMW, the case for buying the larger, pricier 4 Series just got a lot harder to make.
Indeed, it's easy to make the case that the Edmunds "A" rated 2 Series is one of the best values on the market. The "base" four-cylinder 228i hits 60 mph in about 5 seconds flat, yet it returns highway mpg in the mid-30s. The six-cylinder M235i, meanwhile, cranks out 20 more horsepower than the mechanically similar 435i, and its standard sport steering, adaptive dampers and big brakes (all available on the 228i via the Track Handling package) take this already superb two-door to a new level. Either way, the interior is worthy of BMW's reputation for high quality, and iDrive comes standard, too. What more could you ask for in this price range?
Well, OK, you might like an extra set of doors, which brings the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and the 2015 Audi A3 and S3 into play. Connoisseurs tend to prefer BMW's rear-wheel-drive dynamics, but these front-drive-based alternatives handle very well in their own right, and their four-door designs make them more versatile. We also recommend the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang, as its newfound refinement makes it a more plausible BMW substitute than ever before. But if you're looking for all-around excellence, it's tough to avoid the conclusion that the 2015 BMW 2 Series is the car to beat.
The 2015 BMW 2 Series is a two-door coupe or convertible with seating for four. There are two trim levels: 228i and M235i. The convertibles are equipped similarly to the coupes, except they feature automatic pop-up roll hoops and a power-operated fabric roof that's black by default, with two optional colors (Anthracite and Brown) enhanced by a metallic weave.
The 228i comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding heated side mirrors, cruise control, automatic dual-zone climate control, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel (with paddle shifters on automatic-transmission models), eight-way manual front seats and 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks. The standard electronics array includes Bluetooth connectivity, BMW's iDrive electronics interface with a 6.5-inch display and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio and a USB/iPod interface.
Aside from its more powerful six-cylinder engine, the M235i adds 18-inch wheels, summer performance tires, adaptive suspension dampers, sportier variable-ratio steering, upgraded brakes, adaptive xenon headlights with LED accent lights, a sport exhaust system, gray exterior mirror caps, an aerodynamic body kit, dark ("Shadowline") exterior trim, a rear spoiler and a sunroof. Inside, you'll find 10-way power front sport seats, driver memory functions, upgraded aluminum trim and an M Sport steering wheel. The M235i also comes standard with exterior and interior ambient lighting.
Options on the 228i include the M235i's xenon headlights and the somewhat confusing trio of the Sport Line, M Sport and Track Handling packages. The Sport Line package adds 18-inch wheels with a few different tire options, a non-adaptive sport-tuned suspension, eight-way manual front sport seats and a smattering of aesthetic upgrades (including black exterior mirror caps and red upholstery stitching).
The M Sport package is a pricier alternative to the Sport Line package that features the sport seats plus 18-inch M wheels (with similar tire options) and the M235i's adaptive suspension dampers, exterior upgrades (except the xenon headlights) and M Sport steering wheel.
The Track Handling package can be ordered either separately or in conjunction with the Sport Line or M Sport package. It adds the M235i's sportier steering and brakes, as well as -- if not already specified -- the adaptive dampersand a set of 18-inch wheels with summer tires.
In other words, if you want a 228i with the M235i's suspension bits, the Track Handling package will suffice on its own. But if you want the sport seats and styling enhancements, you'll need one of the other packages, too.
A number of packages are available on both the 228i and M235i. The Cold Weather package includes headlight washers, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The Driver Assistance package throws in front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. The Technology package adds a higher-resolution 8.8-inch display screen, an upgraded iDrive controller with a touchpad (allowing freehand text entry), an enhanced driver information display, a navigation system, real-time traffic, BMW Apps (including Pandora and Facebook integration) and BMW Remote Services (allowing smartphone control of remote start and climate settings, among others). The Driver Assistance Plus package requires the Driver Assistance and Technology packages and adds a lane departure warning system and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking and pedestrian detection.
Also offered on both models is the Premium package, which features a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery and satellite radio. The 228i's version additionally includes a sunroof, eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar support) and ambient lighting.
Stand-alone options include some of the above items plus automatic high beams, a self-parking system, enhanced USB and Bluetooth connectivity) and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. A mechanical limited-slip differential is available exclusively on the M235i.
Inside, the 2 Series employs an understated, driver-centric control layout that will be instantly familiar to BMW fans. Materials quality is very good for an entry-level luxury vehicle, giving up little to the ostensibly fancier 4 Series. BMW's iDrive infotainment system controls one of two available displays: the base 6.5-inch version or the Technology package's crisper 8.8-inch widescreen. While the iDrive system looks good and responds quickly to commands, we've found it often requires a few more clicks and whirls of the dial to access desired functions as compared to Audi's MMI or Mercedes' COMAND interfaces.
In typical BMW fashion, there are multiple front seat designs to choose from. Our preference is for the ultra-supportive sport seats, whether you get the 228i's optional manual chairs or the M235i's standard power thrones. As for rear passenger space, the 2 Series is a compact car, and adults won't fit comfortably unless they're compact themselves. That's not unusual for the segment, though, and the backseat works nicely as a parcel shelf or a place to buckle in small children.
Trunk capacity in the coupe is a respectable 13.8 cubic feet, and the rear seatbacks fold down to allow transport of longer items. In the convertible, BMW projects a 7 percent improvement over the 1 Series convertible's 8.5-cubic-foot cargo hold with the top down.
The 2015 BMW 2 Series is rear-wheel drive by default, but all-wheel drive ("xDrive") is optional on every model except the M235i convertible. An eight speed automatic transmission is standard, with a six speed manual offered as a no-cost option on RWD models only.
The 228i has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds testing, a RWD 228i with the automatic ran from zero to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds.
The M235i steps up to a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that pumps out 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. We hustled a rear-wheel-drive M235i automatic to 60 mph in a blistering 4.5 seconds (4.8 seconds for the convertible).
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2 Series depends on which engine you choose and whether you prefer a coupe or convertible. On the rear-wheel-drive 228i coupe with the automatic transmission it is 28 mpg combined (23 city/36 highway) and 27 mpg combined (23/35) with all-wheel drive. The RWD 228i manual drops to 26 mpg combined (22/34). The convertible 228i gets an estimate of 27 mpg combined (23/34) with RWD and 26 mpg combined (22/33) with AWD.
Fuel economy estimates for the M235i automatic stand at 25 mpg combined (21 city/32 highway) with RWD, and 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway) with AWD. The RWD M235i manual drops to 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway).
All 2 Series models have an automatic stop-start function, which shuts off the engine when you're stopped to save fuel. Automatic-transmission cars also have a launch control feature.
The 2015 BMW 2 Series is exceptionally civilized for a high-performance machine. Road and wind noise levels are luxuriously low in the coupe, though the convertible's interior is a bit louder than we'd like. Either way, the ride is firm but never harsh, even with the suspension calibrations at their sportiest. Driven normally, the 2 Series could fool you into thinking it's a personal luxury car. But if you feel like attacking some corners, the 2 responds with excellent body control, precise steering and unflappable poise -- especially with the M235i's (or Track Handling package's) upgrades. Few cars at any price are this composed at both ends of the spectrum.
In the engine room, the base 228i hardly feels like settling. Punching far above its nominal 240-hp rating, with superior fuel economy to boot, the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder is good enough to make you question the need for the M235i's 3.0-liter six-cylinder. But then you drive the exquisitely refined, astonishingly quick M235i, and you're quickly reminded why BMW's inline-6 engines are among the all-time greats. You really can't go wrong either way. The eight-speed automatic transmission is another highlight, responding smoothly and quickly to commands. It's heartening to see the sweet six-speed manual soldiering on as a no-cost option, at least for now.
Standard safety equipment on the 2015 BMW 2 Series includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes (with brake-drying and fading-compensation features), traction and stability control, and hill-start assist for manual-transmission cars. Front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and (on the coupe) full-length side curtain airbags are also standard.
Optional safety equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a lane-departure warning system and a frontal collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
During Edmunds testing, a 228i M Sport came to a stop from 60 mph in 111 feet, a better than average performance. The M235i was even more impressive, performing the same task in only 106 feet (104 feet for the convertible).
The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2 Series its top rating of "Good" in the small-overlap frontal offset, moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side impact and roof-strength tests. The 2 Series' seat and head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The 2 Series convertible debuts midway through the model year, and all models except the M235i convertible can be outfitted with all-wheel drive. There's also a new Track Handling package for the 228i, though it's basically last year's Dynamic Handling package by a different name.