Exterior changes are minimal, but headlights are now illuminated with LEDs in a choice of two light packages.
Johannesburg - As the 3 Series has grown ever larger with each successive generation, BMW in 2006 decided to introduce the downsized 1 Series to bring back some of the driving vibe of earlier, lighter BMWs - not to mention a more affordable price.

Sales proved to be a success, and when the second-generation car was launched the Coupé and Cabriolet derivatives were renamed the 2 Series, with the 1 Series remaining as the hatchback version.

Late in 2017 the two-door, four-seater 2 Series was given a midlife upgrade in South Africa with exterior and cabin enhancements, along with upgraded infotainment options. The subtle external revisions include new bi-LED headlights (adaptive full-LED lights are optional), as well as a larger grille, revised outer air intakes, and new LED taillights.

There are three new exterior paint options (Mediterranean Blue, Seaside Blue and Sunset Orange), while new alloy wheel designs have been added to the mix, in 17 and 18 inch sizes.

The instrument panel gets a new design, and the air vents and other parts of the dashboard have been tweaked, while BMW has added some new upholstery options.

As usual there are dozens of optional extras to tick off the spec sheet, but if the car’s regularly going to have different drivers I’d recommend coughing up the extra R11 200 for the electrically adjustable front seats, as BMW’s manual adjusters aren’t particularly user-friendly.

Touchscreen functionality has trickled down from bigger BMWs, as part of the optional Professional nav system.

The infotainment system comes with a 22.3cm display and the iDrive Touch controller and the standard Business navigation, but spending R13 900 on the optional Navigation system Professional adds touch-screen functionality as well. Our test car was also fitted with the new inductive charging tray for smartphones, a R2300 convenience that prevents cable clutter.

If the budget allows, you can also opt for driver-assistance safety features that have filtered down from BMW’s larger cars, including Active Cruise Control (R8100), and Driving Assist (R6800) which gives the car “eyes” and warns if you’re drifting out of your lane or approaching another car or object too fast.

The 2 Series is available in three grades: the standard Sport Line or the optional Luxury Line and M Sport. The M Sport package (R21 200) and 18 inch Jet Black mags (R13 300) livened up the looks of our test car but the added visual flair doesn’t come cheap.

A compact two-door coupé isn’t the first choice of family car and rear-seat space inside the 2 Series cabin is rather tight, but two adults can fit without suffocation if the front passengers are charitable about moving their seats forward. The boot swallows a fairly reasonable 390 litres of luggage, and the rear seats flip down to accommodate bulkier items.

The engine range is unchanged with 220i and 230i turbopetrol fours, and the 250kW/500Nm three-litre turbopetrol straight-six M240i, while the 220d is the sole diesel derivative.

It’s the 220d on test here, and though the badge may lack some glamour it’s the best buy in the range for its combination of fuel-sipping economy and satisfying performance. That four-cylinder turbodiesel engine is a gutsy performer even in bigger cars such as the 5 Series, and in this lighter car its 140kW and 400Nm outputs come alive in an endearing way.

It springs off the line in a fairly enthusiastic seven seconds according to BMW’s figures, but more important is the easy and effortless nature of the power delivery. With all 400Nm of torque on call from just 1750rpm it feels strong across the rev range all the way up to its 230km/h top speed.

It’s powerful enough to bring out the playful side of that lightweight rear-wheel drive chassis, five-link rear suspension, and 50:50 weight distribution. An electronic differential lock also allows early throttle thrusts out of tight turns without wheelspin.

All this makes for an enthusiastic corner-carver that lives up to the brand’s driver-focused reputation, especially with the car’s personality switched to Sport or Sport+ mode via the Driving Experience Control button which sharpens up the steering and throttle response.

The eight-speed Steptronic auto is a slick-shifting treat, but purists who want to save some money can opt for the six-speed manual version which costs around 20 grand less.

Our test car’s low-profile 18 inch tyres and optional M Sport suspension (R4400) made the ride quite firm without being jarringly uncomfortable.

The real winner is fuel economy, and even though the test car didn’t come near BMW’s claimed 4.1 litres per 100km, it still sipped a very respectable 5.8 litres in real-world driving.

VERDICT

This is BMW’s driver-focused vibe and premium feel condensed into a smaller and lighter rear-wheel drive car. It’s a compact two-door coupé that’s big on driving pleasure, and in diesel form it offers impressive fuel economy without detracting from the car’s fun-to-drive appeal.

The R566 600 pricetag (without options) includes a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty and five-year or 100 000km Motorplan.

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FACTS

BMW 220d Coupé AT

Engine: 2.0-litre, turbodiesel
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Power: 140kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
0-100km/h (claimed):7.0 seconds
Top speed (claimed):230km/h
Fuel consumption (Tested, Gauteng)5.8 litres per 100km
Price: R556 600
Warranty: 2-year/unlimited km
Maintenance plan:5-year/100 000km

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