Thursday 18 December 2014

Motoring: Model behaviour from BMW's new chic coupé

Published 04/05/2014 | 02:30

BMW 2-Series
BMW 2-Series

BMW is getting to the stage where it has more models than a fashion show. Unlike the ubiquitous beauty of the catwalks, however, some of its creations in the exponential expansion of model ranges haven't always looked that great.

The only reason some of these should be on a catwalk is because, visually, they are what we would colloquially call 'cat'. I'm thinking of some sawn-off variations of 5-series and 6-series. Sorry, but I do feel strongly about that.

So it was with a mixture of trepidation and real anticipation (some new ranges have been outstanding) that I took and drove the 2-series.

This is now the name reserved for new versions of what used to be 1-series coupés and cabrios.

So instead of the 1-series Coupé you get the 2-series Coupe (for the 3-series Coupé/Cabrio you get a 4-series).

It's a good idea. It just means there are more series than a television schedule.

The old 1-series became, after a fraught start, cool reception and many changes, a right decent little motor.

It was a bit cramped inside; the 5dr was my favourite. The Coupé was not. Its 2-series Coupé successor, on test, is not a revolutionary departure from it but on test it drew an awful lot of attention.

Somehow it just looks great. It is typically Beemer coupé-esque with setback cabin, long, broad snout and low-set stance.

Thankfully the roofline is lower (10cm); I never liked the 'hump' look on the predecessor. The bonnet, doors and front wings are shared with the 1-series but everything else has been changed in some way or other.

It looks a bigger, beefier car (it is broader, longer) with wider track (41mm front, 43mm rear) and a longer wheelbase (32mm).

It looked great in a lovely blue hue as the sun beamed down on us. The cabin is a good deal smarter and there's a lot more equipment. Nice too how the cockpit encircles the driver.

Two other elements really stood out for me. The steering was exceptional. It was more than sharp; it was engaging, and so precise I wished I could get it onto a track somewhere because you don't come across that sort of quality, aligned to what is an excellent suspension, too often.

The second was the 2-litre 4cyl diesel engine. With 184bhp on tap and an eight-speed transmission (optional: 6spd manual standard) to dole out the power (mine had steering-wheel paddles as well) it, and the steering, made this feel more like a sports coupé than just a coupé. Maybe it got a bit garrulous up the revs but that is not a major criticism.

I drove it on a great variety of roads – blessed with wonderful weather – and the farther I went the more I enjoyed its smart handling. That suspension is excellent (I could set it at Comfort, Sport etc).

However, don't go expecting this to carry four decent-sized adults. The rear seats are still cramped and even one of my smaller, adult passengers complained of how little space she had.

There is more rear room than the old 1-series, but I still think it is more suited to two adults and two not-so-tall children.

There was, in fairness, good room out front, but I still would have liked broader seats to accommodate less feline-like creatures such as me. We can't all have the figures of fashion models.

I was also disappointed at the lack of lumbar support. Instead, there was an electric-control button towards the front side of the seat that tightened side flaps in on your body.

I've no idea why – unless it is to flatter the fitter and classically sculpted among us.

For all that there is a decent boot with decent usable space (390 litres – up 20).

Finally, I'd have to say the price creeps up quickly from entry model level if you add a few bits and pieces.

I found myself saying quite a few times that this by no means represented anything like the value of a 5-series saloon for the same sort of money.

Don't get me wrong. I think it is a fine little car. And I can see why people would love to have one. It looks great and drove so well.

I have a feeling the 2-series, despite my reservations (especially on price), will go on to expand (a cabriolet version is planned) and prove BMW was right to give this a life of its own. Unlike one or two of its larger-model siblings, it has made this well worthy of its place on the automotive catwalk.

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