2016 BMW 230i REVIEW

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The BMW 2 Series received a major upgrade a few months back, with an emphasis on what’s under the skin rather than in facelifting and tail tucking the body. The emphasis was on added performance and further improvements to already good fuel efficiency. New-design engines are a big feature.

The 2 Series range is closely related to the 1 Series, but comprises the sportier models, the coupe and convertible bodies. Somewhat oddly, there’s also a station wagon, the Active Tourer, which is aimed at the sporting family wanting to transport sporty stuff from place to place.

Our test vehicle was the coupe version, the BMW 230i. The 30i engine is the replacement for the longtime, highly regarded 28i unit, with higher number representing the new generation engine design.

Though it’s not the quickest car in the range, the 230i is likely to be the biggest seller. Those who want even more grunt can go for the $74,900 M240i with its turbo-petrol 3.0-litre straight-six engine packing 250 kW and 500 Nm. The range begins at $51,300 for the 220i coupe.

STYLING
Very BMW at the front, with kidney-grille flanked by the headlights, but not actually connected to the lights as in some of the more recent designs in the range.

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The roof at the rear is slightly higher than we like when viewed in profile. We pity the designers of small cars as they have the conflicting needs of having a sleek rear end – and at the same time providing reasonable headroom in the back seat.

INFOTAINMENT
At 8.8 inches the screen in larger than in the outgoing 228i. It’s clear and easy to read. However, the screen is rather too wide and shallow for our tastes, particularly when using satellite navigation as the distance in front of the car is somewhat truncated.

Control is by the latest version of BMW’s iDrive. The use of conventional buttons to access many day-to-day functions, particularly in the audio departments is appreciated.

BMW ConnectedDrive Lifestyle is standard across the complete 2 Series range. It accesses internet and BMW Concierge Services; and provides real time traffic information.

Remote App functions, such as remote locking/unlocking, headlight flash and Google local search and send-to-car functions, are part of the impressive technology package.

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ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The new BMW 230i coupe is powered by a new-generation 2.0-litre four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo petrol unit with 185 kW of power. Torque is not only impressively high at 350 Nm, but is on tap for a huge range, starting in at 1450 rpm and going all the way up to 4800 rpm.

This powerplant in automatic mode sees a zero to 100 km/h times of 5.6 seconds for the coupe and 5.9 seconds for the convertible, the open-top car being heavier.

The engine uses the latest in BMW EfficientDynamics technologies to improve efficiency. Combined fuel consumption for the BMW 230i coupe is cut to 5.9 L/100km with CO2 emissions of 134 grams per kilometre.

Drive is to the rear wheels – Yes! – through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

SAFETY
The excellent BMW emergency call function may just help save your life if you have a crash, because the car will automatically call the BMW control centre call for help. Information will be passed to the emergency service people as required.

Naturally the car will do everything it can to avoid a crash, and provide maximum protection should an unfortunate incident still arise.

DRIVING
The front seats are sporty without being overly aggressive in the way they hold your backside. Getting into the back seats isn’t too difficult considering the size of the car. There’s not a lot of space back there and adults will have to juggle legroom front to rear. None of which is a criticism, after all this is a sporty small coupe.

Having the maximum 350 Nm of torque from just 1450 rpm and going all the way up to 4800 rpm almost makes eight forward speeds an overkill, pick a gear, any gear and there’s all that glorious grunt under your right foot.

The engine sounds great when worked hard, indeed even when just pottering along and is very BMW in the way it reacts to driver inputs. It works well with the auto and seems to sense what the driver wants to do virtually all the time. Would we prefer a manual gearbox? Yes, but these are gradually becoming a part of history.

Fuel consumption is rated at 5.9 litres per hundred kilometres in the 230i coupe. In real life driving we had no trouble in running between five and six litres on motorways, but the consumption jumped to between eight and ten litres around town. Even higher when we took it for a pleasure trip on our favourite roads behind the Gold Coast.

Handling is simply brilliant with huge cornering power, excellent feedback through the steering wheel and the seat of your pants. Being small and light the 2 Series is if anything even more enjoyable to punt along your favourite roads than its bigger brothers.

SUMMING UP
It’s good to see the German marque is taking the function-before-form route and showing its confidence in putting the research and development money into the engineering side. The company already has the cleanest, most economical range of cars on sale in Australia when the complete range is considered. The recent emphasis on pure electric and hybrid cars by BMW is particularly impressive.

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