REVIEW | BMW's new-generation 2 Series has taken over the mantle from the 3 Series

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  • The BMW 220i is powered by a turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with outputs of 135kW and 300Nm.
  • Pricing starts from R815 000.
  • Some of its rivals include the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Porsche 718.

It's difficult to wrap your mind around just how much cars have evolved in the past few decades. Engine sizes have decreased, yet they make more power, and the age of electric mobility is already a holistic possibility worldwide.

Many automakers are (quickly) kicking internal combustion engines to the curb to make room for EV production. The wider petrolhead community isn't thrilled about the change because ICE-powered vehicles are likely to become a scarce commodity.

For example, the BMW Group plans to increase its delivery share of all-electric vehicles to 50% from 2025 onwards, with offerings like the i4, i7, iX, iX1 and iX3 already on sale in South Africa. Even though BMW is expanding its EV collective, it's still carrying on as usual by introducing a fully-fledged line-up of ICE offerings. Stricter emissions for what, then?

BMW 2 Series
BMW 2 Series

One equals 2 (Series)

As a token piece, the German automaker unveiled its M2 high-performance Coupé – serving as the headline of the 2 Series range. Before that, it was the controversial big-nosed M3, M4, M5, M8 and X SUV range. Regarding variety and performance, BMW certainly hasn't let its buyers down.

READ | We drive BMW's most subtle performance car, the M340i - is it still the junior M3?

The introduction of the 2 Series in 2014 basically served as a replacement for the E82, E87 and E88 first-generation 1 Series coupé. The F chassis was a hit among petrolheads, from the normal two-door coupé to the convertible and range-topping M2 (also in Competition guise). It boasted a sleek design, was rear-wheel driven and had a low centre of gravity – ideal for sideways tomfoolery.

Early in 2022, the new second-generation (G42) 2 Series was launched, adding to the existing 2 Series Gran Coupé on the books (currently priced from R665 000). While that specific model is significantly cheaper, it isn't rear-wheel driven and has two additional doors with a choice of two petrol engines and a diesel. In that vein, it's utterly different to the actual 2 Series Coupé, so BMW had to name it differently.

BMW 2 Series
BMW 2 Series

But back to the 220i that is priced from R815 000. Let me throw some specs your way – it's powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers 135kW and 300Nm, mated to an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. It accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds and runs to a claimed top speed of 236km/h.

While those performance statistics seem decent, it's not what this car is about – that's what the M2 is for.

At first glance, the G42 looks more like a 3 Series, and any similar assumptions won't be wide of the mark because it's actually based on the G20 chassis. This means it measures in with a length of 4 537mm and width of 1 838mm – compared to the 4 432mm and 1 774mm of the F22. The G42 also features a longer bonnet, longer wheelbase, short overhangs and muscular wheel arches with standard 17-inch alloy wheels tucked underneath.

This particular number came equipped with several (optional) M Sport cosmetic additions like 19-inch light alloy wheels, M emblazoned entry sills and M designation on the sides while also coated in a striking Brooklyn Grey Metallic body colour.

One thing I noticed was that the slats on the inside of the kidney grille looked "closed" when they can be electronically opened when the engine needs more air and stays closed most of the time. A cool feature, I think, adds a different dimension to the more upmarket exterior.

bmw 2 series
The all-new BMW 2 Series

The turbocharged 2.0-litre engine provides more than sufficient pulling power in a chassis that weighs 1 965kg, although there is a second or two of lag when immediate throttle input is needed, but then again, not all turbos are perfect. Gone is the nimbleness of the smaller (and lighter) chassis of the F22, the G42 feels sturdy in hands when aiming into a corner or road-holding when going just over the national speed limit.

BMW claims a fuel consumption figure of 6.3 litres/100km, but this is not one of those cars that you can drive slowly all the time. I constantly hovered around the 6.7-litre mark, and most driving was not done in Eco mode, mainly because the car automatically reverts back to Comfort when switched off, and I didn't bother changing it every time.

While it's impeccable at soaking up uneven surfaces, you feel the slight stiffness in the suspension when going over speedbumps. The transmission delivers smooth cognitive interpretation, especially during downshifts. What's the phrase? Smooth as silk. No clunkiness or hiccups.

The interior is decked out in typical BMW style, from a fully digital instrument display (complete with wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay) to a colourful touchscreen display and body-hugging leather sports seats. You cast your eyes on some black plastic bits here and there, but it's nothing to make you regret taking out a debit order on the car. You also get wireless charging, and further M Sport nomenclature can be seen on the inside of the door material and at the bottom of the (leather-wrapped) steering wheel.

Ferdi de Vos,bmw 2 series, 2 series, m240
Ferdi de Vos driving the new BMW 2 Series at the international launch in Germany in November 2021.

I am not too fond of the seat belt location that requires you to really stretch behind you to get, but it is a two-door, so the B-pillar is shifted back to accommodate the larger doors. It packs a punch in the rear, too, with a total boot capacity of 390 litres and, if needed, can seat two adults, though with a bit of seat adjustment from the driver, and "sitting nicely" is required. Coupés were never designed for large families anyway.

Even though it's not a traditional roadster anymore, BMW honed it to be a more driver-focused car.

For a similar price or less, there is also the X2 (priced from R725 000) or X1 (priced from R745 000) or 4 Series Coupé (priced from R830 000) – so quite a variety in the range.

The G42 oozes kerb appeal, and it doesn't need to have a raucous exhaust note to do it. The take-home lesson is that the 2 Series is effectively the new 3 Series.

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