Don’t be fooled by the diminutive size and unassuming looks: the M235i is one of the most entertaining sports cars in BMW’s range. But is it worth a six-figure sum?
Powertrain and performance: 3.0-litre turbo petrol four, 240kW/450Nm, 8-speed automatic, rear-drive, Combined economy 7.6 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.8 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4454mm long, 1408mm high, luggage capacity 390 litres, fuel tank 52 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/40 front and 245/35 rear tyres.
We like: Linear power, rear-drive handling, driving position.
We don’t like: Might be too low-key looking for some, big price to go with the big performance.
How it rates: 9/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The M3 is one of BMW’s most iconic models. The current generation was unquestionably the best performance car of 2014; it’s a magnificent machine.
Yet, it’s come a long way from the first-generation M3 in 1985. It’s grown in size and complexity, to the point where it’s an entire segment (maybe more) up on where it started.
Might we respectfully suggest that if you really want the modern equivalent of that original M3, you’ll find it further down the BMW range in the form of the M235i.
Ths is not a “proper” M-car of course: the M235i is part of BMW’s M Performance range, which means it’s been tuned by the M-boffins but isn’t a comprehensive enough makeover to be a fully fledged M-car.
No matter. The 2-series coupe is a small car (based on the 1-series hatchback) but until the arrival of the M3/4, it was the most powerful six-cylinder petrol model in BMW’s range. It boasts a 3.0-litre turbo-six, with a sports eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s rear-drive of course, and thus not to be confused with that other recently launched 2-series, the Mini-based Active Tourer.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The M235i is an epic drive – especially considering how unassuming it looks. You might spot the badge, different bumper shape, signature M Performance ferric grey mirrors or the bright blue calipers of the upgraded M Sport brakes, but for the most part this car looks quite similar to any other 2-series coupe.
But it also bellows from under the bonnet and can rocket from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds (0.7sec behind the M4). Launch control comes as standard with the sports-tuned eight-speed automatic transmission.
The engine is a later development of the turbo-six than that fitted to the M135i hatchback. It makes an extra 5kW and while the coupe is slightly heavier than the hatchback (by about 25kg) it’s also slightly faster (0.1sec to 100km/h). All perhaps deliberately engineered to give the two-door the proper status in the range.
It is of course a rear-drive BMW, which means near-perfect weight distribution and a handling attitude that tends to suggest opposite-lock is a natural cornering state. It can be a very hard car to behave in, but then that’s your problem rather than BMW’s.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The interior is straight 1-series, with some M Performance-specific detail thrown into the mix, such as a special multi-function steering wheel, some subtle red-and-blue stitching and sports seats.
It all feels rather good though: the cabin is sports-car intimate without feeling cramped, the driving position is excellent and the switchgear well thought-out.
The origins of the cabin architecture may be humble, but the M235i is well-equipped – as you’d expect of a $100k car.
It has leather upholstery, the full Professional navigation system, an upgraded audio setup and some unique interior trim elements such as hexagon-design inserts and anthracite headlining.
The M235i also comes with BMW’s full range of ConnectedDrive services, including a 24-hour concierge who can provide you with travel information and even send directions straight to your car’s sat-nav.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? This is the bit where we get all sensible and point out that the M235i costs $33,100 more than the 220i coupe – itself a pretty impressive little car, with 135kW/270Nm from its turbo-four.
The M235i is also pretty special, having been breathed upon (if not completely transformed) by BMW M. So it’s expensive in one sense, but it’s also a truly great sports car that’s practical too, with good visibility and a big boot.
At $65,100 less than the M4, you could also argue that the M235i is an absolute bargain.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: $1300 with Driving Assistant package
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes with braking function
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon adaptive
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
- Keyless entry/start: No/Yes
- Lane guidance: $1300 with Driving Assistant package
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes for driver
- Rear ventilation outlets: No
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: $950
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Trip computer: Yes
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