2014 BMW 228i Review

Back to Basics Never Felt so Good

2014 BMW 228i Review

Believe it or not there was a time when BMW didn’t offer crossovers; they were all about the 3, 5 and 7 Series models, three kinds of wurst, three different girths. But today they’ve got a broad portfolio of sport activity vehicles, products that make up a huge portion of their annual sales.

FAST FACTS

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic is standard in every 2 Series but a six-speed manual is available at no extra cost.

Fuel Economy: 23 MPG City, 36 MPG highway, 28 MPG Combined with manual transmission.

Price: The 228i kicks off at $33,025; the performance-oriented M235i starts at $44,025.

Bucking this unfortunate trend is the all-new 2 Series, an enthusiast-focused coupe that serves as a replacement for the 1 Series. With truncated dimensions, rear-wheel drive and turbocharged engines it’s an enthusiast vehicle through and through, even in entry-level guise.

If you’re of the nostalgic persuasion you can consider this car a spiritual successor to BMW’s legendary 2002, a sports sedan that was introduced in the early 1960s. One of the company’s most famous vehicles ever, it’s a product that solidified their reputation as a builder of entertaining cars. In fact the mere mention of this classic little Bimmer has caused many an automotive journalist to spasm uncontrollably and discharge copious amounts of oral froth; it makes them happier than a badger in a beehive.

Likewise the 2 Series promises tons of fun in a pint-sized package. In a lot of ways it’s a back-to-basics product for BMW that focuses on driver engagement and relatively affordable pricing.

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VANILLA AND CHOCOLATE

Two varieties of 2 Series Coupe are available. The 228i serves as the entry-level offering, but there’s also a more performance-oriented version: the M235i.

Regardless of which flavor you choose, they share important dimensions. Compared to the retired 1 Series this car is nearly three inches longer, is more than an inch wider and the span between the front and rear wheels has been stretched by 1.3 inches (totaling 105.9). The result of this engineering tomfoolery is more front head room and more leg space for back-seat riders. Trunk capacity is up as well, falling just short of 14 cubic feet.

PREMIUM FEATURES

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Along with its modest size increase the 2 Series is supposedly more premium as well. According to BMW it raises the bar in the subcompact luxury segment, offering standard features like dual-zone climate control and iDrive with a 6.5-inch display screen. Upscale options include adaptive headlamps, parking assist, real-time traffic alerts and advanced cruise control.

The 2 Series should compete with a raft of new luxury models invading the compact segment, cars including the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, Audi A3 and Cadillac ATS.

Designers and Engineers did a nice job with the 2 Series’ body. It’s tight and clean with much more attractive proportions than its frumpy predecessor. The same is true of the car’s interior. It’s attractively styled with a driver-focused feel, though the dashboard is made from a coarsely textured plastic that doesn’t look all that rich; it’s soft to the touch but somewhat down-market.

Our stripped down test car also featured cumbersome manual seats that were covered in the company’s SensaTec material, a squishy feeling imitation-leather presumably harvested from simulated cows living in virtual pastures eating ersatz grass. It’s not a terrible substance, but it does lack the suppleness of genuine animal skin.

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Minor quibbles aside, the car is comfortable and fulfills its intended purpose. The driving position is supportive, the sightlines are good and many controls fall right at hand. The steering wheel is especially nice; it’s fat and grippy like a portly porcupine.

BOOSTED PERFORMANCE

The BMW 228i is motivated by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With direct fuel injection, variable camshaft timing and other performance-enhancing goodies it whips up 240 creamy horses along with 255 lb-ft of torque, which is available between 1,250 and 4,800 RPM.

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An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard in both versions of the 2 Series, though a six-gear manual is available as a no-cost option. On the subject of extras, the little things really add up with this car. Heated front seats cost $500; automatic high-beams are an additional $250; paint colors other than black or white jack the price $550; leather trimmings set you back nearly 1,500 bucks. Items like these should probably be standard but instead they cost more; this is likely a strategy to make the car’s base price a little more attractive to would-be buyers.

PRICING AND FUEL ECONOMY

Base price for the 228i is $33,025, including $925 in destination fees. The up-level M235i kicks off at right around 44 grand ($44,025). Again that figure includes delivery charges.

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Looking at entry-level offerings, the 2 Series coupe is a little pricier than comparable sedans from Audi or Mercedes. The cheapest A3 is just about $2,000 less; ditto for the CLA250. However, the spunky Cadillac ATS is slightly more expensive than the 228i.

As for fuel economy the 2 Series is surprisingly efficient. With the auto-magic transmission it stickers at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on the interstate; its combined score is 28 MPG. Opting for the manual lowers that average figure by 2 mpg.

THE DRIVE

Five minutes in the driver’s seat is all it takes to discern that the 228i really is The Ultimate Driving Machine. There’s a certain wholesomeness to the way it behaves; it’s honest and sincere with excellent manners. Think of it as Reinheitsgebot – the German beer purity law – but on wheels. Nothing adulterates this experience.

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Not only is this car a modern homage to the 2002, it also brings back fond memories of the E46 3 Series, a car that was right in so many ways. It fits like a well-tailored suit, cutting a lean silhouette yet providing just enough room for unencumbered movement; it really hits the sweet spot.

Power provided by the N20 engine is ample. A twin-scroll turbo helps bolster low-end performance without sacrificing high-speed vigor. Mash the accelerator from a standstill and not a whole lot happens before 3,000 RPM, but once you get a few revs on the clock, the boost comes up and everything starts working in synch things move really well.

The car is quite quick for having “only” 240 hp. Top-end pull is quite impressive as the engine sprints to redline. Encouraging delinquent behavior, especially in sport mode, the automatic transmission upshifts in the blink of an eye, grabbing the next gear and keeping the powerplant right in the heart of its performance range. This ZF eight-speed unit is pretty much spectacular in every application, the BMW 228i included.

Underway this engine is eerily smooth for a four-banger. Unwanted ruckus and irritating harmonics are absent; in a lot of ways it feels – and sounds – like an inline six, which is an engineering achievement.

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The chassis and steering live up to the engine. The car is fun to toss around, though it doesn’t seem overly sporty. Balance is a word that comes to mind.

THE VERDICT

The BMW 228i is an attractive small car that provides an entertaining on-road experience. It’s focused and purposeful without being intimidating or brutish. The car’s engine sings an alluring chorus that its chassis loves dancing to.

No, it’s not perfect. Some of the interior materials are a little economical and if you want any substantive features you’re going to pay extra for them. But designers and engineers nailed this coupe’s fundamentals. The 2 Series revives the best of BMW’s rich heritage and that’s worth celebrating.

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