Five-Point Inspection: 2015 BMW 228i

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

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The 228i may be the cheapest car in the BMW lineup, but it’s also one of the most authentic. It’s the one that reminds us of older BMWs rather than newer niche vehicles like the X4 and four-door “coupes.”

Replacing the old 1 Series, the 2 Series is about three inches longer, more than an inch wider and features a wheelbase that is 1.3 inches longer. It also looks better than the oddly proportioned 1 thanks to smoother lines. The complete look is less busy than any other BMWs or even the Mercedes CLA: the 228i’s main competitor.

But while it’s clear that the Mercedes CLA is for customers looking to buy a badge, the 2 Series actually delivers on what its brand stands for. This is a no-frills BMW coupe, one that looks back to the BMW heritage of fun, engaging, rear-wheel drive cars that get the basics right.

The 228i is the base model in the lineup and the most affordable car in the BMW range. It sports a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out 240-hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. But there’s something more to the 228i than the numbers. For starters, it doesn’t sound anything like a buzzy four-cylinder. Instead it reminds us of BMW’s old inline sixes. While BMW has been known to “enhance” their cars soundtrack, if true in this car, it’s a nice addition.

You can get the car with either a six-speed manual transmission or get an eight-speed automatic for no extra cost. While enthusiasts will likely flock to the manual shifter, the eight-speed is no slouch, helping the 228i rocket to 60 MPH in under 5.5 seconds.

For reference, the epic E46 M3 that so many BMW fans praise does the 0-60 sprint in five seconds. While this car isn’t as raw as an M-car (you can look to the M235i, or upcoming M2 for that experience) it will be refreshing for BMW buyers to know that the cheapest model in the BMW range is as quick to 60 as the old icon.

Summing up the 228i’s driving dynamics in one word is easy: balance. The car can be comfortable and liveable on the road for even the most arduous commutes, but when the traffic disappears and the road begins to snake, the car’s excellent handling characteristics come to life. Any way you choose to drive; whether it’s right foot down 100 percent of the time or carefully, calculated and gently, the 228i will accommodate easily.

It’s not just the suspension and steering that’s well balanced, it’s the weight. This car has nearly a perfect front-to-rear weight distribution at 50.8 front: 49.2 rear. The M235i has a bigger engine and more plumbing, making the car heavier and less balanced. As a result, the 228i, weighing in at just around 3,300 lbs could end up being both the enthusiasts and the average consumer’s best choice thanks to its better weight management, versatile driving dynamics and solid price.

Those looking for all-year capability will be happy to know that BMW is now offering its xDrive all-wheel drive setup in the 2 Series lineup for just $1,700 more, although it’s only available with the eight-speed automatic and does add about 150 lbs. to the car.

Helping making the car feel so telepathic on the road is the excellent ergonomics of the vehicle. Everything feels like it was designed around the driver, which allows the car feel very natural.

Still, this is a small car. While I’m just about six feet tall and felt comfortable, the 2 Series could feel claustrophobic for anyone a bit taller than myself.

Interior appointments are surprisingly good, considering there isn’t a cheaper car in the BMW lineup. There are very few places which feel like BMW conceded to cost cutting and overall the car feels like any other BMW found in the showroom.

Standard dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto on/off headlights and one-touch windows help make the car feel like a premium, well-equipped vehicle.

Starting at $33,050 including destination, the base 228i is a fraction of what we sampled. Our tester included the $2,200 Sport-line which included some more aggressive trim and a lowered suspension setup.

Our car also came equipped with a few pricey packages including the $700 cold-weather package which includes a heated steering wheel and seats, the $2,150 technology package which adds navigation, the $950 driver assistance package which adds a rear view camera and parking sensors and the $4,050 premium package which adds a moon roof and convenience features like auto-dimming mirrors. The total price rang in at $43,650 thanks to the extra cost paint and leather seating.

That price is just shy of the $44,050 entry price of the M235i, so if you’re not interested in features and just want more power, the M235i may be the better bargain.

What makes the 228i so worthwhile is the fact that its competition is really compromised. Consider the CLA 250, and Audi A3, which both sport less horsepower and are less balanced in terms of driving dynamics. The CLA 250 has also been called out for being a bit too diluted compared to the rest of the Mercedes lineup, something that can’t be said about the 2 Series.

As a car that is affordable and still true to its brand motto, the 228i is an excellent option in the small, entry-level luxury car segment due to its fantastic driving dynamics and powertrain.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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Join the conversation
  • Alex Kozovski Alex Kozovski on Nov 11, 2014

    I love this car, great video!

  • Mark S Mark S on Nov 18, 2014

    Great review. Seeing a lot of positive vibes about the 228i, makes me think this is a better deal than the M235i. One thing on the 228i, you have the Sport Line, M Sport and Track Pack.....trying to work out which one to have gets interesting. You can have Sport Line and Track Pack together, but not the M Sport and Track Pack....which means you do not get the variable steering.