What’s in a name?
The BMW 218i Gran Coupe is a 2 Series, but it’s not rear-wheel drive. Its name finishes with 18i but it doesn’t have a 1.8-litre engine, and it’s called a Gran Coupe when in reality it’s a four-door sedan with a sloping roof. Huh?
On paper, it’s hard to see where the 2 Series Gran Coupe fits. In reality it’s a rival to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3 sedans, designed to bring some of the sloping-roofed style of the 4 Series Gran Coupe to a price point more people can access.
Once upon a time, there was a place for stripped-out cars from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. As mainstream brands like Mazda and Hyundai up their game with more luxurious, powerful, and sophisticated small cars, that’s no longer the case.
Is it worth stretching to the 2 Series Gran Coupe if you’re looking at a top-end Hyundai i30 or Mazda 3 sedan, and can the sloping-roofed BMW tackle the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan in the luxury world?
The base 2 Series Gran Coupe on test here is priced from $52,900 before on-road costs, equivalent to just over $58,000 drive-away based on a Victorian postcode.
The other front-wheel drive 2 Series Gran Coupe, the 220i, is just $3000 more expensive and packs more power and torque. The range tops out at $75,900 before on-road costs for the all-wheel drive M235i xDrive.
Mercedes-Benz charges $50,294 before on-roads for the entry-level A180 Sedan, and the new Audi A3 sedan kicks off below $50,000.
If you’re after a taste of luxury but don’t need a German badge on your bonnet, the range-topping Mazda 3 G25 Astina is more than $10,000 cheaper than the 218i Gran Coupe, and offers a similarly long list of standard inclusions.
The 218i comes standard with the following features:
- M Sport exterior package
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- M Sport suspension
- 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Satellite navigation
- DAB+ digital radio
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
- Automatic stop/start
- LED headlights with LED front fog lights
- Automatic headlights
- Ambient lighting
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Black cloth/Sensatec upholstery
- Single-zone climate control
- Wireless phone charging
- Six-speaker sound system
It’s available with a number of options packages to fill out the standard equipment list.
You’ll notice there’s no adaptive cruise control or keyless entry in the 218i Gran Coupe unless you start spending more, both of which really should be standard on a $50,000 car. Our tester was fitted with the Comfort package.
The $2440 Comfort package adds:
- Keyless entry
- Electrically-adjusted front seats with electric lumbar adjustment
- Heated front seats
The $1331 Driver Assistance package adds:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Matrix LED headlights with auto high-beam
- Tyre-pressure monitoring
The $3700 Enhancement package adds:
- Metallic paint
- Electric sunroof
- 19-inch alloy rims
The $2200 M Sport Plus package adds:
- M Sport seats for driver and passenger
- Coloured seatbelts
- M rear spoiler
- M Sports Steering
- M Sport red-painted brake calipers
ANCAP and Euro NCAP haven’t crash-tested the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, but the closely-related 1 Series has a five-star rating based on testing carried out in 2019.
Eight airbags are standard across the range.
All 2022 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupes come standard with the following active safety features:
- AEB (low-speed) with pedestrian detection
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Reversing camera
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
From behind the wheel, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is near identical to the 1 Series. That’s no bad thing.
Unlike the related X1 SUV, the 2 Series GC looks and feels properly modern. A dual-screen setup is standard, and the dashboard is equal parts angular and attractive. BMW has also made a cool ambient lighting setup standard, for some serious showroom appeal.
The fundamentals are classic BMW. The fat steering wheel is lifted from cars like the M340i xDrive, and the seats drop right down to the floor. There’s plenty of under-thigh support, and the bolsters hold you nicely without squeezing too hard – they’re adjustable, although even the most relaxed setting was still nice and sporty for me.
BMW does ergonomics better than most, and there’s very little wrong with the driving position. Everything is within easy reach even with the seat as far back as it can go, and the broad transmission tunnel means the 2er feels big inside.
Material quality is generally good. The steering wheel is a quality item, and the bits that look like metal also feel like metal. All the buttons and dials click in a premium way, and the centre console doesn’t squeak or rattle.
Even the head-up display has been lifted from more expensive members of the BMW range.
Storage spaces abound, and there are both USB-A and USB-C ports up front. There’s also a wireless phone charger, although my iPhone Pro Max doesn’t actually charge in there because of how the cradle is shaped.
The central infotainment system is among the best in the business. It responds to ‘Hey BMW’ voice commands, is responsive to touch, and also has a rotary controller on the transmission tunnel with shortcuts to all its major functions.
Throw in the fact wireless CarPlay is standard, and the screen is both quick to respond and high-resolution, and you have a winning combination. Factory satellite navigation is also standard, with live traffic updates making it a useful backup for CarPlay and Google Maps.
The standard stereo is excellent, with punchy bass and decent clarity when you crank the volume up.
The driver is faced with a digital instrument cluster which is visually busy, and light on information compared to what Audi offers with its excellent Virtual Cockpit. BMW has some work to do on that front.
Things aren’t quite so rosy in the back. Legroom is acceptable but far from standout compared to cars like the i30 and Mazda 3 sedans, and headroom is impacted by the sloping roof.
There are no rear vents, although BMW does fit USB-C chargers back there.
The 2 Series Gran Coupe isn’t meant to be the practical BMW you buy with around $50,000 though, that’s the role of the X1. It’s also far from alone in being tight in the second row; its Mercedes-Benz and Audi rivals are also tight back there.
There’s also a fold-down central armrest with cupholders, and the bench folds 60:40 to free up more boot space.
Boot space is 430 litres. Unlike the bigger 4 Series Gran Coupe, the 2 Series GC doesn’t have a more practical hatch-style liftback tailgate.
Instead, the small boot lid opens to reveal a flat load space that’s just big enough to take a set of golf clubs with the false floor in place.
You can also fold away the floor to create a deeper boot, although the shape of the tailgate opening limits the size of any item you’re able to carry back there.
It’s a shame BMW hasn’t committed to the 4 Series Gran Coupe formula and made the 218i a liftback, because it’d make it a more practical car.
Power in the 218i Gran Coupe comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine. It makes 103kW of power and 220Nm of torque, and is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission powering the front wheels.
Claimed fuel economy is 5.9L/100km on the combined cycle, and the 2 Series drinks 95 RON premium unleaded. We saw closer to 8.0L/100km during our week behind the wheel, with a strong skew to city driving.
It has a 50L fuel tank.
The 218i Gran Coupe shares its bones with the Mini Hatch.
In some ways, BMW has managed to make its smallest Gran Coupe feel more grown up than its underpinnings would suggest. In others, the 2er feels a bit unrefined.
Although it’s a small-displacement three-pot, the engine doesn’t feel underdone in the real world. Peak torque is on tap just off idle, and it sticks around all the way through the mid-range. You don’t need to push hard to keep up with traffic, and there’s fun to be had pushing the thrumming little three-cylinder engine towards the redline.
The downside it that it doesn’t feel particularly relaxed or effortless. Even on light throttle inputs, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission hangs onto first and second gear until between 3000 and 4000rpm, where it’s a bit buzzy and noisy.
In a Mini that’s quite a charming, engaging characteristic. I don’t know that it’s as charming in the 218i.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is relatively smooth off the mark, although it can be a little bit sharp and get the front wheels spinning if you get too keen with the throttle from a standstill. Flicked into Sport it slams gears home with real intent, although it doesn’t have much of an impact on the engine’s performance.
The start/stop system is a bit aggressive, shutting down the engine sharply as you come to a stop and jerking it back to life when you lift off the brake. It feels unrefined, and you need to turn it off every time you get behind the wheel.
With a chunky steering wheel, reasonably heavy steering, and a firm ride on its 19-inch M Sport alloy wheels, the 218i Gran Coupe feels more grown up than its diminutive dimensions would have you believe.
It’s planted at highway speeds, and feels solid around town. It’s not hard to drive in tight spaces, but it feels more substantial than you might expect.
The parking assistant means anyone afraid of reverse parking in public can let the computers take charge, but the parking sensors and BMW’s excellent reversing camera means the 2 Series is easy to place. The auto-dipping mirror is also handy to make sure you don’t ding the M Sport alloy wheels.
As is typical of small-ish cars on big wheels, especially BMW models without adaptive dampers, the 2er is firm. It can be choppy over roads with lots of pimply bumps on them, never quite settling down, and potholes or sharper impacts can crash into the cabin.
The quick steering also means the front end of the 2er can be determined to follow cambers or dips in the road. You don’t need to cling on with white knuckles, but it makes the car feel busier than it really needs to.
At least the lane-keeping assist is well-calibrated, and smoothly nudges you back into the lane if the car goes wandering.
It’s a shame BMW doesn’t fit adaptive cruise control as standard. The system would work well with the lane-keeping to make the 218i a more capable highway cruiser, and really should be standard in a $50k car with a luxury badge.
Road noise is reasonably well suppressed, although it can get a bit noisy at highway speeds on Australia’s poorly-surfaced roads. The 2er is not alone in being a bit loud at a cruise. It’s a trait common among European cars on Australia’s roads, which are less billiard table, and more teenager’s face as soon as you leave the main arterials.
Despite the frameless doors, there’s no wind whistle on the move, and the sunroof doesn’t creak or rattle over uneven surfaces.
BMW offers two capped-price servicing plans for the 2 Series Gran Coupe.
A five-year and 80,000km Basic plan is $1650, while the Plus plan costs $4340. The Plus plan includes replacement brake pads and discs, as well as wiper blades.
Unfortunately, BMW hasn’t followed Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Jaguar in offering a five-year warranty. Instead, it’s sticking with its three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is disappointing.
The 218i Gran Coupe is fine, but not much more.
In trying to be too many things to too many people, it doesn’t quite nail any of its briefs. It’s affordable by BMW standards, but it’s missing some equipment that really should be standard – and Audi comfortably undercuts it with the equally premium new-generation A3 Sedan.
The engine and transmission feel more Mini than BMW at times, which is hard to reconcile given the more powerful 220i is barely more expensive, and the practical hatchback tailgate that features on the 4 Series Gran Coupe is missing here.
The high-tech interior and unique looks are positives, as is the fact it has a BMW badge on its nose. But there are better small sedans – and BMWs – out there.
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MORE: Everything BMW 2 Series