It was inevitable, really. The smallest BMW in Canada is now available as a four-door, but don’t call it a sedan – call it a Gran Coupe. That sounds much sexier.
It is a pretty sexy vehicle, too. It has the lines of a coupe, with a long and low rear roofline, and shallow lights at front and back to make the car look even lower to the ground than it already is.
The Gran Coupe is actually a couple of millimetres taller than the two-door version (the Real Coupe?) it complements, which essentially means it’s the same height, but it’s slightly wider (an extra 2.6 cm) and longer by more than nine centimetres. The secret is to make it a bit bigger, but far closer to the size of the 2 Series coupe than the larger 3 Series.
That’s the whole point of this something-for-everyone(-with-money) approach: offer vehicles that are exactly the size the customer wants. And if the customer wants a nice, compact car that takes up only a small space on the road, but has a bit more room and convenience for back-seat passengers, then the 2 Series Gran Coupe could be just the ticket.
It’s more expensive of course, but not by much: The Gran Coupe 228i starts with an MSRP of $42,500, while the 230i Coupe has an initial MSRP of $39,950. The more powerful Gran Coupe 235i starts at $50,900. Remember, these are just starting prices before taxes and the many options, and that’s a lot of money for a small car.
There’s an even smaller BMW four-door available elsewhere in the world with the 1 Series, but those svelte German marketers looked at our North American roads – and physiques – and decided long ago not to bother trying to sell it here. Besides, if we really want something small, there’s always the Mini that’s sitting alongside in the showroom.
- Base price/As tested: $39,500/$60,000+
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
- Transmission/Drive: Eight-speed automatic/AWD
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): n/a
- Alternatives: Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz CLA
The Gran Coupe has almost a fastback profile, with a shallow slope to its rear window and a small extension to the rear window above each rear wheel that adds to the tapering effect. The door windows are not enclosed at their tops and backs, making everything feel a little more open when getting into and out of the vehicle. The slim lights at the front and back help the car look wider than it really is, too.
BMW seems very proud of the evolution of the twin-kidney grille, which is now more shallow, but some versions have a blacked-out divider bar between the kidneys that disappears into the black mesh of the grille. I mentioned to a BMW designer that I thought this gave the car a similar face to Kia; he looked horrified.
Everything is very well designed inside, although it leans more toward the masculine, monochromatic approach than you’d see in a Mercedes. Maybe the greatest advancement is in the interior ambient lighting, which soothes the eye once the sun goes down.
It’s a bit of a squeeze in the back seat, and the gentle slope of the roofliner cuts into the headroom of passengers back there. If you’re hoping your teenage kids will make the basketball team, you’ll want to consider a taller space for them. The difference is less than a centimetre in height between the coupe and the gran coupe, so you should be thinking of a completely different vehicle. However, normal-sized people will be okay back there for the school run or even the hop across town. In the front, you’ll be fine.
There are two engines available in Canada for the 2 Series, both shared with the X2 crossover. They’re both 2.0-litre four-cylinders, with the 228i topping out at an appropriate 228 horsepower. I only drove the 235i, which is more finely tuned to deliver 301 hp. It may only be a four-cylinder engine under the hood, but you’d never know it: that plucky powerplant pulls like a straight-six, with 332 lb-ft of torque available from 1,750 rpm. Some of its sound is augmented through the car’s speakers, and BMW claims the more powerful edition will shoot from zero-to-100 km/h in as quick as 4.7 seconds. That’s serious performance.
We only get all-wheel drive versions of the car in Canada (front-wheel drive is a less costly standard elsewhere), but the 2 Series handles corners more confidently thanks to what BMW calls a “near-actuator wheel slip limitation” system, or its German acronym ARB. Suffice to say, this controls wheel slippage more quickly and efficiently than before, although I’ll challenge you to notice any difference. I didn’t. What I did notice was the lack of a grab handle in the roofliner for either the driver or the passenger, which the car’s sporty nature cries out for.
Where to begin? Every newly introduced vehicle is updated with even more technology than we ever thought possible, and the Gran Coupe is no exception. The instrument cluster behind the steering wheel is available as either conventional analogue dials (Live Cockpit) or a fully digital and adjustable display (Live Cockpit Professional), while the central Control Display is a touch screen that also accepts some gesture controls. Apple Car Play is available now; Android Auto will be retrofitted this summer.
Of course, the goal of each new car is to replace more and more buttons and switches with voice control, and the latest edition of the BMW controller is getting closer all the time. You can even change its name: Instead of starting every command with “Hey BMW,” you can change the name to whatever strikes your fancy. I changed my BMW’s name to “Hey Sweetcheeks” and it worked just fine.
One option that’s a complete waste of money is the Heads-Up Display, which is unreadable through polarized sunglasses. I didn’t even realize it was there until I removed my sunglasses at the end of an hour’s drive.
The rear seats fold flat in a 40/20/40 split, making the Gran Coupe more practical than some sedans that limit luggage capacity to the trunk area. The large rear door with enclosed struts improves access, with enough room in the trunk’s 430 litres for at least a couple of golf bags when the seats are up.
There’s no doubt the Gran Coupe makes very intelligent use of the limited space it takes up, without making its driver and front-seat passenger feel restricted by a sub-compact car. And while they’re at it, it drives with all the passion and performance of its larger siblings. This is a more practical alternative to the two-seater coupe that also looks a little sportier. What’s not to like about that?
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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