BMW 2 Series Convertible (2015 - ) review
The BMW 2 Series Convertible is a small four-seat drop-top with stylish looks and a desirable badge. That puts it in direct competition with the Audi A3 Cabriolet.
- Glamourous looks
- Top-notch interior quality
- Some versions are great to drive
- Other versions aren’t so great to drive
- A little mean on luxury and safety kit
- Not particularly efficient
At a glance
Any convertible - especially one with a BMW badge on the bonnet – should have a fair dash of glamour, and that’s something on which the 2 Series really delivers. The shapely headlamps and big air intakes give the car a certain aggression, but it’s tempered with some smooth curves and flowing lines. One particularly neat touch is the crease on the shoulder line of the car, which starts just behind the front wheel-arches and runs all the way around the back of the car. All versions come with alloy wheels, a chromed-up exhaust and LED rear lights, while Luxury models add a few more chromey bits and M Sport models have a racy-looking body kit.
The inside of the 2 Series looks just as good as the outside, because the vast majority of the interior surfaces feel wonderfully dense and plush. There are a couple of exceptions, like the plastic panel that forms the partition between the two rear seats, but by and large, this is one very classy-feeling car. It’s pretty good ergonomically, too, thanks to the standard iDrive system that makes it a doddle to use all the car’s various functions. However, things aren’t perfect. The pedals are offset way to the right, which could have an impact on your long-distance comfort.
You wouldn’t expect a convertible to be the most practical means of transport going, but even compared with its four-seat compact convertible rivals, it doesn’t do that great a job. The two rear seats are rather snug on both kneeroom and shoulder space, so although a pair of six-foot adults will just about fit for short journeys, they won’t want to stay there for too long. That said, the boot is a pretty good size for the class - 335 litres with the roof up, 280 litres with it down – but the space isn’t a brilliant shape, the opening is narrow and you have to pay extra for a split-folding rear seat. Even then, the aperture you get to load through is very narrow.
Ride and handling
The suspension you get on your 2 Series depends on which version you go for. Sport and Luxury models get the standard setup, M Sport models get a slightly lower, more focused arrangement (which can be deleted as a no-cost option if you want the M Sport’s looks without the harder ride), while the M235i range-topper has an entirely bespoke setup. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to try any of them yet, because all the 2 Series we’ve driven have been fitted with the optional adaptive suspension that lets you firm things up or soften them off by selecting different driving modes. Even then, there’s a fair amount of difference between how various versions behave. On the M235i, it delivers a fantastic balance of ride and handling. Whatever mode you select, the ride stays compliant and soothing, yet body roll is contained very effectively in corners. The fat tyres generate lots of grip and traction, and while the steering is a wee bit light in the less hardcore modes, it meats up nicely when you switch to a sportier setting. However, when fitted to the diesel-powered 220d model, the adaptive suspension isn’t nearly so impressive. Body movements aren’t so tightly controlled, so there’s more lean in bends and more pitch over crests and undulations. What’s more, the ride generally feels lumpier and less settled.
There’s a range of petrol engines to choose from, but so far, we’ve only had the opportunity to try the most powerful; the 322bhp 3.0-litre straight-six in the range-topping M235i. It’s a real sweetheart of an engine. There’s a period of initial docility low-down in the rev range that makes the car easy to drive smoothly at low urban speeds, but once you get the needle upwards of 3500rpm, the engine delivers devastating acceleration, and it keeps pulling right the way up the dial. You’re also treated to a bassy exhaust note that adds to the fun. Most buyers, though, will go for the other engine we’ve tried, the 187bhp four-cylinder diesel in the 220d. It gives you brisk, flexible performance, and importantly, it’s the most efficient engine on offer. However, it sounds rather grumbly and transmits a few vibrations through the controls. Refinement is pretty good elsewhere, though. The three-layer fabric hood does a cracking job of isolating wind noise on the motorway, and with the roof down and the wind-blocker in place, you’re very well protected from buffeting. However, remember that the wind-blocker is an optional extra, and you’re not nearly so well protected without it.
You wouldn’t expect a BMW-badged convertible to be a cheap car, and it certainly isn’t that, but most versions are a useful slice cheaper to buy than their comparable rivals from Audi. And being such a desirable car, resale values will be just as strong, too. However, the BMW isn’t as efficient as the Audi, and aside from the extra you’ll spend on fuel, the higher CO2 emissions also mean that company car drivers will pay tax on a higher percentage of the BMW's value.
It’s pretty tricky to predict exactly how reliable the 2 Series will be, but if you look at it from a historical point of view, things don’t appear all that rosy. The brand ranks in a disappointingly lowly position in the manufacturer standings of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and the 2 Series’ predecessor, the 1 Series, doesn’t score all that well, either. The 2 Series has a condition-based servicing system, so the car will let you know when it needs some TLC. And it’s well worth considering one of the extended servicing packages, which take care of all routine costs for a fixed time period for a nominal one-off fee.
This isn’t an area in which the 2 Series is particularly impressive, certainly in terms of the safety equipment you get as standard. Sure, stability control and a collection of airbags are on hand to keep you safe, but things don’t get much cleverer than that; pretty disappointing when technology like automatic braking is becoming commonplace on city cars costing a fraction of this price. There’s a cruise control function that’ll hit the brakes for you, but it’s an optional extra. However, we don’t know exactly how the 2 Series will fare is a smash, because the car hasn’t yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP.
SE trim forms the entry point to 2 Series Convertible ownership (although it’s only available with the entry-level engine), and it comes with standard equipment including single-zone air-con, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, DAB radio, keyless go and rear parking sensors. Stepping up to Sport trim earns you sports seats and a glossier interior trim, while Luxury models have bigger wheels and leather upholstery. M Sport models are the best-sellers, and these have cloth and suede-effect seats, a sporty body kit and a sports suspension.
The 2 Series Convertible will sell on its looks alone, but there’s plenty of other stuff to get excited about, too, namely the plush interior and punchy engines. You’ll have to choose your spec carefully to get the dynamic ability you expect from a car like this, but get it right, and you’ll have a very accomplished and desirable machine.