Which to BMW 2 Series to choose? The M235i or 228i?

Just when we thought BMW had gone soft on us, enlarging its cars to keep up with our ever-expanding rumps, along comes the 2 Series coupes. These might be 2014 model cars, but they hearken to the model known as the E46, the fourth-generation 3 Series BMWs so loved around the world.

Now that the 1 Series is gone in North America (for now) and the current 3 Series is as large as the old 5 Series, something had to bring BMW back to its winning formula: The 2 Series appears to be it. Aside from the new surroundings and sheet metal, driving a 2 Series is not unlike driving a 2006 330i — one of the first BMWs I fell in love with (the 2015 M4 having stole all current affections).

2014 BMW M235i

2014 BMW M235i
Derek McNaughton, Driving

And how could the rear-wheel-drive 2 Series not be compared to the threes of yore? Dimensionally similar, with weight and horsepower figures not far off the 330i, the new 2 Series is at once a pure and pleasing drive, much like the older cars. The M235i Coupe, blessed with a lusciously smooth in-line six-cylinder producing 322 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque (though not an M car in the true sense), turned me into a redline addict in a matter of hours, constantly wooing me with its silky delivery of power and tightly matched manual gearbox.

And because the M235i weighs 1,590 kilograms — still not as light as it should be — it felt light, lively and eminently negotiable. Gaps in highway traffic became an invitation to weave between the spaces, stripping away my sensibilities and replacing them with confidence. Corners were attacked. Apexes were executed. Straights were flattened and the joy of driving a BMW had fully returned, the sound of the engine warming the barnacles of the heart.

So when it came time to swap the 235i for a 228i, which comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder, I did so begrudgingly. This, I assumed, was going to be a disappointment. My fun was over. The four was two less than six. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

2014 BMW 228i

2014 BMW 228i
Derek McNaughton, Driving

OK, the 228i sounds appallingly silly at start-up, but once underway, especially in Sport mode, the four-cylinder is only slightly less smooth than the six. Power, especially when jumping so soon from the 235, did feel reduced, but not so markedly as to think the engine was lacking. Indeed, the eagerness of the 228’s turbo four-cylinder — with an impressive 258 lb.-ft. of torque and bereft of turbo lag — reveals itself in sprints to 100 km/h, a feat it accomplishes in 5.9 seconds. The old BMW 330i with its straight-six required 5.6 seconds. And the M235i clips the same mark in 5.2 seconds, so we’re talking mere tenths despite its smaller displacement.

It, therefore, comes down to splitting hairs when deciding between a M235i and 228i. Fuel economy can’t be considered much a factor because, surprisingly, both models averaged close to 10 litres per 100 km. But considering the 228 starts at $36,000 and the M235i at $45,000, the smart money will go to the one that brings the greatest returns — the 228. Just be sure to get the manual transmission. Then it will feel like a 330i reincarnated.

2014 BMW M235i

2014 BMW M235i
Derek McNaughton, Driving

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