Test Drives

2020 BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport Review: You Know You Want 2 (w/Video)



Small, stylish, fun to drive and full of tech – BMW’s 218i Gran Coupe brings a hard fight to the small Mercedes legion



Here’s our video review of the 218i M Sport Gran Coupe. Enjoyed it? Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Singapore automotive news and reviews at http://bit.ly/carbuyeryoutubesubscribe


SINGAPORE

For seven long years Mercedes-Benz has had the small four-door coupe segment to itself with the CLA. We’ve finally tested BMW’s riposte, the 2 Series Gran Coupe, here in Singapore.

It’s one of BMW’s major models for 2020, simply because it’s now the least expensive BMW four-door you can buy. The BMW 1 Series sedan does exist, but it’s unlikely to be launched in right-hand drive markets, but no loss there – look at the car’s appearance and you’ll understand.

Back to 2 Gran Coupe (GC): We’ve reported on it in plenty of depth and detail: Our international debut news story, and the local launch news story covering the car’s debut in Singapore on February 20, 2020. We also have Ju-Len’s international drive of the 218i Luxury model online as well, plus five things you should know about it.  

But this car here is what local car buyers should be most interested in – the 218i in M Sport trim, simply because 1. M Sport trim is far and away the most popular trim for BMW sedans and 2. It’s only S$3k more than the least expensive 218i Luxury model.

And here’s another thing to keep in mind – at its S$163,888 with COE price level, the 218i GC doesn’t directly compete with the S$180k-plus with COE Mercedes-Benz CLA anymore, but instead with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon.

Click on the links in the names to read our reviews of the salient CLA and A-Class Saloon models, and if you want to know the differences between the two, watch our video below.



2 vs 2 

The 2er is the smallest Gran Coupe to date, although it arrives at a strange time – the other significant Gran Coupe is the 8 Series, which is on the other end of the size/cost spectrum at S$480k with COE.

There’s still the 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is a good $40k more expensive than the 2, and expected to be replaced with the debut of the all new 4 Series very soon. The 6 Series is now a luxo-hatch-tourer thingy and no longer has any coupes (Gran or not).

A BMW designer explains what makes the 2 Series a Gran Coupe in our video above.

Whether or not you’re convinced by this whole four-door coupe business is up to you of course, but we will say the 2 Series is a handsome looking small sedan that certainly has a bit more flair than the A-Class Saloon does, and it looks a hell of a lot better than the 2 Series MPV. 

Visually, the differences between the M Sport and Luxury versions of the 218i GC are subtle, and less obvious than they are on say, a 3 Series Luxury and 3 Series M Sport.

As usual on M Sport trim (above left, Luxury on the right), the front end is where the action is, there’s a more of the gaping-looking intake below the kidney grilles (they’re upside down #becausebmwcoupe, the M Sport model has silver louvres, the Luxury has black ones), larger side intakes, all filled with a hexagon trim motif. Local Luxury variants also lack the horizontal LED fog light in this section.

The M Sport also has 18-inch M-design wheels, but at the rear is a same-looking diffuser, though in this model the black wraps around the entire bottom of the rear, unlike the Luxury model. As we said, it’s hard to tell the difference with just a glance.

 

Front Row
One feature of the 2 GC is that it’s based on the same updated UKL (small car) platform the new 1 Series hatch runs, and both are front-wheel drive cars, unlike the current 2 Series two-door coupes.

This is good news to most of us, since most people who had the previous RWD 1 Series didn’t know/care and this new platform is one of the things which allow the 2 GC its very competitive price point.

The cabin is well presented and less plasticky this time around (compared to the previous the 1 Series and existing 2 Series MPV) and all the surfaces are soft touch, if not covered in attractive material and trim.

As a result, even though the 2 GC’s not fling-your-arms-out roomy, it feels compact and intimate rather than cramped and claustrophobic.

The M Sport model has the M-themed fat steering wheel, floormats, and door sills, and seats in ‘Sensatec’ textile, while the Luxury model has ‘Dakota’ perforated leather.

But keep in mind the key drawback of the car: The rear isn’t big.

People above 1.75-metres in height may have their heads touch the roof liner, and five adults is a little bit of a squeeze.

The boot space is good, at 430-litres it’s 50-litre more than the 118i has (and just 10-litres more than the A-Class sedan) but the aperture is lower, smaller, and you’ve to remove the false floor for maximum room.

Those with grown kids should certainly look at the 118i hatch, or the 2 Series MPV instead.

 

Tech 2 More

However, the 2 GC also brings tech guns to the small luxury car knife fight. It may not be wrought large like a 3 Series, but you can find pretty much every feature – aside from gesture control – from big BMWs here.

That includes the new digital instrument panel and touchscreen navigation system and (both 10.25-inch screens, same size as the Merc MBUX setup) although the iDrive controller (the proper term is ‘BMW OS 7.0’ now) is, thankfully, still very much the primary interaction point.

There’s also BMW’s suite of connected services,  BMW Connected, with news, service requests, a real-live person to ask for help, auto SOS call, and the ability to control your car (lock doors, find the car etc) through an app.

The advanced voice control system, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, is also standard issue, and it’s the most useful system of its kind around and not just a party trick but a thing you’ll actually use from time to time – you can tell the car to adjust the AC, navigate, call your mom and lots more.

Another place the 2 GC draws out a lead is in safety – it has a fairly generous suite of active safety systems as standard, which is what you should expect from any new car in 2020. This includes autonomous front collision warning/braking, lane departure warning and keeping, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and speed warnings.

The A-Class Saloon and CLA only have the first feature (front collision warning), while the Audi A3 1.0 sedan lacks active safety features though it’s notably the least expensive car in its class at S$136k with COE.

Good 2 Drive
We were impressed by the driving dynamics of the new 1 Series, so it’s no surprise the 2 GC offers a similar experience. The heart of that is the 1.5-litre triple cylinder turbo engine, which has an stirring purr that’s probably the best soundtrack of any entry-level engine around.

140hp is just above the typical mainstream family car level, so it’s quick on its feet thanks to turbo torque, but not super fast, despite what the design lines imply. M Sport makes a difference here, with the larger wheels and sport suspension as standard, so there’s lots of agility to be enjoyed.

It simply feels like the 2 GC is, inherently, the sort of car that’s up for wheel-squealing fun and ripping around corners – Minis are the same and they have the same platform, so make of this what you will.

On the other hand, if you slap the car into Eco Pro mode and go gently into the good day, the 18i powertrain is also capable of impressive frugality, with a mix of 50/50 highway and city driving you could easily do sub-7.0L/100km. Its compact size and agility also means it makes light of the gauntlet of parking in the city.

The tradeoff is the busy M Sport ride quality we’ve seen in the 3 Series and 1 Series. While the 2 GC feels a little more composed than either of those cars, the pitter-patter is still constant on Singapore’s now grotesque, lumpy, ugly tarmac. That’s a pity because the 2 GC isn’t an unrefined car, on proper tarmac it glides along, there’s not much tyre noise and it’s quiet for an entry level lux model.

Which one 2 get?

With the other 2 GC variant, the M235i, being much more expensive at S$250k with COE, it boils down to 218i Lux or M Sport. The mere S$3k price difference means most will go for M Sport just because, but we think the Luxury model offers a more refined experience more people will enjoy – how often do you drive in a sporty manner, anyway?

You can’t go far wrong with either though. With the new CLA now significantly more expensive than it was, in a sense the 2 GC is the ‘new CLA’: It’s a small luxury car with a design that banks in on a trend and at a decent price point. What about the A 200 Saloon? That offers more space and a nicer interior, but drops the ball in refinement and driving pleasure.

When it comes to small-lux four-doors in 2020, it looks like the 2 GC is one 2 to beat.

BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport 

Engine 1,499, inline 3, turbocharged
Power 140hp at 4600-6500rpm
Torque 220Nm at 1480-4200rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 8.7 seconds
Top Speed 215km/h
Fuel Efficiency 5.9L/100km
VES Band / CO2 B / 203g/km
Agent Performance Motors Limited
Price S$163,888 with COE
Availability Now
Verdict A complete small lux car package, and a proper BMW to boot, though we recommend the Lux model for better comfort.

 

about the author

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Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.