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BMW has broadened its 2 Series range with a new four-door Gran Coupé.
17in alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, two-zone automatic air conditioning, BMW Connected Package Plus, BMW Live Cockpit Plus and Active Guard Plus with lane-departure warning
Sport, M Sport, M Performance
140hp 1.5, 306hp 2.0
Six-speed manual, seven-speed DCT, eight-speed auto
BMW's range of coupés has become more diverse with a new addition to the 2 Series range.
It joins the 4 Series and 8 Series in offering both two-door and four-door coupés, but perhaps more unusually for the 2 Series, it shares little with its two-door alter ego.
The 2 Series Gran Coupé uses BMW's compact front-wheel drive architecture, so it has more in common from an engineering perspective with the MPV Active Tourer and Gran Tourer, as well as the new 1 Series hatchback and Mini models, than it does with the original two-door 2 Series Coupé.
But this also delivers packaging benefits, as it allows the Gran Coupé to offer greater passenger space and luggage capacity than its rear-wheel drive sibling.
Despite being front-wheel drive (although the most powerful version at launch comes with xDrive all-wheel drive as standard), BMW claims to set benchmarks for driver appeal compared with rivals. But what rivals would they be?
When BMW introduced the first 2 Series Coupé in 2013 - which was merely the morphing of the 1 Series Coupé into a new model name for its next generation - Mercedes-Benz was launching the first CLA 'four-door coupé' and Audi released the first saloon version of the A3.
There is a certain coyness about describing 'three-box' cars as saloons these days, which is why we have terminology like Gran Coupé or fastback, so respect is due to Audi for using a simple term that everyone understands.
But back to the Gran Coupé, which is now on sale, and launches with two petrol versions and a diesel. The 218i, which is expected to sell more than any other variant, uses a three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and currently occupies the entry point to the range at £25,815 for the manual Sport.
It comes with a six-speed manual as standard, and has a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as an option. The other petrol variant currently available is the 306hp, 2.0-litre, turbocharged M235i xDrive with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Perhaps of more interest to fleet users is the 190hp 220d, which also comes with an eight-speed auto gearbox. Check on our website later for this one, as the media event we attended focused on the petrol variants.
There are visual similarities with the new 1 Series hatchback around the front end, which aren't to everyone's tastes, according to the reaction on social media.
More spacious than the two-door
Inside, rear passengers get 33mm of extra knee room over the two-door BMW 2 Series Coupé, and the seating position is 12mm higher. The rear seat can fold, and is split 40:20:40 to extend the available luggage area.
The dashboard and digital instrument panel (standard on M Sport and M235i xDrive) give the 2 Series Gran Coupé a high-tech feel, and all models feature the iDrive controller as standard, including a touchpad for character and numerical entry.
Central information displays are also offered with touchscreen functionality, meaning that the full system can be controlled via touch commands. Optional gesture control is also available and includes seven different gestures, two of which can be assigned to functions of the driver's choosing.
On the road, the 218i is engaging to drive, which might surprise those for whom only rear-wheel drive can deliver true driving enjoyment.
Fun to drive
BMW has included near actuator wheel slip limitation technology from the BMW i3s as standard in the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé. This technology works in close tandem with the electronic stability control system to significantly reduce power understeer, helping the car accelerate more smoothly out of bends.
Additional technology increases agility by subtly applying the brakes at the wheels on the inside of the bend if necessary, before the slip threshold has been reached. This suppresses any initial understeer and gives the car more neutral steering behaviour.
The three-cylinder engine is surprisingly refined, and with 140hp and 162lb-ft of torque (and the ability to offer a brief boost to 170lb-ft in fourth gear or higher), it never feels short of performance.
Our M Sport test car had a disappointingly unsettled ride quality over poor surfaces at low speed, and although the more powerful M235i xDrive has a more overtly driver-focused set-up, it seemed to deal with road imperfections with a bit more finesse.
Overall, the 2 Series Gran Coupé is a competent and well-equipped compact saloon, with a good story on running costs. Both of these aspects will find fans among company car drivers and fleet operators.