You’re sitting in your office in Munich. The phone rings. On the other end is Adrian van Hooydonk, the head of BMW’s design. “Congratulations! We want you to design the newest BMW sedan! It will be light, small, and nimble.” This is amazing, you think to yourself. You’re finally going to realize a dream. You get to design the new BMW 228i Gran Coupe! Que the record scratch.
The 2022 BMW 228i Gran Coupe overview
The car you see on this page is here because the all-wheel drive system in my X3 M40i decided to take a sabbatical. In its place, my local dealer (who admittedly came through in a pinch for me) pulled up this little guy. Aww, so cute.
And the name – 2 Series. I love the 2 Series Coupe. Adding “Gran” in BMW-speak usually means a four-door coupe, like the AMG GT53 or BMW’s own 4 Series Gran Coupe. But that’s not what BMW did here. Oh no. Here on this page is a Mini Cooper. They share platforms. Engines too. And, that means, gulp…front-wheel drive.
Is it all bad? No. But is it mostly bad? Well…
Performance Score: 6. Jack be nimble
The spiritual predecessor to this car was the F30 320i. If ordered properly (read: stick, sport package), it was an enjoyable sedan that featured all the classic BMW things you know and love. The fact that it was slightly under-powered mattered little.
This 228i Gran Coupe might be up on power, but it also weighs close to 300 pounds more, sends its power to the front wheels almost exclusively, and is missing that all-important stick. The result is a BMW that’s more MINI than 2.
Inside the 2 is the B48, a four-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s shared with many other BMW products, but it is down on power here, just 228 compared to other applications. BMW’s turbo four-cylinders, both the N20 and the B48, are fine engines with a satisfying wallop of torque off the line, but they lack the smoothness from the old N52 inline-six.
If the soul of a car begins under the hood, it’s hard to find a pulse on this 228i Gran Coupe. Tap the throttle and the car will snap to attention, but beyond 4,000 rpms, it’s just noise. Not good noise either. Think more like the coffee grinder at Starbucks.
Decide to go in full attack mode, and the engine buzzes through the tach, providing the feel of an appliance. I wasn’t expecting an “S” engine, but the company that makes the amazing S63 in the M5, among other classic engines, should know better.
If the engine is a letdown, it’s no fault of the transmission. This isn’t the wonderful eight-speed produced by ZF, which goes in BMW’s rear-wheel-based chassis. Due to the transverse layout, this one is made by Aisin and it’s another part shared with Mini, along with other brands like Volvo.
But it works well here, never hunting for gears or drawing attention to itself. In fact, I thought it was a ZF before reading up.
While the M235i is all-wheel drive only, the 228i here can be either front- or all-wheel powered. I don’t think it matters much – the car will send power to the front wheels first even with xDrive. Save the money (and fuel).
Chassis & Steering
If the 228i Gran Coupe has a redeeming quality, it emanates from its bones. At 3,534 lbs, it’s the lightest car in BMW’s current lineup (but just 50 lbs lighter than an F80 M3, a much larger car). On a weekend trip into New York City with the family, its small dimensions and quick steering were a real boon in navigating traffic. No Mr. Taxi, I can hit that hole before you can.
There’s never any tugs at the wheel from torque steer, with 18-inch all-season tires providing reasonable response on the back roads. Like other BMWs, the ride can be a bit stiff. Unlike other BMWs, weigh distribution is unbalanced, with a 58/42 split, and it results in the rear of the car not feeling as planted as you may like.
Lighter weight, smaller tires, less power – these can be nice things, allowing you to explore the car’s limits more easily on the street. But it’s up to BMW’s engineers to get it all to work together and provide an experience you’ll actually enjoy. They haven’t exactly succeeded here.
The 228i offers up a firm brake pedal that reassures in traffic. Braking distance has to do not only with brake size, but tire contact patch and tread, so those 18-inchers aren’t doing the car’s dynamic abilities any favors, brakes included. 17-inch wheels are standard, but the width of the tire, at 225mm, remains the same.
It’s clear the performance envelope of the 228i is off considerably from an M235i, this car’s M-themed sibling. But having driven an M235i back-to-back with an M340i, it becomes clear just how far apart the 2 Series Gran Coupe is in terms of soul compared to a 3.
Utility Score: 5. Tiny tots
I could never really get comfortable in this car, something uncommon for me in a BMW. The driving position is confining, with a low roofline that will make you leave your Stig helmet at home.
Turn around, and you’ll see a back seat that’s really close. You might as well drive from back there. Fitting two car seats here isn’t an option if you’re a tall guy like me. Maybe try an X3.
Feels like this car should be a hatchback. It needs the opening, because the trunk is tiny. Going on a trip for the weekend? Pack light.
Economy: 8. Have a sip
Ready for science bro? BMW’s lightest and least powerful car gets decent mileage. Shocker, I know.
The EPA gives an average of 27 MPG (23 city, 33 highway), but if you don’t flog the car, you’ll see closer to 30.
One curious thing I’ll mention here is the gas gauge, which is unique to this car and features small bars to display the amount of fuel left. Start off with 8 bars, and as you drive around, bars vanish. When will they disappear? Only the computer knows. Is this an issue? Yes, if you have a habit of letting the car get close to E. How long will that last bar hold out for – a fun game for you and your 2.
What’s that? The 330i has identical mileage figures? I was hoping you wouldn’t notice…
Features and comfort: 6. Mini 8
You know the deal by now: all BMWs look pretty similar inside. If you’re in the market for an 8 Series and happen to see this car parked next to it in the showroom, it might make you a little hesitant to plop down $100,000. Are those the same climate buttons?
For all intents and purposes, the 2 Series Gran Coupe really is a scaled down BMW on the inside. Maybe a bad thing for that 8 Series guy, but not us. Our car stickers for less than $40k.
We start by sitting in sport seats that are not as nice as something in a 3 Series, but also not that far from it. Leather is fine here, but it feels just like Sensatec. I’m not sure who asks for Mocha over Alpine White though. The bottom cushion is tight for me, and so is the arm rest. It’s like someone sitting next to you on the bus – you’re both aware of each other and do your best not to touch, but it’s inevitable. Cooties ensue.
Turn to face the tiny dashboard, and you’ll see a digital dash that actually isn’t. BMW did a nice job of hiding the needle depth, so it gives the impression of an all-digital dash. But the rest of the instrumentation is haphazardly put together. That speed limit sign sure has lots of real estate, and that makes everything feel cheap. Springing for the true digital dash might not be such a bad idea.
But iDrive 7 is here as standard (although the screen is so small!), as is the same steering wheel, shifter and buttons from the rest of the lineup non-M. You’ll feel right at home.
Belts and lines
Front-wheel drive cars have different package requirements, so they usually have a higher belt line. That explains the taller hood and smaller windows that can make it hard to see out of the 2. It’s also the reason for the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s un-BMW like proportions.
To combat this a bit, BMW gives you a large sunroof that lets a good amount of light in, along with frameless windows to add a sporty flair. There’s also interior lighting in the dash trim, which provides a cool effect at night. Still, it’s sort of a dungeon in the cabin.
A point in the M235i’s favor are true sport seats that help to dress up the cabin and provide a more upscale feel. You can option up even this 228i, but as we approach the $50,000 mark, this car makes less sense. Not when something like a VW GTI exists, which is better and costs less.
The 2022 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is more MINI than BMW
I do not want you to think that I’m some cocky M3 driver, thumbing my nose down at the 2. Far from it – I’m an advocate for cheaper, lighter cars that have less power but more ability to exploit on public roads.
And there are a few good things here, but they all happen by accident. The 2 is nimble, but because of less weight, not suspension magic. Its four-cylinder is torquey, but doesn’t really seem to enjoy going about its job. The cabin is luxurious, until you realize there are nicer options for cheaper elsewhere.
BMWs used to be pretty damn good cars regardless of an M badge being on the butt. They all adhered to a basic recipe that worked, and front-wheel drive wasn’t part of the equation. Remember this ad:
That’s from 2006, not really that long ago. If the Gran Coupe’s layout was so great, why keep the normal coupe on the rear-wheel chassis? That’s rhetorical, you don’t have to email me and tell me I’m crazy.
At the end of the day, a car is either going to make you feel something or it isn’t, regardless of the technical bits underneath it. The 2 Series Gran Coupe definitely plays to an audience. I just don’t think I’m part of it.
Back to the drawing board.
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