Abarth 595 VS BMW 2 Series
- Good engine/chassis combo
- Surprising grip levels
- Terrible driving position
- Ride not great around town
- No reversing camera
BMW 2 Series
- M2 is awesome
- Turbo-petrol fours' lag
- Tight rear room
- Fiddly (8sp auto) gear shift
Since 1949, Abarth has been giving the venerable Italian brand, Fiat, a patina of performance, based largely on giant-killing feats in small modified cars like the Fiat 600 of the 1960s.
More recently, the brand has been revived to boost the fortunes of the smallest Fiat on sale in Australia. Known formally as the Abarth 595, the tiny hatch packs a bit of a surprise under its distinctive snout.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
BMW 2 Series
If one is good, two must be better, right? Or twice as good. The question is whether that simple equation adds up for BMW's upgraded 1 and 2 Series siblings – the former, a range of five-door hatches, the latter, a line-up of cabriolets and coupes, with a major addition in the shape of the full-house, performance-focused M2.
Prices are up, and changes are mostly under the skin, so you're not getting big visual bang for your extra bucks. But the new and improved 2 has plenty to offer when it comes to added spec and tech.
BMW invited us to the new car's Australian launch program along Tasmania's wet and wild west coast.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It’s tough to be kind to the Abarth 595. Based on a platform that’s more than a decade old, the car has been left behind by its rivals in many ways, including basic ergonomics and its value equation.
The larger engine does work well in this smaller package, and its road-holding ability belies its size. However, only die-hard fans of the Abarth brand will be able to cope with the uncomfortable seating position and a complete lack of even the most perfunctory features that cars costing $10,000 less are able to offer.
Could you look past the Abarth 595's foibles? Let us know in the comments below.
BMW 2 Series8/10
The BMW 2 Series coupes and convertibles combine understated good looks with great dynamics and top-shelf quality. Extra equipment, especially the iDrive6 multimedia system, has brought it up to speed in terms of tech and value, while the M240i sets the compact performance benchmark. And if you really want to push the envelope, the M2 is right there at the top of the under $100k performance pyramid.
Is BMW's upgraded 2 Series on the compact sports-luxury car pace? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Despite being based on a design that’s a decade old, the Abarths still stand out. Based on the classic Fiat 500 shape of the 1950 and '60s, it’s more cute than cut-throat, with a narrow track and tall roof giving it a toy-like presence.
The Abarth attempts to beef things up with deep front and rear bumper splitters, go-fast stripes, new headlights and alternate-colour wing mirrors.
The 595 rides on 16-inch rims, while the Competizione runs 17s.
Inside, it’s definitely different to most mainstream cars, with colour-coded plastic panels on the dash and a very upright seating position, along with a dual-tone steering wheel.
It’s a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. There’s no middle ground here.
BMW 2 Series8/10
The biggest visual clue to the revised 2 Series is the circular design bi-LED headlights, now standard on the 2 Series entry 220i, and mid-range 230i models, while hexagonal adaptive LEDs are standard on the top-shelf M240i.
But BMW couldn't leave those little light-emitting diodes alone, with LED front fog lights joining one-piece L-shaped LED tail-lights across the range.
Luxury Line-equipped cars feature a subtly revised nose treatment with larger intakes and a reshaped 'kidney' grille. There are also four new alloy wheel designs – a 17-inch alloy fitted standard to the 220i Luxury Line, and three optional M alloys for M Sport models (all no-cost options on the M240i).
The 230i M Sport features black, high-gloss bars in its kidney grille, as well as a black chrome finish for the exhaust finishers.
On the inside, there's the addition of a 'Black Panel' digital instrument cluster, which remains matt with the ignition off, and lights up with sharp graphics, configurable across conventional speed and rev readouts, as well as gear position, engine-efficiency data, vehicle settings and nav guidance.
There are also high-gloss finishes across the centre stack and front console, and even greater attention to detail around panel joins, trim stitching and switchgear.
But the hero is the latest iDrive6 multimedia system, run through an 8.8-inch colour touchscreen (6.5-inch on 220i), providing access to live content, radio and audio, navigation and maps, phone functionality, and vehicle settings through a simple and customisable app-style interface. The iPhone really as inspired car companies.
The M2 boasts M-specific instrument display content and a go-fast red needle on the tachometer.
This is another area where the Abarth falls down. First and foremost, the seating position for the driver in both cars is utterly compromised.
The seat itself is mounted far, far, too high, and has little adjustment in any direction, and there is no reach adjustment in the steering wheel column to allow a taller (or even an average height) driver to get comfortable.
The more expensive Competizione we tested was fitted with a set of optional sports bucket seats from racing company Sabelt, but even they are mounted literally 10cm too high. They are also ultra firm, and even though they look supportive, lack decent side bolster support.
The tiny multimedia screen is okay to use, but the buttons are miniscule, while there’s a complete lack of storage places in the front.
There are two cupholders under the centre console, with two more in between the front seats for rear seat passengers. There are no bottle holders in the doors and no storage for rear seaters.
Speaking of the rear seats, they are the very definition of cramped, with little headroom for moderately sized adults and precious little knee or toe room. There are two sets of ISOFIX baby seat mounting points, though, should you fancy wrestling your wriggling toddlers through the narrow aperture.
The seats flip forward to reveal more cargo space (185 litres with the seats up, and 550 litres when the seats are down), but the seat backs don’t fold flat into the floor. Under the boot floor is a can of sealant and a pump, but no space saver spare.
In truth, it was a long day testing this car… at 187cm, I simply could not get comfortable in it at all.
BMW 2 Series6/10
Surprisingly, at a little over 4.4 metres long, the 2 Series (Coupe) is around 10cm longer than its 1 Series hatch stablemate (M240i +15cm), but aligns with its just under 1.8m width, and 1.4m height.
It seats four, with plenty of room up front and multiple storage options, including two cupholders in the console with an oddments tray behind, a 12-volt outlet, a lidded storage box between the seats with USB connection, a reasonably sized glove box, and segmented bins in the doors big enough for large water bottles.
While it was coupes only on the launch drive, we know the convertible has a pair of cupholders in the back, but not so in the coupe, and while headroom in the soft-top is okay (especially with the roof down) it's a squeeze in the hardtop.
More a 2+2 than a full four-seater, getting into the rear is an athletic exercise, and once installed, leg and headroom for this 183cm tester is tight. That said, kids up to teenager-size would be fine.
Boot volume is 390 litres (a 3 Series Coupe is 480 litres), with run-flat tyres on the 220i and 230i meaning there's no spare (or repair kit) under the floor, but the performance-focused M240i and M2, pack a 'BMW Mobility Kit' (compressor and tyre sealant to cover minor damage) in line with their high-performance (non-run-flat rubber).
A 60/40 split-folding rear backrest liberates extra load space, and a 'Through Loading System' with luggage compartment dividing net, and 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat is optionally available (220i & M2 Pure - $350 / 230i - $385 / M240i & M2 - $500).
And if you're keen on towing the 220i can pull 680kg of unbraked trailer, and 1500kg braked, with the minimum number stepping up to 715kg for the 230i. The M240i and M2 are no-tow zones.
Price and features
The range has been stripped back to just two cars, and costs has come down slightly, with the 595 now starting at $26,990, plus on-road costs.
A new 5.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system (with digital radio), a leather wrapped steering wheel, TFT dash display, rear parking sensors, alloy pedals, 16-inch alloy rims, and (front-only) adaptive dampers are standard on the base 595.
A convertible, or more accurately, a rag-top (cabriolet) version of the 595 is also available for $29,990.
The 595 Competizione is now a whopping $8010 cheaper at $31,990 with a manual gearbox, leather seats (Sabelt-branded sports buckets are optional), 17-inch alloys, a louder Monza exhaust, as well as front and rear adaptive Koni shocks, and Eibach springs.
Unfortunately, what stands out more on the Abarths is what they don’t come with. Auto lights and wipers, cruise control of any sort, driver aids including AEB and adaptive cruise… even a rear view camera is missing.
What’s more puzzling is that the Abarth’s architecture, though a decade old, has provision to accept at least a rear view camera.
Abarth’s explanation that the car’s home market doesn’t see these inclusions as important doesn’t really hold water, either.
BMW 2 Series8/10
The 2 Series coupe and convertible line-up ranges across four-cylinder, turbo-petrol models, in 220i Luxury Line, and 230i M Sport grades, with the six-cylinder M240i sitting at the top of the main line-up. Then for the more single-minded enthusiast, there's the hardcore M2; after a year on-sale it's now BMW Australia's best-selling M car (and it's easy to see why; it's fantastic).
Depending on the model, prices have risen by between $1100 and $1900 across the main range, largely because of the extra equipment, especially the tricky iDrive6 multimedia system.
At $52,990 for the coupe and $59,900 for the convertible version, the 220i Luxury Line is the entry-point to the 2 Series range. Equipment highlights include 17-inch light-alloy wheels, the previously mentioned LED headlights and fog lights, 'Driving Assistant' functionality (combines camera-based 'Lane Departure Warning and Approach' and 'Pedestrian Warning with the City Brake Activation'), digital radio, 'Navigation System Business' with 'iDrive6' accessed via a 6.5-inch display, dual-zone climate control air, reversing camera, a leather sports steering wheel, sports front seats, 'Dakota' leather upholstery, plus front and rear parking sensors.
Next rung on the 2 Series ladder is the 230i M Sport in Coupe ($63,000) and Convertible ($73,000) form, which adds M Sport suspension, aero, and brakes, 'Variable Sport Steering', 18-inch alloy rims, high-gloss 'Shadow line' exterior trim, a BMW Individual anthracite roofliner, a leather-wrapped M Sport steering wheel, cloth/Alcantara upholstery in the coupe, 'Dakota' leather and front seat heating in the convertible, electric (front) seat adjustment, plus 'Navigation System Professional' with iDrive6 and a customisable 8.8-inch touchscreen.
Opt for the M240i as a Coupe ($76,800) or Convertible ($85,800), and you're getting more than extra performance from the 3.0-litre turbo six. On top of the lengthy equipment list detailed above, you'll also pick up 18-inch alloys in 'Bicolour Jet Black', 12-speaker, 360W harman/kardon surround sound audio, 'Adaptive M Suspension', 'Adaptive LED Headlights', the Dakota leather trim, and front-seat heating.
As its name implies, the M2 Pure ($93,300) makes spec sacrifices in the name of light weight, including manual seat adjustment and a base (yet, still seven-speaker) audio package, but one of the biggest pay-offs is a standard six-speed manual gearbox. Save the manuals!
It also features 19-inch BMW M light alloy wheels, an M rear spoiler, quad exhaust pipes in high-gloss chrome, bi-LED headlights (with variable light distribution, including cornering lights), 'Dakota' leather upholstery, carbon fibre trim finishers, an M leather multi-function steering wheel, cruise control (with braking function), 'Driving Assistant', 'Rear Park Distance Control', and a reversing camera.
The full-fat M2 Coupe ($99,900) reinstates electric seat adjustment, plugs in the 12-speaker, 360W harman/kardon sound system, and adds 'Comfort access' (keyless entry and start), 'Adaptive LED Headlights' (with variable light distribution), and 'Selective Beam with anti-glare High-Beam Assistant'.
A vast array of individual options and packages covers everything from steering-wheel heating to a smoker's kit (naughty), and (amazingly, given it's standard on the Hyundai Accent) Apple CarPlay (220i & M2 Pure - $436 / 230i - $479 / M240i & M2 - $623).
Engine & trans
The Abarth 595 pair use the same 1.4-litre 'MultiJet' four-cylinder turbo engine in differing states of tune. The base car makes 107kW/206Nm, while the Competizione makes 132kW/250Nm, thanks to a freer-flowing exhaust, a larger Garrett-branded turbocharger and an ECU re-tune.
The base car can do 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds, while the Competizione is 1.2 seconds quicker; the optional 'Dualogic' automatic is 0.2sec slower to the mark in both cars.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, and neither car is fitted with a limited slip diff.
BMW 2 Series9/10
The 220i is powered by a 2.0-litre 'TwinScroll' turbo-petrol four, featuring 'Valvetronic' variable valve control and 'Double-VANOS' variable camshaft control, and developing 135kW at 5000rpm, and 270Nm between 1350-4600rpm.
Using a retuned version of the same engine (lower compression ratio, more turbo boost), the 230i pumps out a solid 185kW at 5200rpm, and a grunty 350Nm from just 1450-4800rpm.
Then, the M240i is powered by a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo-petrol, pushing out no less than 250kW at 5500rpm, and a thumping 500Nm between 1520-4500rpm.
The full-house M2's 3.0-litre turbo six produces 272kW at 6500rpm, and 465Nm from just 1400-5650rpm (500Nm from 1450-4750rpm on overboost), driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, although a six speed-manual is a no-cost option (and standard on the M2 Pure).
Over 150km of testing, the Competizione consumed a dash-indicated 8.7 litres per 100km, against a claimed combined fuel economy figure of 6.0L/100km. Our brief test of the 595 revealed a similar number, against the same claimed figure.
The Abarth will only accept 95 octane fuel or better, and its small 35-litre tank is good for a theoretical 583km between fills.
BMW 2 Series8/10
Claimed fuel consumption for the 220i Coupe, on the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle, is 5.9L/100km, emitting 135g/km of C02 in the process. The 220i Convertible rates 6.1L/100km (140g/km).
The 230i Coupe is line-ball with that at 5.9L/100km (134g/km), and the the 230i Convertible at 6.2L/100km (142g/km).
The price of performance starts to bite with the M240i consuming 7.1L/100km (163g/km) in coupe form, and 7.4L/100km (169g/km) as a convertible.
Then, as you might expect, the M2 is thirstiest of all, the dual-clutch auto consuming 7.9L/100km (185g/km), while the six-speed manual version slurps 8.5L/100km (199g/km).
Auto start-stop is standard, fuel tank capacity is 52 litres across the board, and although technically these engines can run on anything from 91-98RON unleaded, BMW recommends 95RON premium as a minimum.
Ergonomics aside, the combination of torquey engine and lightweight car is always a good one, and the 1.4-litre turbocharged four is a good match with the front-drive Abarth.
There’s always enough mid-range urge to give the Abarth the hurry-up, and the longer-legged five-speed gearbox is a good match for the engine.
It also grips and turns surprisingly well, despite the Sport button adding too much artificial weight to the Abarth’s steering feel.
That same button also firms up the front dampers on the 595 and all four on the Competizione, which works well on smoother terrain, but stiffens it too much over more undulating surfaces.
Around town it can be hard to strike a good balance between ride and comfort. The difference between soft and firm is much more pronounced in the Competizione, but it will still get tiring if your commute is a bumpy one.
The turning circle, by the by, is ridiculously large for such a small car, making u-turns - already compromised by the lower front bumper - unnecessarily fraught.
The Monza exhaust on the Competizione gives it a bit more presence, but it could easily be louder (or at least more crackly) again; you’re not buying this car to be a wallflower, after all.
BMW 2 Series8/10
Four 2 Series variants were offered for the launch drive program, a 230i Coupe (which BMW nominates as the most popular model in the range), M240i Coupe, M2, and M2 Pure.
Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 5.6sec for the 230i M Sport Coupe is quick, with the convertible stopping the clocks three tenths later.
Peak torque of 350Nm is plenty, and with that number available from 1450-4800rpm the mid-spec 2 Series is an entertaining drive.
It's M Sport (strut front, five-link rear) suspension keeps the body well buttoned down in quick going, while the beefier M brakes provide strong and progressive stopping power.
Even a firm squeeze of the throttle can't side-step some hesitation as the turbo spools up before right foot pressure translates into forward momentum, but despite the sporty tune, ride quality is good (even riding on notoriously harsh 18-inch run-flat rubber), while response and road feel from the variable-ratio steering are excellent.
The eight-speed auto is beautifully slick, with manual changes, via wheel-mounted paddles, sharp and positive.
Add the grippy leather sports wheel, snug sports front seats, and racy cloth/Alcantara trim (leather in the convertible), and you have a comfortable, nicely balanced and fun-to-drive package.
Accelerating from 0-100km/h in 4.6sec (convertible 4.7sec), the M240i effortlessly achieves 'genuinely rapid' status. Yes, it's fast, but never furious, in the sense that even under the pressure of enthusiastic peddling it remains civilised and composed.
Maximum torque of 500Nm is not to be sneezed at, and when you realise that mountainous maximum is actually a flat-top plateau stretching from only 1520rpm up to 4500rpm, satisfying urge is never far away. And the flexible 3.0-litre turbo-six is an aural treat as it howls its way towards a 7000rpm rev ceiling.
The standard 'Adaptive M Suspension' offers settings from 'Comfort' through to 'Sport+', but even in the most forgiving mode the car remains taut and communicative.
The 18-inch rims, shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (225/40 front / 245/35 rear) don't upset the ride as much as you'd expect, although coarse-chip surfaces send rumble through to the cabin.
In terms of ergonomics and general function, the new iDrive6 system is simple and intuitive to use, the current BMW dash and console layout is a model of efficiency, but the two-stage (depress small button on stubby lever, then shift) process to select drive or reverse can be a frustratingly hit-and-miss affair if you need to get going quickly.
Then, the M2 is all business, with a properly focused feel, and the ability to accelerate from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.5sec for the six-speed manual, and just 4.3sec for the seven-speed dual-clutch. Try not to smile as that g-force shoves you back in your seat. You won't succeed.
Although peak power arrives at a relatively high 6500rpm, maximum torque of 465Nm (500Nm for limited periods on overboost) is ready for action across a broad spread from 1400-5650rpm, so the M2 has adrenalin flowing through its veins at all times.
An electronically controlled 'Active M Differential' manages torque distribution across the rear axle to optimise power down, with the ability to send anywhere from zero to 100 percent of drive to either back wheel.
The 'M Servotronic' steering, switchable through comfort and sport modes, is feelsome and linear in its response, the mega 'M Compound Brake' package (borrowed from big-brother M4) is professional grade, and while the seven-speed dual-clutch may shift faster, snicking up and down the manual's six ratios is a rare pleasure.
Rolling on 19-inch, ultra-high-performance Michelin semi-slick rubber (255/35 front / 275/35 rear) the M2 is never going to waft like a limousine, but if you're signing on for this kind of performance and dynamic ability, some ride harshness over less than perfect surfaces goes with the territory.
Despite a lack of electronic safety aids – and, somewhat amazingly in the current age, a rear-view camera – the Fiat 500 that forms the Abarth's basis still carries the maximum five-star rating from ANCAP it was awarded in 2008, by dint of its seven airbags and bodyshell strength.
It wouldn’t have the same luck if it were judged under new ANCAP regs coming into force in 2018, though.
BMW 2 Series9/10
There are also 'Approach Control Warning', 'Attentiveness Assistant', and 'Pedestrian warning' systems, plus 'Dynamic braking lights, DSC, ABS, 'Braking Assistant', 'Cornering Brake Control' (CBC), 'Dynamic Traction Control' (DTC), cruise control with braking function, a reversing camera, 'Park Distance Control' (PDC) rear (front and rear on 120i and up), and run-flat safety tyres (including a run-flat indicator) for the 220i and 230i. Tyre pressure monitoring is standard on the M240i and M2.
There are two child restraint top tethers across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchor points in each position.
On the passive safety side, all 2 Series models feature airbags for the front, side and head, as well as 'Intelligent Emergency Call' assistance.
The current BMW 2 Series Coupe/Convertible hasn't been tested by ANCAP or EuroNCAP.
A three-year/150,000km warranty is offered as standard on the Abarth 595 range, with a suggested service interval of 12 months or 15,000km.
Abarth importer Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia offers three fixed-priced services for the 595 range at 15,000, 30,000 and 45,000km, with the first costing $275.06, the second $721.03 and the third $275.06.
BMW 2 Series8/10
BMW uses 'condition-based' servicing, with the car effectively telling you when it's time to visit the workshop, but the 'BMW Service Inclusive' program offers distance and time options to fix maintenance costs (on a 'Basic' or 'Plus' plan) for up to 10 years/200,00km.
For example, a five year/80,000km service package for the 2 Series costs $1340 for the Basic option (oil service/top-up, annual vehicle check, microfilter, air filter, fuel filter, brake fluid, spark plugs), and $3550 for the Plus pack (adds brake pads and discs, wipers rubbers, and clutch disc and plate).
The standard BMW warranty covers three years/unlimited km.