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
- Short warranty
- No full AEB standard
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
There’s occasional wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the question of whether a four-door car can be called a coupe.
Rover set tongues wagging close to 60 years ago with its P5 Coupe; to all intents and purposes a sedan with a lower, slightly swoopier roofline.
So, rather than call in the coupe police, after they’ve visited Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, we’ll go with the flow and introduce you to the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, launching in two variants - the 218i (front-wheel drive, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo), and M235i xDrive (all-wheel drive, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo).
|Engine Type||1.5L 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 Series7.8/10
Small four-door cars aren’t exactly flavour-of-the-month in the current Australian new car market, but this newcomer offers solid value, and good dynamic balance in a premium compact package. It’s aimed at a niche within a niche, but for seekers of sleek, inner-city-sized four-door luxury, the 2 Series Gran Coupe has a lot to offer.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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 whole BMW Gran Coupe ‘thing’ kicked off in 2012 with a lower, longer, extra-doored version of the 6 Series coupe.
The formula is broadly similar in each case. Take the two-door coupe, stretch it length-wise, add a couple of doors and remove the frames from all of them, then let the wind tunnel smooth out the overall form.
In line with that design approach, at just over 4.5m long the Gran Coupe is 94mm longer than the 2 Series two-door, as well as fractionally wider (+26mm), and a little taller (+7.0mm).
A big grille is a key part of BMW’s current design language, and the 2 Series Gran Coupe obliges with a suitably large version of the brand’s signature ‘kidney’ grille with a single surround unifying it graphically.
Angry, angular LED headlights combine with large air vents either side of the front clip to conjure up a confident, assertive face.
The car’s profile conforms to the BMW Gran Coupe template with the roofline tapering markedly towards the rear and strategically placed character lines along the car’s flanks adding visual interest and enhancing the its lengthy look.
BMW devotees will recognise the term ‘Hofmeister Kink’, a characteristic up-turn of the trailing edge of a BMW’s side window glass, This time around BMW refers to the element as an ‘upright’ Hofmeister Kink, which is a misnomer, because it’s so upright it no longer conforms to the vision of Wilhelm Hofmeister (the Bavarian maker’s head of design in the early 1960s).
Slim, long, distinctly horizontal LED tail-lights define the rear view, with other lateral lines and trim elements enhancing the car’s wide, planted stance.
The interior will be instantly familiar to any current model BMW owner with the neatly arranged dash featuring the ‘Cockpit Professional’ set-up including a 10.25-inch configurable instrument display, and another same-size multimedia screen annexed to the main binnacle.
All instrumentation and key controls are angled towards the driver and attention to detail in terms of quality is high.
It’s now an accepted truth that lights and screens are the new chrome in terms of automotive design, and the 2 Series Gran Coupe compliments its sleek screens with an interior ambient lighting package, as well as brushed metal elements and BMW’s usual array of logically arranged, legible and user-friendly switchgear.
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
No matter how hard you shut your eyes and spit out a Harry Potter-style incantation, you can’t magic-up a big interior in a small car.
BMW’s packaging boffins will have sweated bullets to eke out every extra millimetre, but the hard fact is this 2 Series Gran Coupe is diminutive.
Cozy is the best way to describe the front section, and the front seats are snug, be they the cloth-trimmed sports seats in the 218i, or even racier leather-trimmed chairs in the 235i xDrive.
Access to the rear requires mild gymnastic prowess because the door aperture is modest, and once you’re in there it’s tight. Sitting behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position, my shiny pate made firm contact with the headliner, and my knees were striking up a close relationship with the front seatback.
Forget three grown-ups abreast in there. I’d describe the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s seating arrangement as a ‘2+2+1’.
Storage is provided in all the right places, but scaled down to suit the available space. There’s a lidded storage box between the front seats, two cupholders and a wireless charging bay in the front centre console, decent door bins with room for bottles, and a glove box (able to accommodate several pairs of gloves).
Backseaters have access to small door bins and a fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders in it. The primo M235i xDrive features adjustable rear air vents, while the entry-level 218i misses out.
The boot chips in with 430 litres of load space, which is okay rather than cavernous, and it’s worth remembering the opening is narrow relative to a similarly-sized hatch. But a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat increases flexibility, and liberates more space.
Don’t bother looking for a spare of any description as a repair/inflator kit is your only option.
Towing is possible in the 218i, but sadly the dual-axle caravan is off the agenda. Maximum capacity for a braked trailer is 1300kg (with a 75kg towball download), and 710kg unbraked. The M235i xDrive is a no-tow zone.
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 two-model 2 Series Gran Coupe line-up kicks off with the 218i at $47,490, before on-road costs, and BMW’s aiming up at Merc’s CLA 200 ($60,700) with this car, at a more than $13K differential.
Aside from the standard active and passive safety tech (covered in the Safety section) that cost-of-entry includes: 18-inch alloy rims, a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, sports front seats, head-up display, the 'Live Cockpit Professional’ pack (10.25-inch instrument cluster, 10.25-inch operating system 7.0 media display and ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant’), Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is coming later in 2020), cruise control, keyless entry and start, ambient interior lighting, LED headlights, tail-lights, and fog lights, ‘Parking Assistant’ (front and rear sensors, reversing camera, ‘Auto Parking Assistant’ and ‘Reversing Assistant’) and a six-speaker (100-watt) audio system.
Yes, the Merc features an AMG bodykit and rims, as well as active cruise, and it has a bit more oomph, but that’s a pretty handy batch of standard features for a lot less money.
In similar fashion, at $69,990, before on-road costs, the M235i xDrive lines up price-wise against Merc’s CLA 250 4Matic ($70,200), but knocks it for six in terms of performance. In fact, BMW wants a piece of the Merc-AMG CLA 35 ($85,500) with this mini-muscle coupe.
Over and above the 218i’s equipment list the top-spec car features: 19-inch alloys, M-Sport brakes (four-piston front calipers, up from single piston), M steering calibration, M rear spoiler, M Sport front seats, leather upholstery, electric front seat adjustment (including memory on the driver’s side), adaptive LED headlights (including ‘High-beam Assistant), and harman/kardon 16-speaker (464-watt) audio. Not bad at all.
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 218i Gran Coupe is powered by a version of BMW’s B38 in-line three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, used in various BMW and Mini models. The all-alloy unit features direct-injection, ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing and ‘Double-VANOS variable cam timing to produce 103kW from 4600-6500rpm, and 220Nm from 1480-4200rpm. It sends drive to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The M235i Gran Coupe is powered by a version of BMW’s B48 in-line four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, also used in various BMW and Mini models, including the Mini John Cooper Works GP.
Another all-alloy design, it also uses a twin-scroll turbo set-up, direct-injection, ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing and ‘Double-VANOS variable cam timing to produce no less than 225kW from 5000-6250rpm, and a whopping 450Nm from 1750-4500rpm.
It sends power to all four wheels through an eight-speed (conventional torque-converter) automatic transmission and a dedicated transfer gearbox, guided by multiple sensors and processors, to send drive to the wheels that can make best use of it.
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 economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.9L/100km, the 218i, emitting 135g/km of CO2 in the process.
Not surprisingly, the high-performance M235i xDrive is thirstier, the combined cycle figure rising to 7.6L/100km, and emissions sitting at 173g/km of CO2. During a post-launch week of city, suburban and freeway running in this version, we recorded a real-world number of 10.2L/100km.
Stop-start is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded in the 215i, and 98 RON premium in the M235i, and you’ll need 50 litres to brim the tank on both.
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
For most driving circumstances the 218i offers enough performance to get the job done, with 0-100km/h acceleration for the 1375kg four-door claimed at 8.7sec.
With more than twice the power and torque the M235i is able to blast it’s heavier (1570kg) frame to the same mark in just 4.9sec, and anything under five seconds is properly fast.
The three-cylinder car is smooth, surprisingly quiet, and responsive, the little turbo providing a satisfyingly linear response, with maximum torque available from just 1480rpm all the way to 4200rpm. The seven-speed auto is most un-dual-clutch like in that it’s unobtrusive, but very dual-clutch-like in that it shifts rapidly and precisely.
Step into the M235i and you’re entering an altogether more serious world of performance. The in-line four is crisp and lights up with only a modest flexing of the right ankle. The four-cylinder’s raspy engine induction noise is smile-inducing, and in Sport mode the exhaust adds furious blurts and bangs to full-throttle up-shifts, and entertaining crackles and pops on the way back down the ratios.
The eight-speed auto doesn’t give anything away to the 218i’s dual-clutch, especially in manual mode, where a flick of either wheel mounted paddle results in almost instant changes. And the xDrive system keeps the car planted, the transfer gearbox on the back of the main transmission seamlessly distributing torque to all four wheels on a needs basis.
Pushing along some B-road bends on the BMW launch drive program, the M235i remained planted and felt eager, picking up the throttle quickly out of tight corners, the bigger brakes keeping the car stable as load transfers to the front axle.
But no matter which version of the 2 Series Gran Coupe you’re in, the ride/handling balance is impressive. Suspension is strut front, multi-link rear in both, and the car’s ability to blend great cornering with a comfy ride is the mark of a company that knows its way around engineering dynamics. The 218i comes with an M Sport suspension tune, although the standard set-up is a no-cost option.,
Steering is accurate, feelsome, and nicely weighted in both models, the M235i upping the ante with meatier variable rate settings. And the sports seats in each car are grippy, although, despite adjustability of the side bolsters, the M235i runs the risk of sacrificing long-distance comfort for firm location.
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 Series8/10
All the expected active safety tech is on-board, including ABS, EBD, BA and stability and traction controls. Then the 218i adds ‘Driving Assistant’ (including lane departure warning, lane change warning, ‘Approach control Warning’ with city-braking intervention, ‘Rear Cross Traffic Warning’, ‘Rear Collision Prevention’ and ‘Speed Limit Information’. As well as, Parking Assistant’ (front and rear sensors, reversing camera, ‘Auto Parking Assistant’ and ‘Reversing Assistant’). As well as, a dry braking function, fading compensation, ‘Start-Off Assistant’, ‘Electronic Differential Lock Control’, and trailer stability control.
All that, but no AEB. At urban speeds, the 'City Brake' system will detect a potential forward collision and slow the car if necessary, but not bring it to a complete stop. For that you'll need to option in adaptive cruise control at $654 for the 218i and $850 for the M235i.
If an impact is unavoidable there are head and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as curtain airbags covering both rows.
There are also three top tether points for baby capsules/child seats across the rear seat, which ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe hadn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP at the time of writing.
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 Series7/10
BMW offers a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is off the pace with the majority of mainstream brands stepping up to five-year cover, with some at seven. And the pressure is on with Mercedes-Benz announcing its shift to five years/unlimited km.
That said, the BMW's body is warranted against rust (perforation) for 12 years/unlimited km, and roadside assistance is provided free-of-charge for three years/unlimited km.
Maintenance is 'condition based' with sensors and on-board algorithms (mileage, time since last service, fuel consumption, driving style) determining whether an annual vehicle inspection or oil service is required.
The 'BMW Service Inclusive' package, offering a single, one-off advance payment to cover selected service and maintenance costs, is available in two levels - 'Basic' or 'Plus.'