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BMW 1 series


BMW 2 Series

Summary

BMW 1 series

It wasn’t that long ago the notion of a front-wheel drive (FWD) BMW was unheard of, but along came the third-generation 1 Series five-door hatchback in September 2019.

The 'F40' 1 Series' predecessors were based on rear-wheel drive (RWD) platforms, as was every other model in BMW's long history – to that point.

Ironically, though, the F40 1 Series' performance flagship remains the all-wheel drive (AWD) M135i xDrive, but now it has a FWD counterpart, the Volkswagen Golf GTI-baiting 128ti.

Critically, this represents the first time since the late 1990s range of 3 Series Compact three-door hatchbacks that the ti, Turismo Internazionale, badge has been affixed to a BMW.

So, does the 128ti hot hatch live up to the ti lineage of sporty BMW small cars? And perhaps more importantly, does it prove a FWD BMW can be truly desirable? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

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.

But in the 21st century, BMW has wiped the conversation aside and gone four-door coupe mad, even applying the tag to a couple of its X Series SUVs as well as a series of more conventional models.

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).

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW 1 series7.9/10

It might not be rear-wheel drive, but the 128ti is a thoroughly enjoyable BMW to steer, proving the 'f' in front-wheel drive can stand for fun. It’s a very good hot hatch.

And given how expensive mainstream hot hatches have become, the 128ti is a bargain, giving would-be Golf GTI, Focus ST and i30 N buyers a thing or two to think about.

After all, the 128ti is a premium hot hatch by virtue of the BMW badges it wears and the higher quality of its parts, but not its price. And for that reason, it cannot be ignored.


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.

Design

BMW 1 series8/10

You can count me among those who aren't fans of the 1 Series' version of BMW’s 'kidney' grille. It’s not just out of proportion, but arguably, misplaced.

In fact, it just spoils the front end, although I'm also not a fan of the bumper's 'smiling' centre air intake.

But, thankfully, that’s where my unfavourable opinion ends, as the angular headlights and hexagonal DRLs look the part, while the 128ti's red-trimmed side air intakes bring a sense of occasion.

And you better be a big fan of red trim, as the 128ti liberally applies it around the side, where the brake calipers have some presence behind the attractive 18-inch Y-spoke alloy wheels. And don’t forget the side skirt insert and 'ti' decal!

At the rear, aside from the obligatory '128ti' badge and the relatively subtle red-trimmed side air intakes, there isn’t much to separate the 128ti from a garden variety 1 Series, but that’s no bad thing as it's its best angle.

The sporty rear spoiler, sleek tail-lights, stupendous diffuser insert and scintillating dual exhaust tailpipes are gorgeous. And the 128ti is attractive in profile, thanks to its appealing silhouette and smoothly sculpted lines.

Inside, the 128ti stands out from the 1 Series crowd with the red stitching applied to the steering wheel, seats, armrests and dashboard, while the floor mats have – you guessed it – red piping.

The most interesting design flourish, though, is the red-stitched ti logo on the centre armrest. That's one way to make a statement, and it all combines to make the 128ti feel special.

And being a 1 Series is a leg-up in the first place, as high-quality materials are used throughout, in concert with a simple but effective design.

Mercifully, the centre stack features physical climate and audio controls, while the centre console has an appropriately sized gear selector and a rotary dial to control the multimedia system.

That's right, the 128ti has multiple input methods aside from the 10.25-inch central touchscreen and voice control, making it a relative breeze to operate, especially with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support of the wireless variety.

That said, there's plenty of room for improvement for the 128ti's 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, which lacks the breadth of functionality of its competitors.


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.

Following in its fashionable wheel tracks were the 4 Series Gran Coupe in 2014, an 8 Series model in 2019, and now this diminutive 2 Series.

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).

But the surprise is a shorter wheelbase (2670mm) for this front-wheel drive model (based on the 1 Series platform), compared to the rear-wheel drive two-door (2690mm).

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.

Practicality

BMW 1 series9/10

Measuring 4319mm long (with a 2670mm wheelbase), 1799mm wide and 1434mm tall, the 128ti is a small hatchback in every sense of the term, but it makes the most of its size.

The boot's cargo capacity is competitive, at 380L, although it can be increased to a more accommodating 1200L by stowing the 60/40 split-fold rear bench.

Either way, there's a decent load lip to contend with, but four tie-down points, two bag hooks and a side storage net are on hand for securing loose items.

In the second row, there's a welcome four centimetres of legroom behind my 184cm driving position as well as a centimetre or two of headroom, even with our test car’s optional panoramic sunroof.

Three adults can sit on the rear seats on short journeys, but they will have next-to-no shoulder-room, plus a large central tunnel (necessary for AWD 1 Series variants) to deal with.

Young children are accommodated, though, with two ISOFIX and three top-tether anchorage points available for fitting child seats.

Amenities-wise, those in the back have access to the storage nets on the front seat backrests, clothes hooks, the centre console's directional air vents and two USB-C ports.

The door bins can take a regular bottle each, but there isn't a fold-down armrest with cupholders.

Up front, the glove box is surprisingly large, while the driver-side cubby is not only decently sized, but two-tiered. The central storage bin is also solid, and has a USB-C port hidden inside.

Ahead of that are a 12V power outlet, a pair of cupholders, a USB-A port and a narrow, open cubby that should house a wireless smartphone charger (but doesn't). And yes, the door bins are ready to swallow a regular bottle apiece. So, pretty damn good overall.


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

BMW 1 series8/10

Priced from a tempting $55,031, plus on-road costs, the 128ti finds itself right in the thick of the hot-hatch action, with its M135i xDrive big brother at least $10,539 dearer, while its most direct rival, the Golf GTI, is just $541 cheaper.

Of course, more affordable FWD hot hatches are available, and they're more potent than the 128ti and GTI, including the Ford Focus ST X ($51,990) and automatic Hyundai i30 N Premium ($52,000).

Either way, the 128ti stands out from the 1 Series crowd with its bespoke steering tune, lowered sports suspension (-10mm), black grille, unique two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, upgraded brakes with red calipers, and black side-mirror caps.

There's also red trim on the front and rear air intakes, and side skirts, with 'ti' decals positioned above the latter. The steering wheel, seats, armrests, dashboard and floor mats have similarly coloured accents.

Other standard equipment includes a body kit, dusk-sensing adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a tyre repair kit, power-folding side mirrors with heating and puddle lights, keyless entry and start, a 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system, satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio and a six-speaker sound system.

And then there’s a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a 9.2-inch head-up display, dual-zone climate control, a sports steering wheel, power-adjustable front sports seats with memory functionality, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, black/red cloth and synthetic leather upholstery, 'Illuminated Boston' trim, ambient lighting and M seat belts.

Options include a $3000 'Enhancement Package' (metallic paintwork, panoramic sunroof and adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality), which was fitted to our test vehicle for an 'as tested' price of $58,031.

Other key options include a $1077 'Convenience Package' (power tailgate, boot storage net and ski port), a $2000 'Executive Package' (alarm, rear privacy glass, 10-speaker hi-fi sound, gesture control and tyre pressure monitoring) and a $1023 'Comfort Package' (heated steering wheel, and front seats with lumbar support).


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

BMW 1 series8/10

The 128ti is motivated by a familiar 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, with its version producing a promising 180kW of power at 6500rpm and 380Nm of torque from 1500-4400rpm.

Disappointingly, Australian examples are detuned relative to their European counterparts, which are 15kW/20Nm more potent due to their market-specific set-up.

Either way, drive is sent to the front wheels via a dependable ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) and a determined Torsen limited-slip differential.

This combination helps the 128ti sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a brisk 6.3 seconds while on the way to a not-in-Australia top speed of 243km/h.

For reference, competitor outputs are: M135i xDrive (225kW/450Nm), Golf GTI (180kW/370Nm), i30 N Premium (206kW/392Nm), and Focus ST X (206kW/420Nm).


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. 

Fuel consumption

BMW 1 series7/10

The 128ti's fuel consumption on the combined cycle test (ADR 81/02) is a promising 6.8L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 156g/km.

However, in real-world testing, I averaged a reasonable 8.4L/100km over an even combination of urban and highway driving. Without my heavy right foot, an even better return could be had.

For reference, the 128ti's 50L fuel tank takes more expensive 98 RON premium petrol at minimum. Its claimed driving range is 735km, but in my experience, I got 595km.

 


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. 

Driving

BMW 1 series8/10

So, can a FWD BMW be fun to drive? As far as the 128ti is concerned, the answer is a resounding yes.

Yes, you get the feeling you’re being pulled rather than pushed, but the 128ti attacks corners with entertaining vigour.

Of course, the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine’s 180kW/380Nm outputs can easily overwhelm the front wheels off the line, and torque steer is a threat, particularly when pushing hard around bends, but they’re welcome characteristics.

After all, corner exits are improved by the 128ti’s Torsen limited-slip differential, which works hard to optimise grip when you need it most.

When going for the jugular, understeer still rears its ugly head, but wrestling the 128ti into shape is half the fun.

That said, body control isn't quite as strong as hoped. Turn in sharply and the 1445kg 128ti generates a surprising amount of roll.

It’s worth noting the lowered sports suspension goes without adaptive dampers, its fixed-rate set-up attempting to find the delicate balance between comfort and dynamic response.

All in all, the 128ti's ride is firm but well judged, with short, sharp imperfections the only real bother. Needless to say, it’s capable of being a daily driver, and so it should be.

As mentioned, the electric power steering has a unique calibration, and it's nice and direct, with a good amount of feel. But if you prefer more heft, simply engage 'Sport' mode.

Speaking of which, the Sport drive mode also releases the full potential of the engine and the eight-speed auto, sharpening up the throttle and raising the shift points.

The 128ti engine is a gem, offering up plenty of punch, especially throughout the mid-range, where torque is at its fattest and power is about to peak. The accompanying soundtrack also has some presence, even if it is artificially 'enhanced.'

But the smooth yet relatively quick shifting automatic transmission can take plenty of credit for the brisk performance on offer.

That said, the 128ti's first and second ratios are surprisingly short, so pay attention if you take matters into your own hands via the steering wheel’s paddle shifters.


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. 

Safety

BMW 1 series8/10

The 128ti and the wider 1 Series range received a maximum five-star rating from independent Australian vehicle safety authority ANCAP in 2019.

Advanced driver-assist systems in the 128ti extend to autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, cruise control, speed sign recognition, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, blind-spot monitoring, active rear cross-traffic alert, park assist, rear AEB, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and 'Reversing Assistant.'

That said, annoyingly, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality is part of the 128ti’s optional Enhancement Package fitted to our test vehicle, or as an individual option.

And tyre pressure monitoring is tied to its extra-cost Executive Package. Both should be standard.

Also included are six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), anti-skid brakes (ABS) and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems.


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.

Ownership

BMW 1 series7/10

Like all BMW models, the 128ti comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years off the five years/unlimited km premium benchmark set by Audi, Genesis, Jaguar/Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.

The 128ti also comes with three years of roadside assistance, while its service intervals are average, at every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.

Capped-price servicing packages are available, with three years/40,000km starting from $1350, while five years/80,000km kicks off at $1700. The latter, in particular, offers great value.


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.'