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BMW 220i Convertible 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Malcolm Flynn road tests and reviews the new BMW 2 Series Convertible at its international launch.

It’s three degrees Celsius, the sky is the colour of a battleship and we’re surrounded on all sides by gigantic pick-up trucks, most of them with gun-totin’ owners staring down at our BMW soft-top, and wondering why on Earth we’ve got the roof down.

Welcome to Texas in winter, the slightly bonkers locale chosen for the launch of the new 2 Series Convertible, not generally the kind of car associated with country and western and longhorn bulls.

The convertible version of the still-fresh 2 Series Coupe arrives in Australian showrooms later this month and has some big shoes to fill, being the latest in a long line of compact drop-tops that dates back to the 1602 Cabriolet of 1967

Widely considered a style icon, the successive convertible baby Beemers have been generally known for their flat beltline and square-shouldered look – resulting in a boat-like profile with the roof down. 

The Chris Bangle-era 1 Series Convertible that preceded the new 2 strayed from this formula with its flame-surfaced flanks, but the more discretely styled 2 Series is arguably a more fitting nod to its wider heritage.  

While the looks were challenging, Australia was the fourth largest market for the 1 Series Convertible behind Germany, the US and UK.

The Australian 2 Series Convertible lineup will almost mirror the existing coupe models with petrol 220i, 228i and M235i variants, though without a diesel 220d due to a lack of demand.

Prices start at $54,900 for the 220i, and top out at $85,800 for the M235i, representing a premium of around $5000 over the coupe. The new model is slightly cheaper and offers more standard equipment than the old 1 Series.

Top-up at the same highway speeds, the 2 feels every bit as refined as its hardtop stablemate

The 2 Series Convertible’s hydraulic folding soft-top has been refined with revised materials and an extra layer of insulation – now a total of five - to reduce cabin noise by up to 50 per cent. Proving they’ve really done their homework is BMW’s claim that phone conversations are now possible at speeds up to 180km/h. 

Body and roof engineer Oliver Fürst also boasts that the new 2’s soft top is now almost as quiet as the complex folding hardtop of the larger 4 Series Convertible.  

The new roof will also lower in 20 seconds (two seconds faster), and can now be raised or lowered at speeds up to 50km/h (10km/h faster).

With the roof raised, headroom for rear seat passengers feels a match for the coupe - enough for this 172cm tester, but not much more.

Attention has been paid to the open-roof experience too, with improved aerodynamics reducing top-down cabin noise and surfaces designed to reduce glare on the LCD screens.   

Much of the 2’s 30mm longer wheelbase has been used to improve rear seat legroom, and while shoulder room has also been boosted, the packaging of the roof mechanism still creates an inwards-skewed seating position. Not ideal for adults, but likely fine for children.

The convertible’s boot has also grown by 30-litres to a very useful 355-litres, or 280-litres roof-down. With the rear seat folded, the through-cavity is also now 28mm taller and 150mm wider.

We drove the mid-spec $68,900 228i in Texas, which comes with the 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo four and rides on the larger 18-inch wheels. Unless specifically ordered as a six-speed manual, all Australian models will come with the excellent eight-speed ZF torque converter auto, which is famous for its refinement, efficiency and willingness to change personality altogether with Sport mode activated.

Top-down on the highway, in the miserable weather with the windows and detachable wind blocker up, the 2 convertible does a fantastic job of minimising cabin turbulence, and the dual-zone climate control and seat heaters helped to compensate for the lack of cover.

Top-up at the same highway speeds, the 2 feels every bit as refined as its hardtop stablemate, with the larger blindspot and smaller rear window of the folding roof being the only real compromises.

The 228i rode very comfortably over the broken country bitumen, and felt stable at speed. The straight roads on test lacked an opportunity to properly explore the new 2’s handling, but BMW’s engineers assure us that the convertible has been developed with the same dynamic focus as the coupe.

BMW claims a 6.0 second 0-100km/h figure for the 228i, which is far from shabby

The drop top is around 150kg heavier – depending on engine spec – but 50/50 weight distribution has been maintained to help with handling balance, and torsional stiffness has been improved by 20 per cent over the old 1 Series.

This extra weight costs the top M235i Convertible 0.2 seconds over the M235i Coupe’s 0-100km/figure, but 5.0 seconds is still half a second quicker than its Audi S3 Cabriolet nearest equivalent. 

BMW claims a 6.0 second 0-100km/h figure for the 228i, which is far from shabby. Many will also appreciate such performance wrapped within the 228i’s more elegant non-M sport standard styling.

Surprisingly, Australia will share its 2 Series Convertible suspension calibration with the US and Europe, so we look forward to a more thorough test on local roads.

Verdict

The baby Beemer convertible is better than ever, even in winter. Improved refinement and packaging make it a more appealing daily drive, but we look forward to punting it through some proper bends. 

 

Watch the new BMW 2 Series Convertible in action here. 

Pricing Guides

$32,888
Based on 146 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$18,800
Highest Price
$54,000

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M235i 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $38,900 – 54,000 2015 BMW 2 Series 2015 M235i Pricing and Specs
220i Luxury Line 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $32,990 – 38,000 2015 BMW 2 Series 2015 220i Luxury Line Pricing and Specs
220i M-SPORT 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $27,000 – 39,997 2015 BMW 2 Series 2015 220i M-SPORT Pricing and Specs
228i Sport Line 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $35,880 – 35,888 2015 BMW 2 Series 2015 228i Sport Line Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor

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Pricing Guide

$27,490

Lowest price, based on 25 car listings in the last 6 months

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