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BMW M235i 2021 review: Gran Coupe

The M235i is powered by BMW’s most powerful 2.0-litre engine

The M235i xDrive is BMW’s latest swept-back four-door offering. The 2 Series Coupe, wedded to the X1, is a little bit of a conundrum, especially in a market dominated by SUVs. Our family, though, is quite partial to a cat amongst the pigeons, and was keen to see if the M235i was unique enough to hold interest.

We were far from disappointed.

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✅ What does it look like?

The M235i may only have a slight leaning to a traditional coupe silhouette but we don’t mind the overall look of it, particularly with the M styling that adds a sassy body kit and funky wheels.

It sports BMW’s current trademark grille which together with the front lighting configuration suggests its aggressive intent.

The longer overhangs seem a bit untidy which make the side profile almost ordinary, but the rear end drags the M235i back in the black with a pronounced lip, diffusers and fog lights making for a sporty appearance.

It sports BMW’s current trademark grille which together with the front lighting configuration suggests its aggressive intent. It sports BMW’s current trademark grille which together with the front lighting configuration suggests its aggressive intent.

On the inside the M235i is decidedly familiar with comfortable, sporty leather bucket seats up font and an air of restrained luxury.

Two 10.5-inch digital screens (for the instrument cluster and operating system) make a great statement piece in a cockpit which is largely focused on the driver.

We like the quality switchgear, the well-placed steering wheel controls, and the fact that the plastics don’t mark easily.

On the inside the M235i is decidedly familiar with comfortable. On the inside the M235i is decidedly familiar with comfortable.

✅ How does it drive?

The M235i is powered by BMW’s most powerful 2.0-litre engine (225kW/450Nm) which not only provides a thrill under acceleration but in practical terms provides some extra confidence when overtaking or if you need to merge quickly.

The M235i is powered by BMW’s most powerful 2.0-litre engine. The M235i is powered by BMW’s most powerful 2.0-litre engine.

This Gran Coupe is a handy little unit, well balanced and heavy enough to offer a smooth ride with enhanced manoeuvrability and agility around corners, or in tight spaces.

You can chose between 'Comfort' and 'Sport' modes, depending on the type of ride you prefer, and while this may not be a true performance machine, that won’t stop you having some brisk fun, with or without the kids in tow.

✅ How spacious is it?

The M235i Gran Coupe rides on the same platform as the X1, with a little bit of added length, so it's safe to assume space would be at a premium.

Still, the designers have managed to eke out every millimetre they can to improve cabin space and their work has paid off. Space up front is generous, given the proportions, and its quite easy to find a comfortable driving position.

The story in the back is not as rosy, well, not for adults anyway, with the coupe’s sloping roof impacting headroom, especially for taller passengers, and the door openings are also quite restrictive for larger frames.

  • The M235i Gran Coupe rides on the same platform as the X1, so it's safe to assume space would be at a premium. The M235i Gran Coupe rides on the same platform as the X1, so it's safe to assume space would be at a premium.
  • The story in the back is not as rosy, well, not for adults anyway. The story in the back is not as rosy, well, not for adults anyway.

The kids, though, will fit easily and ours reported that the seats themselves while a little flat were comfy enough. Taller kids car seats are a touch trickier – that sloping roof again.

The boot is a nice surprise – 430 litres is useful enough for a family although you may have to opt for a smaller pram if your kiddies still need them.

The boot opening can be a little restrictive when loading larger items but the space itself is deep and the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat for load through is super handy.

The boot is a nice surprise – 430 litres is useful enough for a family. The boot is a nice surprise – 430 litres is useful enough for a family.

✅ How easy is it to use every day?

An extensive list of creature comforts makes the M235i quite easy to live with. Electrically adjusted heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights with high beam assist, keyless entry with push-button start, and ambient interior lighting are just the tip of the iceberg.

A well designed cabin helps tick many of the practicality boxes, with the Gran Coupe offering efficient storage options, albeit scaled down in size.

Up front, there are a couple of cupholders, usable door bins, covered storage between the seats and a smaller tray for the oddities. Rear seat passengers have two air vents, a couple of cupholders and can fit skinny water bottles in the door bins.

An extensive list of creature comforts makes the M235i quite easy to live with. An extensive list of creature comforts makes the M235i quite easy to live with.

Visibility is often a consideration for family cars which is one of the reasons SUVs are so popular but the Gran Coupe fairs well in that regard despite thickish A-pillars.

We like the multi-function steering wheel and functionality of the switchgear, too, which makes on-the-go operation of the climate control system and radio quite doable.

There are two ISOFIX points and three top tethers for baby capsules and child seats across the second row.

A well designed cabin helps tick many of the practicality boxes. A well designed cabin helps tick many of the practicality boxes.

✅ How safe is it?

This Gran Coupe model is yet to be ANCAP tested but as you would expect from BMW, the M235i is equipped with a number of active and passive safety features, including those that make our lives a touch easier like reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors,  lane-change assist, rear cross traffic alert, rear collision prevention and parking assist.

The M235i also has head and side airbags for front-seat occupants and side curtain airbags along the length of the car.

There is no Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) which feels like an oversight at this price point. You can option adaptive cruise control ($850) which also gives you the 'City Brake' system that can slow the car down if a potential forward collision is likely, but will not stop it completely.

✅ What’s the tech like?

The 10.25-inch colour touchscreen that fronts the M235i’s multimedia system is aesthetically pleasing and highly functional with intuitive navigation and good graphics quality.

An equally impressive screen is used for the digital instrument cluster. BMW’s 'Connected Package Professional' includes Apple CarPlay and inductive wireless phone charging while the Harmon Kardon 16-speaker sound system offers a crisp sound track to belt out your favourite tunes.

An equally impressive screen is used for the digital instrument cluster. An equally impressive screen is used for the digital instrument cluster.

Bluetooth connectivity is easy to establish and the system itself is simple to navigate through the steering wheel controls.

✅ How much does it cost to own?

The all-wheel drive 2.0-litre M235i xDrive starts at $69,990, excluding on roads. BMW offers this car with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which by competitor standards feels a bit frugal.

Fuel efficiency is pretty on par with the power output with official figures at 7.6L/100km and 173g/km of CO2.

The all-wheel drive 2.0-litre M235i xDrive starts at $69,990, excluding on roads. The all-wheel drive 2.0-litre M235i xDrive starts at $69,990, excluding on roads.

We averaged around 9.8L/100km during our week behind the wheel, hardly surprising given the appeal of the throaty engine response to a heavy foot was difficult to resist.


The Wrap

We found the M235i Gran Coupe a fun, accomplished drive and really enjoyed our week behind the wheel. It is clearly a niche offering but is quick to show that it has the versatility to suit, whether you need a sleek luxury statement or a fun compact family chariot.

Likes

Sporty edge
Dynamic drive
Value

Dislikes

No AEB
Short warranty
Tight rear room

Scores

Vani:

3.5

The Kids:

3.5

$69,990

Based on new car retail price