2014 BMW M235i First Drive

The 2014 BMW M235i Arrives to Confuse and Delight

What It Is
The 2014 BMW M235i is a luxury compact sports car.
Best Thing
The proportions are all right, the M235i is a blast to drive.
Worst Thing
The M235i's price won't be as small as its dimensions.
Snap Judgment
BMW's diminutive driver's car is an absolute delight to drive. The M235i will keep you coming back for more.


The 2014 BMW M235i is an all-new model, one we recently, thankfully, got to drive. But wait, when did BMW get a 2 Series you ask? If we had to award an automaker with "most confusing lineup," we'd be mailing a plaque straight to Bavaria. Friends seem to always have questions: What's this 4 Series they have now? Why do they call it a "coupe" if it has 4 doors? Is the M235i the M version of the 2 Series? In short, BMW is replacing the 1 Series with the 2 in America. Currently, all Beamers here are rear-wheel drive cars, but the automaker will soon introduce an entry-level front-wheel drive model to compete with the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA250. That car--when it arrives--will be the new 1 Series.

An entry-level 2014 BMW 2 Series comes in the form of the 228i, powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine capable of 245 horsepower. The BMW 335i kicks up performance with a beefier, 3.0-liter turbocharged engine that dials power to 320 horses, which for a car of this size and weight, is a large grin-inducing endeavor. Both engines can be paired to a standard six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed fast-shifting automatic transmission with paddles.

The "M" in M235i is not the M version of the 2 Series in the way an M3 or M5 represent the ultimate models for those lines. Rather, BMW is now offering some M Performance features for what essentially is a sportier version of the car, but not quite the M2 that will eventually wear the 2 Series crown. Think Audi's "S" line versus "RS" line, for an idea. The 2014 BMW 228i will start at $33,025, while the M235i models we drove are closer to the $45k mark. The 2014 BMW 2 Series will arrive in dealerships at the beginning of March. How does it drive? What's it like on the inside? You can read on to learn more.

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Walkaround

Despite being BMW's smallest car, designers seemed to really nail the proportions of the 2 Series. The familiar cues--like the BMW kidney grille and LED headlights--are present, but there's an unmistakable sportiness, a confident, athletic appearance. Large cooling air intakes take up so much room, designers couldn't fit fog lights on the front end. "This car needs a lot of air," we were told. BMW's designers say the 2 Series takes inspiration from BMW's most iconic model, the BMW 2002. Personally we see the 2 Series as sportier and less elegant in comparison, but certainly appropriate for today's enthusiasts.

Sitting Down

Once inside, a simple, surprisingly clean and taught cabin greets you. There are three colors of leather to choose from, an attractive, high resolution infotainment screen--either a 6.5-inch or 8.8-inch--rests atop the center console, as is all the rage these days. The center stack is a little button-heavy for our tastes, but the controls are logically laid out and easy to use. There are signs this is an entry-level model, such as the cheap, egg-crate like headliner material used. But other features delighted, such as the exceptional steering wheel, which felt nice in-hand, with a thick, soft, padded rubber rim. The driver and front passenger have a surprising amount of room, though rear-seaters will find themselves in cramped quarters. Regardless of where you sit, you'll have an appropriately cushioned, comfy seat.

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Driving

Normally I'd ease in to this, but I'm going to get straight to it: The BMW M235i is simply one of the most gratifying cars to drive, an unexpected delight, and really pleasing. Grip, excellent handling, cornering, fantastic steering, surprising acceleration. It's really a flat-out joy to pilot. As a disclaimer, I own a VW Golf, so compact, sporty German cars are something I gravitate towards normally. The M235i? It's Lance Armstrong on 'roids. Driving on track at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, driving on city streets, the freeway, regardless of the setting, this is a driver's car. Our model employed the ultra quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, one that deftly handled the M235i's 320 horsepower. The suspension was also surprisingly pleasing, nice on both the track--in Sport Plus mode--and smooth and pleasing on city streets. And that's really the balance of the M235i, whereas the M2, once launched, will likely be a stiffer, more track-focused car.

Summary

The 2014 BMW 2 Series will arrive in March as a replacement for the 1 Series in America, and we've just gotten a taste of the current top of the line M235i model. The Bavarian automaker's smallest model very well could be one of its most fun and desirable one. We haven't driven the 2015 Audi A3 yet, but we have driven the Mercedes-Benz CLA250, and came away impressed with the style, craftsmanship, and overall value it represented. Until BMW reintroduces the 1 Series as a front-wheel drive competitor, the 2 Series will be compared to Benz's entry-level car. Where the 2014 BMW M235i really excels is as an undeniably fun driver's car. Enthusiasts will delight with the 2's handling, character, and spunkiness. As far as we're concerned, we're looking forward to getting our hands on one as soon as physically possible.

Basic Specs

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine/3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission or eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, rear-wheel drive, 240-horsepower/320 horsepower, $33,025-$44,025, 22-23 mpg city/32-35 mpg hwy

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