BMW 230i — Driving fun in a small package

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(June 12, 2022) The last five BMW vehicles we've tested all had the performance M in their name and two were actually full-throated M performance cars — the M4 Competition Coupe and the X3 M, both sporting 503 horsepower — so it might be surprising to learn we were blown away after driving the new-for-2022 230i coupe. That's the base 2-Series with a turbocharged 4-cylinder making — Yikes — just 255 horsepower. Never mind the rather paltry hp rating, we really liked the way the little coupe handled and performed. We could own one and be very happy heading out for wherever each day.

You don't have to fork over the big bucks for massive horsepower and cutting-edge handling to obtain a BMW that's downright fun to drive and outperforms probably 90 percent of the cars on the road. Don't get the wrong idea — when we hear a M performance BMW is headed this way, we get very excited.

But if we were plunking down the hard, cold cash and figuring our annual insurance bill, we would jump at the chance to own the small 2-Series BMW coupe, which has been completely redesigned for the 2022 model year. And as a bonus — a big bonus with today's inflation-challenged gasoline prices — the twin-turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission is rated at 26 mpg in city driving, 35 on the highway and 29 combined. You will, however, have to use premium gas.

The 230i carries a base price of $37,345 including $995 destination charge, but we would equip it for fun, which means adding Dynamic Handling and the M Sport package, which also means bigger wheels on stickier tires, a firmer suspension. BMW says "the electronically controlled, fully variable locking function in the M Sport rear differential optimizes traction and directional stability, as well as agility and cornering dynamics."

In other words the fun quotient will skyrocket your driving enjoyment for just over 5 grand pushing the bottom line a bit over 40 grand. Still a bargain for this well sorted BMW. Our test car also came with the $2,650 Premium Package, which includes heated front seats, heated steering wheel and navigation. That's a package we could do without because we use Apple CarPlay for our navigational needs. But we would keep the $875 Harmon Kardon surround sound. The bottom line of our test car was $46,570.

The 2022 2-series model marks a new generation for one of BMW's most entertaining vehicles. A bit of space was lost in the rear seats, which have always been unusable for full-size adults, and the manual transmission and the convertible model have been dropped. It still comes standard with rear-wheel drive, but as of now there is no all-wheel drive variant. To get all-wheel drive you will have to move up to the M240i with its 382-horsepower turbocharged inline-six and its much larger price tag.

In driving we found the little 230i Bimmer a hoot to drive fast and hard through the twists and turns of our usual rural paved road "test track." It reminded us of the little hot hatch sports car of the long ago past for its small tossable footprint. One thing the 230i does that those old timey hot hatches wouldn't do is negotiate a 0-to-60 run in 5.5 seconds. That's BMW's published time.

We found that when you enter a highway and need to hurriedly get out of the way of fast oncoming traffic, a heavy right foot is your best friend. The twin-turbo four roars to life and blasts ahead with excellent low-range and mid-range power.

Inside you will find the standard BMW layout enhanced by exceptional build quality and satisfying ergonomics. We had few complaints with the switchgear, but we would like to see bigger, easier to use climate controls, especially fan speed, which is a finicky little button. What we very much like in most BMWs is the ability to access favorite radio stations though a set of all-fashioned push buttons.

Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are supported and a wireless charging pad and multiple USB-C ports are available. We enjoyed the optional Harmon Kardon audio system, which provides a lot of clarity and well-rounded bass. We recommend the relatively low-cost option.

While the front seats don't provide much adjustment, they are supportive, well padded and not overly bolstered — which we consider a plus for our older, spreading bodies. An excellent driving position was easy to reach

If you purchase a small coupe, you can figure the back seat will probably be used for storage only. We have no first-hand knowledge, but other reviewers have reported that getting a child's seat into the rear is awkward and cumbersome. The trunk will hold 10 cubic feet of cargo and we found it adequate for the needs of two people embarking on a long trip.

If you do want to move up to the M240i xDrive with its intoxicating power, we can't blame you. But be prepared to fork over about 50 grand without options. An adaptive suspension and the M Sport differential are standard equipment on the M240i.

The 2-Series comes with a basic 4-year/50,000-mile warranty. The drivetrain warranty is the same. Roadside assistance is good for four years with no mileage restriction.

2022 BMW 230i


Base price: $37,445; as driven, $46,470
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 255 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 295 pound-feet @ 1,550 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 107.9 inches
Length: 179 inches
Curb weight: 3,519 pounds
Turning circle: 36.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 10 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.7 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 26 city, 35 highway, 29 combined
0-to-60: 5.5 seconds (BMW)
Also consider: Audi A3, Mercedes A Class, Ford Mustang

The Good
• Excellent handling
• Excellent power for 4-cylinder
• Upscale interior

The Bad
• Very cramped back seat

The Ugly
• Manual transmission has been eliminated