The thing about BMW as a brand is, no matter what its lineup has looked like over the years, it’s always looked out for those who prefer something small, basic, and engaging instead of big, advanced, and expensive. Or isn't after one of the brand's M cars. The kind of customer who happily trades plush, isolated comfort for feel and engagement, which was manifested in the 128i, 228i, and first generation of the 230i. These were all available with rear-wheel drive and manual transmissions when new, but most importantly all were fun, base two-door coupes. The 128i featured a torquey, naturally aspirated inline-6, whereas the latter two had revvy, turbocharged inline-4s.
They all paid tribute to the playful BMW coupes of yore, such as the E30 3 Series and BMW 2002. They’re proof that no matter how big and complex other cars in the Bavarian brand’s lineup get, there are folks in its ranks who see value in having a base model that continues this proud tradition.
The next chapter in the 2 Series’ timeline, the brand-new G42-generation BMW 230i, has arrived at American shores. This 2022 sports car looks quite a bit different, and is a bit bigger, but features the same engine as its predecessor, and thankfully can still be had in rear-wheel drive. Though, sadly, the only available gearbox is an 8-speed conventional automatic by ZF, the same unit that’s been bolted up to Bimmers for a long time. With all of this in mind: does the new 2er do its small, entry-level, fun BMW heritage proud?
To jump in, hit the ignition button, and slide this 2022 BMW 230i around a corner with precision and poise, pricing starts at $36,350, then after adding the Dynamic Handling Package ($1,900), M Sport Package ($3,250), Premium Package ($2,650), Harman Kardon surround sound ($875) and Melbourne Red Metallic paint ($550) comes out to an all-day price of $46,570 after a $995 destination fee.
2022 BMW 230i Coupe
- Enthusiastic Engine
- Lightning-Fast Gear Changes
- Nicely Appointed Interior
- Engine: 2.0-liter Turbocharged Inline-4
- Horsepower: 255
- Torque: 295 Pound-Feet
- Drivetrain: Rear-Wheel Drive
- Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
- Playful Chassis With Solid Handling
- Rear-Wheel Drive
- Lots of Grip
- No Manual Transmission Option
- Awkward Interior Dimensions
- Styling Isn't For Everyone
Interesting New Styling, Immense Value In Interior Quality
In light of how much of a stir other areas of BMW's design department currently make, I think the new 2 Series looks rather good. Some proportions are weird, and while I argued in the pages of another publication that it has just a couple of good angles, the more I think back on it and look over the photos I took, it actually looks solidly good with all of its M Sport exterior accouterments. Not great, amazing, ugly, or awkward, just simply good. The new 2er has a classic 2-door coupe shape, an honest-to-goodness and well-defined Hofmeister Kink, a nicely proportioned kidney grille with accompanying sharp headlights, and plenty of sporty accents. Well done, BMW.
A lot of this tester’s accents are optional extras, but it’s money well spent. Such as its Shadowline exterior trim features that's included in the M Sport Package, which looks great against its Melbourne Red Metallic red color. I really like the bit of the rear bumper that holds its dual exhaust pipes in place, too. These same pipes produce a really nice choppy exhaust note, too, but more on that later. Then, its 19” M double-spoke wheels and upgraded M Sport brakes finish it all off by hinting that this 2er is meant for corner-carving fun.
Inside, keen-eyed BMW enthusiasts won’t see a lot of difference over how BMW’s changed up its various tech and design features over the past couple of years. But to anyone else, welcome to one of the best interiors that $46,570 fully-loaded can buy.
The top of the dash is a soft, rubbery kind of material, but is pleasing to the eye and contrasts nicely against this tester’s white seats and various bits of silver trim. At night, there’s some nice ambiance in the form of subdued orange lighting accents in the door cards, the same subdued orange that BMW used to do so well in its instrument clusters. There’s barely any piano black plastic around, but rather lots of substantial-feeling matte fair in the right places. The 230i’s switchgear is great, and when paired with BMW’s latest and greatest iDrive 8 infotainment system, it’s a pleasant way to go about navigating screens, changing settings, and flawlessly connecting to Apple CarPlay.
Popping into the 230i’s interior is a cinch, as the door opening is massive and the driver's seat is easy to slide right into. Once inside, there’s plenty of elbow and shoulder room, and overall visibility is excellent. The interior is airy and spacious, though headroom is lacking at 39.8 inches, which isn’t helped by the standard-equipped sunroof. It’s not very tall guy friendly, as I had to lean my six-foot-three stature pretty far back to fit comfortably. This all makes sense taking a look at the 2022 230i’s measurements: while the new G42’s is 2.6 inches wider than its F22 predecessor at 72.4 inches, and 4.3 inches longer overall. The roof line, however, is an inch lower than the previous-gen.
Still, the steering wheel telescopes out nice and close, the seat can move way further back than my gangly legs require, and the seats themselves are very comfortable. I thought these powered-and-heated, soft-touch leather units would lack twisty road retention, but they actually did great. Despite my not-so-ideal leaned-back driving position, the 230i proved to be a hoot to wheel around, and I swear it feels like it produces way more power than its specs suggest.
Excellent Turbo-Four Torque Paired With Great Gearing
The 2022 230i might be overshadowed in horsepower and displacement by its more muscular sibling the 2022 M240i xDrive, but that doesn’t make its torquey 2.0-liter B48 inline-4 the lesser engine. It’s still a lot of fun and makes a great noise to boot.
Producing 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque that’s sent exclusively to the rear tires, the 230i will jump up to 60 MPH in 5.5 seconds. However, because of how the torque comes on and how fast the 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox bangs off shifts, it definitely feels quicker. Possibly a hair under 5 seconds. It’s a bummer that there’s no manual transmission option, but at least the auto is very good, and possesses all the benefits of quick-shifting auto with none of the downsides.
All 295 pound-feet of torque is available from 1,550 RPM, and the redline is a fairly low 6,500 RPM, though anything higher wouldn’t really be necessary. Power feels great all over the tachometer, and while it sometimes takes the gearbox half a second to downshift and find the proper gear when you pin the throttle, it’s always lightning fast thereafter.
The 2022 230i makes an enthusiastic baritone growl while revving up and down, and choppy while at idle. The latter is very much a good thing, as it hints that on the other end of its exhaust manifold sits a rev-happy turbo-four with variable valve control, which BMW calls double-VANOS with Valvetronic, with direct injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger.
It doesn’t seem like BMW tried to mask the tone too much, or make it sound sullenly ordinary. Though, it never sounds obnoxious, and only occasionally will let out a crackle while downshifting, but that’s probably not a symptom of intended snap-crackle-pop tuning, but rather just the mark of a fun turbocharged engine.
Good Handling Characteristics In All Scenarios, With Great Chassis Communication
My G42 2er’s enthusiastic chassis tuning is found in its BMW’s M Sport Suspension, which features re-tuned springs and passive dampers, arranged in a two-joint strut type, semi-independent front design, and fully independent multi-link rear configuration.
At first, I wasn’t sure if conventional, passive dampers would provide enough control and feel in the twisties, considering this little coupe has 3,519 pounds to contend with. Especially nowadays, where pretty much every other model in BMW’s lineup offers optional adaptive units that can spring into action (pun intended) and provide solid chassis retention while juking through fun arrangements of twisty mountainside tarmac.
Sure enough, the chassis felt very good. Not only was body roll well controlled, but chassis feel and balance was surprisingly good. Empirically, this all makes sense, as BMW claims that the new 2er is 12% stiffer than the previous F22-generation and possesses near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution. In fact, while putting the 230i’s M Sport Differential to good use with any traction and stability control turned off in the wet, it was very easy to figure out what the tires were doing at all times, as well as slide the rear tires around with plenty of control. I maybe did this a little too much on public roads, it was just too fun. The 230i’s chassis is downright playful, and acts like something that weighs 500 pounds less, and has a wheelbase that’s a bit shorter than 107.9 inches.
After factoring in the positive marks that previous base BMW coupes have earned, this is what I was looking for in the 2022 230i. Combined with its lively turbo-four and close gearing, it’s a solid riot on fun roads at any speed. Although, this cements the fact that the G42-generation 2 Series absolutely needs three pedals and a manual gearbox. Maybe BMW will throw one in the mix later in the generation?
My tester featured 245/35/19 front and 255/35/19 rear performance tires, which dealt with the daunting variety of grip conditions I threw at them quite well. They had a lot of grip in the rain, on warm, dry asphalt, as well as across some light snow high up in the mountains. The latter was definitely outside their recommended temperature range, yet BMW’s traction and stability control made the most of it. They were plenty communicative, and it was easy to find their limit.
The 2er’s steering has good weight and a great ratio for the 2er’s size, but not much feel. Then, while rolling across bumpy roads at lower speeds the ride can get a bit choppy, most likely due to its tauter suspension tuning. More subdued damping in a less-equipped chassis would probably be more comfortable. But still, I’d call the stiffer stuff enthusiast-daily-friendly, as it’s not a bad trade-off for how good the 230i is on fun roads. On the other hand, high-speed ride quality is quite good. Rough undulations and beat-up highway pavement are well taken care of by its damping, which does the white and blue BMW roundel proud by being an excellent highway cruiser.
Still On The Right Track
Besides some issues with fitment, I enjoyed my week with the 2022 BMW 230i. It’s playful, plenty fast, and well-appointed inside - it does the small, base Bimmer coupe legacy proud. In our era of cars getting more and more packed with tech and luxury, and having to comply with increasingly stricter crash standards, luckily such advancements as rowdy turbocharged engines, more rigid chassis, and intuitive suspension help make up for any weight gain.
Then, as BMW’s design moves forth, there’s still room for more modest-looking fare that piques sporty, performance-minded consumers’ interests. The new 2er’s design has been a point of contention, but I think it looks good overall. Especially when you listen to its designer, Jose Casas, explain how it all came together.
Finally, despite the added weight and raucous little engine, the 2022 BMW 230i will still get solid gas mileage, as it’s rated at 29 MPG city and 35 MPG highway. Of course, being that it’s easy to have a little too much fun, those figures can certainly drop a bit. But still, it’s nice that you can have your cake and eat it too with fun driving dynamics, good interior appointments, and less money spent at the pump.