BMW 2 Series coupe
Second-hand Style, with Richard Cooke
REGULAR readers will recall that last month’s column ended with a dilemma – my old Lexus had unexpectedly started a terminal decline into banger-dom and I faced a decision about whether to spend a relative fortune fixing it ongoing or replace it. To compound matters, I had no concrete idea what to replace it with. I intended to look at Audi’s S4 or Jaguar’s XE S – rapid but otherwise stout four-door saloons. In the end the decision to replace the Lexus was taken, as all important ones are, with the input of Mrs C. Now, 99% of the time,my wife’s interest in cars barely registers above ‘apathetic’, but when a decision is required,she keeps surprising me with how catholic her tastes are. As I deliberated, she threw coupes into the mix, totally from left field. Hold on, coupes?! But you hate them, my love, you always have. Four doors good, two doors badand so forth. By considering them my choice expanded exponentially, the shortlist growing longer and far more interesting. I called an old friend, who had a BMW 2 series coupe at his dealership. He was prepared to take the Lexus as part exchange and throw in a discount, so that afternoon the family was down at the local BMW dealer at Cribbs to see if four could squeeze into what looked like a tiny little car.
I wrote a while ago about how it seemed an oversight that I’d never owned a BMW, and that if I bought one it would have to come with their famous straight-6 cylinder petrol engine. Well the good news is that the 2 series coupe (essentially a 1 series in a pretty two-door body) not only comes with that engine but it also comfortably fits four adults inside. As long as you are 6ft or less, the two back seats have plenty of room. This German Tardis even has a good-sized boot! Waving a not-so-fond farewell to the Lexus, which always felt like a stop-gap car, I took ownership of a 64-plate Estoril-blue M235i. When new, this model was top of the 2 series range (before BMW launched the awesome M2). They then updated the engine a few years later and renamed the M235i the M240i. As a used purchase it makes a lot of sense, as our old friend depreciation works her savage magic on values.
So, after six weeks, I am deeply impressed with this car. It has been said that it is reminiscent of the small sporty 3 Series coupes from the 80s and early 90s, and I like that comparison. In a world where cars keep getting longer, wider and higher, this coupe rewinds the clock back to a time when vehicles were smaller and more nimble. That said, they never used to weigh this much – modern crash safety engineering means that it is nearly a ton and a half. BMW have done very well to disguise this, though: The steering is lightning-quick and feels entirely analogue, the 8-speed auto gearbox seamless and super-quick to shift. The ride is unacceptably crashy on run-flat tyres though, and as soon as they are worn out I’m replacing them with standard rubber and buying a space-saver wheel kit. If I was specifying this car new I’d opt for the manual gearbox, and with the money saved I’d include cruise control and heated seats. But otherwise, it is damn near perfect – 325bhp through the rear wheels and 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds were genuine supercar numbers less than 20 years ago. Today you can have all this performance with 31mpg and run-of-the-mill servicing costs into the bargain. Even the insurance came in around the same as the Lexus.
So I’ve learnt three things since buying the BMW: 1) A small coupe needn’t be the compromise you assume it is. 2) Writing about cars and thinking I know about them only meant I couldn’t see the wood for the trees when it came to my purchase decision. 3) As I knew all along, my wife is right about most things. Except gherkins, which are delicious.
BMW 2 Series M235i - expect to pay around £18,000 for a 64-plate model
Next month:Mazda MX-5