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Published: 05/12/2014 - by Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor
Quick Summary: The new 2 Series replaces the 1 Series as BMW's entry-level compact coupe, but don't think that you're getting anything less than a true BMW. The 2014 BMW 228i with its base-level engine offers an uncommon blend of everyday comfort and impressive performance, though its promise of frugal fuel economy went unfulfilled. As expected from a small coupe, rear-seat accommodations are rather cramped.
What Is It?
Relative to the outgoing 1 Series, BMW's 2 Series is slightly larger inside and out. The base 228i model, which is fitted with a competent four-cylinder engine, starts at $33,025 and climbs to $48,749 fully loaded. A more powerful six-cylinder M235i model starts at $44,025 and tops out at $53,660 fully optioned. Both models come standard with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while a six-speed manual is available.
Our 2014 BMW 228i test vehicle in Melbourne Red Metallic paint with optional M Sport and Dynamic Handling packages along with upgraded M Sport brakes represents a midlevel build with an emphasis on performance for an as-tested price of $38,225. Handling and performance options can be replaced easily with luxury- and technology-focused features at a comparable price.
How Does It Drive?
Even though our 228i's options favor performance, it has a surprising range of appeal across the spectrum. The driver can select from four distinct drive modes: Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus. The system defaults to Comfort mode, which exceeds our performance expectations for the segment.
Switching to Eco Pro mode noticeably diminishes throttle response in order to maximize fuel economy. The transmission keeps revs low as it seamlessly pushes into higher and higher gears. It's less of a hindrance than you'd expect, however, as the coupe effortlessly accelerates to keep pace with the typical commuter. This mode also allows the transmission to decouple from the engine when the driver lifts off the throttle, reducing engine braking and allowing for greater coasting distances. All modes feature automatic engine stop-start, which can be disabled with the touch of a button. The engine quickly reawakens with a slight shudder as the brake is released, but drivability is unaffected.
Switching to Sport or Sport Plus modes sharpens engine response, giving the 228i more athletic character. With the optional Dynamic Handling package (adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering) and M Sport package (18-inch wheels, summer tires, sport seats, M Sport steering wheel and numerous aerodynamic enhancements), the suspension also firms up considerably to allow for increased road-holding performance. These selectable modes are nothing new, but the 228i is unique for its distinct difference between Sport and Comfort. It changes the driving character more significantly than any car we've tested.
Whichever mode you choose, the 228i adapts appropriately. The ride quality in Eco Pro and Comfort are compliant enough to serve as a benchmark for more luxury-oriented rivals. You can still feel road imperfections, but even the most egregious potholes are reduced to insignificance. In Sport modes, the firmness is reassuring without ever becoming nervous. To its credit, the 228i is one of the most entertaining BMWs to drive hard on a twisting ribbon of pavement, whether or not it sports an M badge.
How Does It Perform?
Thanks to a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution and excellent outward visibility, the 228i playfully bounds from corner to corner with solid athleticism and instills very high levels of driver confidence. Steering is quick with appropriate effort, though feedback at the limit could be better. Considering the 228i's 3,344-pound curb weight, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin-turbo engine provides more than enough power to entertain even jaded pilots.
At our test track the 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque propelled the rear-wheel-drive 228i to 60 mph in a very quick 5.1 seconds. The eight-speed automatic capitalizes on all available power with well-spaced gears and quick, smooth shifts. Gearchanges can be commanded by the driver through wheel-mounted paddles, which work as well as an automated dual-clutch transmission. Even better, the traditional automatic doesn't exhibit the low-speed lurches from which many automated manual transmissions suffer.
The $650 M Sport brakes repeatedly brought the 228i to a stop from 60 mph in a very short 111 feet, all while remaining very composed and controllable.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
All 2014 BMW 2 Series come standard with antilock brakes with brake drying and standby features as well as traction and stability control. Hill-start assist is standard for manual-equipped cars. Occupants also benefit from front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and driver and passenger knee airbags.
Additionally, shoppers can add front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a lane departure warning system and a frontal collision warning system that can automatically apply the brakes if a collision is deemed imminent. In the event of an accident, automatic collision notification and an SOS button are standard.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The EPA rates the 228i at 28 mpg combined (23 city/36 highway) when equipped with the automatic transmission. EPA estimates drop by about 2 mpg when the car is equipped with the six-speed manual.
Perhaps as a testament to how fun the car is to drive, we only managed an average of 20.3 mpg in its time with our heavy-footed editors. On our 116-mile highway-heavy evaluation loop, we achieved 31 mpg.
What's the Interior Like?
If you've been in any current BMW, the 228i will be instantly recognizable. The brand's reputation for quality materials, clean design and user-friendly controls are on full display. Included with the optional M Sport package are perfectly shaped sport seats featuring side bolstering and seat bottom angle adjustments. Drivers of varying heights will easily find their preferred position, but wider occupants may find the bolsters a bit too narrow.
Leather seat coverings are available, but our tester came with BMW's SensaTec synthetic equivalent. It has the look and feel of genuine leather and after several hours behind the wheel, never felt stifling. By our reckoning, the only thing missing is the aroma.
In stark contrast, rear-seat accommodations are cramped, even by compact coupe standards. Legroom is scarce and the low seat cushions make it suitable for children only, and small ones at that. Accessing those quarters also requires some awkward contortions, so if transporting more than one passenger at a time is a requirement, we'd suggest stepping up to a larger vehicle.
When it comes to convenience, the 228i stacks up well against possible alternatives. The trunk can hold up to 13.8 cubic feet of cargo, which is generous for the segment. Furthermore, the trunk hinges do not intrude into this space and the split-folding rear seats can be lowered via remote latches in the trunk. Interior storage is acceptable, featuring enough cupholders, pockets and bins to carry your personal items.
Notably absent from our 228i, however, were a navigation system, satellite radio, a rearview camera and heated seats. These are all available at extra cost, but for a luxury coupe nearing $40,000, some shoppers might expect these features to be included. Phone, audio and some vehicle systems (settings and preferences) are controlled through a basic version of BMW's iDrive interface. Though the system requires effort to learn, it quickly becomes easy and intuitive.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
In the resurgent entry-level class of luxury cars, there are only a handful of choices that can adequately compete against the 2014 BMW 228i coupe, and two of them are sedans. Performance-oriented drivers may be drawn to the more powerful M235i, but given the 228i's acceleration and handling it makes sense to give it a chance. We're confident its lighter weight and better balance will more than satisfy those seeking a sharp-handling coupe.
2015 Audi A3: Priced similarly to the BMW, the new A3 sedan doesn't deliver the same level of performance, but is attractive nonetheless. For the same price as our 228i test car, the A3 includes navigation, heated seats and all-wheel drive. EPA fuel economy ratings are also comparable, but our testing shows the A3's to be more easily attainable. Given the 228i's stunning performance numbers, the forthcoming 2015 Audi S3 may also be worth investigating.
2014 Infiniti Q60 Coupe: In the absence of significant upgrades in the last six years, the coupe formerly known as the G37 is showing its age. Its V6 engine generates quite a bit more power than the 228i's four-cylinder, yet it still trails the BMW in acceleration. The Infiniti's base price is also higher.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: In typical Mercedes style, the CLA-Class puts a more luxurious slant on this entry-level segment, at least in terms of design. Unfortunately, its stiff ride and dual-clutch transmission are major drawbacks that more than cancel its lower base price. The sportier CLA45 AMG further emphasizes these flaws.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
The execution of the 2014 BMW 228i is simply impressive. The 228i makes few compromises and you can tailor one to your taste — whether it favors luxury or performance. As potent a performer as the 228i is, it weakens the case for upgrading to the M235i.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Rear-seat space is the main drawback to the BMW 228i. It holds two adults and their luggage comfortably, but not much else. In its defense, competitors suffer the same fate to varying degrees. We also couldn't replicate the EPA's fuel economy ratings, but as manufacturers are so fond of saying, "Your mileage may vary."
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.