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BMW 2 Series M235i Convertible review

The Good

  • Rewarding handling
  • Plenty of pace
  • Looks the business

The Bad

  • Optional extras quickly ramp up price
  • Bit plasticy in places
4.5

It may be the dead of winter, but we’ve gone beyond the call of duty by reviewing the BMW 2 Series Convertible, the fast, topless 1 Series drop-top replacement.

Can the range-topping 2 Series quench the thirst for Sunday drives with the roof down? Is it a pointless, semi-skimmed stopgap until we see a ‘proper’ M2? We reluctantly donned our sunglasses and headed off to the seaside resort of Bournemouth to find out.

Design

The 2 Series Convertible is cosmetically very similar to the 1 Series ragtop, but is a bit more grown up in its design. It’s 72mm longer and 26mm wider. The wheelbase, meanwhile, is 30mm longer and the front and rear track are 41 and 43mm wider, respectively.

The insulated fabric roof now opens in 19 seconds – about 14 per cent faster than its predecessor. In addition, it can be opened and closed using a centrally-located button between the front seats at up to 30mph, making you less likely to annoy fellow road users stuck behind you.

BMW has done a great job in making the 2 Series Convertible look expensive. A pleasing mixture of straight edges and swoopy lines work together to grab your attention without being too flash. The Coupe is prettier, but lopping off the roof suits the body shape.

The M bodykit does enough to add a touch of aggression without being too ‘Fast & Furious’, while the interior is sensibly laid out and feels good to the touch for the most part.

Practicality

By making the 2 Series Convertible bigger, passengers get more space, although the rear seats are really only suitable for kids, animals, short people and maybe Fifty Shades fans who aren’t averse to a bit of pain. 

The front offers adequate headroom and legroom, while the front sports seats offers lots of lateral support. They can be a bit uncomfortable over longer drives, though. 

Boot space has been improved by 30 litres to 335 litres with the roof up, while the loading area is now 480mm wide so it is easier to get things in and out. Fold the boot down and the total drops to 280 litres, which is an improvement of 20 litres over the old car. Best to think small when it comes to shopping trips and take up crazy golf instead of the real game.

Performance & handling

The Convertible weighs an additional 150kg on the Coupe, but the structural rigidity improvements make it hard to notice the difference. The car feels agile, there’s virtually no bodyroll and, while the suspension is firm enough to feel sporty, it won’t shatter your spine over potholes. 

Plant your foot and 320 horses do their best to slide the back out. The traction system kicks in late enough to let you have some fun but not so late you ruin your trousers.

It may be turbocharged, but the lag is minimal and the 450Nm of torque means you can really make progress in any gear. No need to redline the hell out of the 3.0-litre six-cylinder to raise a smile. 

Really give it some beans and 0-62mph comes and goes in an impressive 5.2 seconds when equipped with the notchy six-speed manual (5 seconds with the Sport auto). That’s positively supersonic with the elements in your face.

A touch of sound-proofing to the tune of 4db and aerodynamic improvements make the cabin quieter at motorway speeds. Even though the sound of the engine is still pumped through the speakers, it is entirely possible to think it has switched off such is the level of quietness. 

Even at full whack, the engine note is a tad too muted for our liking, but there’s enough of a roar to turn heads in first, second and third. The M4 Convertible offers a better popping sound when you ease off, but we can live without that.

The Audi S3 Cabriolet feels a bit faster and is almost as agile as the Bimmer, but is a less involving drive. The M235i Coupe, meanwhile, is more taut and capable of 0 to 62mph in 4.8 seconds, but lacks the same sense of occasion a convertible affords.

Economy & environment

If you want low running costs, buy the BMW 220d. That said, the M235i isn’t too thirsty, thanks to 33.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 199g/km – impressive given the engine size and potential performance on tap.

Opt for the seven-speed Sport automatic and you can see an improvement to 35.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 184g/km, but there’s little chance of driving efficiently. Look at the smaller petrol engines if diesel is a turn-off, as they give you 41.5mpg, a minimum of 149g/km and don’t sacrifice too much straight line speed.

Equipment & value

You can get an entry-level 220i for £29,180, but you will need to spend £37,710 for the M235i reviewed here. Our test car is £45,000, thanks to a number of worthwhile upgrades including M Sport adaptive suspension (£515), Harman Kardon speakers (£600) and electric front seats with memory settings (£650). 

The standard features include DAB digital radio, front arm rest, 6.5-inch infotainment display, keyless go and BMW’s emergency call button. The Professional navigation system and its lifetime of free mapping updates is also free. 

You can definitely save a few quid by opting for the extremely satisfying six-speed manual, as opposed to the £1,685 Sport automatic transmission. We would suggest the £260 wind deflector is worth going for, as is the £170 split-folding rear seat option to help with loading large items.

M Sport adaptive suspension means a softer ride when the Eco driving mode is selected and is therefore a great option if you can front up the extra money.

Verdict

There will always be people who will accuse you for not owning a ‘proper’ M car, or those who will claim the Coupe is better handling and easier to live with – and both are valid points. But we defy anyone not to love the M235 after unleashing its turbocharged six-cylinder 3.0-litre on country roads. 

Whatever you throw at it, the 2 Series Convertible always tries its utmost best to please. Civilised enough for being stuck in traffic, quiet enough for the motorway and lively enough for when the traffic dissipates – we struggled to find any real faults.

As crazy as it sounds, a fully-specced M235i is worth considering over a poorly specced M4 Convertible given the minimum £26,000 difference. Really, it’s just as fun. In fact, arguably more so because you will have money left over to spend on fuel and tyres.

Anyone wanting a drop-top with a hint of practicality will, therefore, find the M235i full of character and lairy enough to get the blood flowing, which is exactly the point of a convertible. It may not be a ‘proper’ M car, but there’s no denying this is one of the most complete and fun cabriolets around.

BMW M235i Convertible pictures

Specification

Engine3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol
Power326hp
Torque450Nm
Acceleration0 to 62mph in 5.2 seconds
Emissions199g/km
Economy33.2mpg (combined)
PriceFrom £37,710

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