The BMW 218i Gran Coupe starts from about $52,600 drive-away.
The BMW 218i Gran Coupe starts from about $52,600 drive-away.

The baby Beemer designed to attract new fans

After sampling life sipping champagne, it’s difficult acquiring a taste for beer.

Prestige brands once had pricing positioned beyond the reach of many. More than a decade ago they saw the benefits of lowering the price hurdle, thus creating an appetite for bigger slices of the prestige pie.

The BMW 1 Series has been pivotal in attracting new buyers behind steering wheels emblazoned with the propeller badge, and for the first time the range includes a sedan that starts below the $50,000 threshold.

Called the 2 Series Gran Coupe, this four-door notchback is based on the same architecture as the 1 Series.

While there is a more savage all-wheel drive derivative, we’re sampling the front-wheel drive 218i version which starts from about $52,630 drive-away.

The BMW 218i Gran Coupe starts from about $52,600 drive-away.
The BMW 218i Gran Coupe starts from about $52,600 drive-away.

VALUE

Fans of the BMW brand will appreciate the standard M Sport package, which adds some kudos to the entry level sedan even if the three-cylinder performance doesn’t meet the hallowed red and blue expectations on paper.

That athleticism means a ride height lowered by 10mm and sports suspension, twin exhaust pipes, chunky steering wheel that feels great in your hands, 18-inch alloys, sports seats with cloth trim, LED headlights and reversing camera with front and rear sensors.

Vastly improving the former basic 1 Series set-up is a 10.25-inch digital dash and 10.25-inch central infotainment screen with satnav and Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is expected later this year), plus wireless charging and six-speaker audio system with digital radio.

Metallic paint will cost $1700–$2350, with the only complimentary colour white. Other options are black, red, grey, blue and “storm bay” light grey.

Warranty coverage remains at three years and unlimited kilometres – Mercedes was the first to move up five years, and Land Rover has just followed.

Basic servicing over five years or 80,000km is $1550. Those wanting greater coverage of items including brakes and clutch will have to fork out more than $4000.

The interior of BMW’s 218i Gran Coupe.
The interior of BMW’s 218i Gran Coupe.

SAFETY

The new 1 Series achieved five stars last year, so it’s expected the Gran Coupe would achieve the same status. While much of the expected technology is on board, there are some disappointing aspects.

Autonomous emergency braking is included – as we’d expect – but unlike most other systems it fails to bring the car to a complete stop. The AEB functionality will warn the driver and slow the vehicle, but buyers have to pay an extra $654 for an option pack that incorporates adaptive cruise control.

The BMW 218i Gran Coupe starts from about $52,600 drive-away.
The BMW 218i Gran Coupe starts from about $52,600 drive-away.

COMFORT

Sporting prowess translates to a firm ride. Our test car was upgraded to 19-inch alloys shod with grippy Continental Premium Contact 6 rubber, which cling to the road nicely but the trade-off is feeling the bumps and lumps.

Interior space is fine for those upfront. The quality of accommodation for those in the back is dictated by the pair riding shotgun.

BMW calls this a Gran Coupe for good reason – it’s not a two-door coupe, but rather a four-door with a raked roofline.

Anyone taller than 170cm will find their head skimming the roofliner. That sweeping rear design also creates an enclosed feeling.

There are no air vents in the back (they do get a pair of USB C ports) and the seat is flat with little contouring.

Operations are relatively straight forward, with the primary functions controlled either by using the rotary dial on the console or via touchscreen.

For a small car it possesses reasonable boot space of 430 litres, with the ability to drop the rear seats 40-20-40. The centre seat back folds via a seat-top toggle and the other two are collapsed using boot-mounted levers.

Inside the BMW 218i Gran Coupe.
Inside the BMW 218i Gran Coupe.

DRIVING

Fire up the three-cylinder engine and there is a sporting soundtrack. Nothing too extroverted, like a thrumming V8 or revvy six-cylinder … more character-filled and chirpy.

Front-wheel drive and a subdued 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.7 seconds ensure this BMW falls short of the brand’s “ultimate driving machine” philosophy.

Although get the little sedan moving and it proves dynamism is hidden within once you attack some twisties.

Directional changes are handled well courtesy of direct steering and planted chassis.

Sport mode is the default setting for those who like to drive, but there are no steering wheel paddles so it’s best to leave the 2 Series’s seven-speed automatic to its own decision making.

The BMW 218i Gran Coupe starts from about $52,600 drive-away.
The BMW 218i Gran Coupe starts from about $52,600 drive-away.

HEAD SAYS

The 3 Series means a serious further dent in the bank balance and while I love the performance philosophy, I’m in no hurry getting from A to B.

HEART SAYS

Just look at that propeller badge. This is the start of something big.

ALTERNATIVES

MERCEDES-BENZ CLA 200 $66,000 D/A

Attractive but expensive, powered by a 1.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo, 120kW/250Nm. Has the superior five-year warranty but more expensive servicing.

AUDI A3 SEDAN 35 TSFI $47,115 D/A

The bargain of this group, under the bonnet is a 1.4-litre four-cylinder, 110kW/250Nm. Boasting similar performance attributes to the Gran Coupe, but needs an upgrade in technology.

The BMW 218i Gran Coupe.
The BMW 218i Gran Coupe.

AT A GLANCE

BMW 218i GRAN COUPE

PRICE $52,630 drive-away (prestige territory)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 3yr unlim’ km w’ty (short); $1550 5yrs/80,000km (fine)

ENGINE 1.5-litre three-cylinder 103kW/220Nm, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (a little sluggish)

SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, blind spot and lane departure alert, rear cross-traffic alert

THIRST 5.9 litres/100km (7.1 on test)

SPARE None; inflation kit (not preferred)

BOOT 430L (bit small)