BMW Group Australia | BMW 235i – Is it good enough?
Video and Article written by – Peter Anderson
MyDrive | BMW Group Australia
The past few years has seen BMW have a few goes at the big-engine-small-car formula. Almost a decade ago it started with the five-door (and rather good) 130i. Then there was the almost-there 135i coupe which morphed into the 1 Series M, an absolute firecracker of a car but one that required a close working relationship with an orthopaedic surgeon.
Then came the M135i hatch which is great to drive but scary to look at. Now we’ve got the M235i. A slinkier suit with BMW’s turbo straight six and a little bit of M magic. Sure, it has to live in the shadow of the M4, but it’s also half the price. Is this the car where it all comes together?
At $79,930, there’s a fair amount of daylight between the M235i and the five-door M135i, $15,000 of daylight to be precise.
For the extra money you lose two passenger doors, some leg and headroom, a hatchback and the middle seat in the rear. You do get more boot space though, and you also get a far more likeable face and posterior as well as another five kilowatts.
Also standard are adaptive M suspension, electronic differential lock, M Sport brakes, front and rear parking sensors, M aero bits, bi-xenon headlights, heated exterior mirrors, auto wipers and headlights, M Sport steering wheel with paddles, stereo and cruise controls, satellite navigation, USB and Bluetooth.
There’s also leather interior with electric sports seats up front, various M logos scattered around the place and a decent stereo.
Our car also had the Advanced Parking Package ($1300) which adds self-park and rear-view camera; Visibility Package ($1560), with adaptive headlights, anti-dazzle mirrors and high beam assist; Comfort Package ($3120) adding electric seat adjustment memory to your key as well as heating; a $2600 sunroof, a $500 DAB radio, Harmon Kardon stereo ($850) and $1485 for metallic paint.
The M235i’s styling package is reasonably understated, perhaps to leave room for the M2. There’s new front and rear bumpers, a lowered stance and 18-inch alloys with split spokes. As with the 220i, it’s an elegant if not beautiful design and owes much to the 4 Series.
Inside is standard 2, which means clean and functional. Four adults will fit happily, but those in the rear will want short trips. The boot is a very good size, much larger than that in the 1 Series.
Standard features include ABS, corner braking control, switchable dynamic and stability control, six airbags and dynamic braking lights. There is no specific ANCAP or EuroNCAP rating for the 2 Series, but the 1 on which it’s based received 5 stars.
The big central screen can be split into two so you can run, say, maps and stereo side by side. Controlled with the big iDrive rotary controller on the console, it’s reasonably intuitive.
The Harman Kardon stereo pushes out big bass and a good quality sound. USB connectivity is simple and the Bluetooth handsfree clear and loud.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
BMW’s 3.0-litre straight-six turbo sits under the bonnet, producing 240kW and 450Nm of torque. This takes you from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds with the aid of the eight-speed ZF transmission that has had many, many words of praise heaped upon it over the past few years.
BMW claims 7.6L/100km but if you get anywhere near that, you’re probably not really the M235i’s target market. We got 10.1L/100km by keeping it in Eco Pro in heavy traffic and thrashing it mercilessly when given the opportunity.
Your passengers will need a strong constitution because this is a proper driver’s car. While not as hairy-chested as the old M3 or 1M, it’ll certainly give both a run for their money while failing to drain your wallet as quickly.
With adaptive suspension set to Sport (or Sport + if you like wiggly hips), your hands gripping the fat-rimmed slender-spoked wheel, you’ve got one of the best cars this side of $150,000 at your command.
There’s a distinct difference to the way the M235i goes about the business of having fun when compared to its German rivals. The M235i is not a point-and-shoot missile. It leaves a lot more up to the driver (should they want it), with purist rear-wheel drive and that deeper-lunged straight-six to its competitors’ four pots.
You can drive the BMW sideways if that’s your thing, but it’s also extremely rewarding to dance it on the throttle, brakes and steering. A good drive in an M235i is always going to be more memorable simply because you can dial down the electronics and dial up your brainpower. You’ll be working harder but having more fun – at lower speeds, too.
The engine revs hard and smoothly for a turbo, the power delivery is linear and it’s an easy car to place in the corners. You can arrive in tight downhill corners with an incredible amount of speed and be very confident that turning the wheel will bring almost instant, grip-tastic response from the nose.
Understeer is very, very hard to come by and the sticky Michelin tyres require a lot of provocation to squeal let alone slide wide. The electronic diff manages to bring the nose around and, if you fancy it, the tail, but it’s all controlled by the driver without digital killjoys stepping in too early or forcefully.
Despite the adaptive damping, the ride is firm even in comfort or Eco Pro modes. Not teeth-rattling firm, not in every mode, but it’s certainly not as supple as the 220i’s basic setup.
The question isn’t so much, “Why would you buy an M4 or an old M3?” because (a) there are a good many reasons to do so but also (b) the question is really “Why wouldn’t you buy an M235i?” Once you’ve gotten through the practical concerns of price and only two doors and the subjective considerations of style and taste, what you’re left with is a clear choice.
The BMW M235i stands alone with its deeper breathing straight six and rear wheel drive dynamics and is almost as quick as its stablemates. It’s a car that is clearly made to drive, to put on a smile on your face and a bit of sweat on your brow.
- Price From $79,930
- Thirst 7.6L/100km, 176g/km CO2 Tank 52L
- Warranty 3 years/unlimited km
- Engine 3.0-litre 6-cyl 95RON, 240kW/450Nm
- Transmission 8-speed auto; RWD
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