BMW drops the top on the new 220i Convertible

2015 BMW 220i Convertible | Drive Review

Written byMalcolm Flynn | Carsguide

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MyDrive | BMW Australia  – Chopping the roof off a coupe to create a convertible often brings an unhealthy dose of compromise. That wind in the hair, sunshine on your scone experience can result in a smaller boot, useless back seat, extra rattles and squeaks and handling tarnished by body rigidity that feels like an old ironing board.

Plenty of BMW convertibles from the past have been so afflicted, but the new 2 Series drop-top boasts several design improvements that promise to maintain the magic of the hardtop 2 Series, while adding the obvious benefits of a convertible.

We were impressed by the 228i at the 2 Series Convertible’s international launch last month in Texas, but relished the chance to put it through its dynamic paces over some of South Australia’s most challenging roads for its local launch.

DESIGN

Unlike the controversial flame-surfaced details of the 1 Series Convertible, the new 2 adopts the more handsome look of the 2 Series Coupe.

This brings a profile more in line with the classic boat deck proportions of the iconic E30 and E36 3 Series convertibles, and these massaged proportions are underlined by a 72mm increase in length, 26mm in width, with wheelarches filled more neatly by a 41-43mm track increase.

The new 2 Series drop-top boasts several design improvements that promise to maintain the magic of the hardtop.

The 1 Series Convertible was hardly a wet noodle in terms of body stiffness, but the new drop top’s torsional and bending strength has been improved by 20 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

The 2’s longer body also brings a 30mm longer wheelbase, which has largely been used to improve legroom for rear seat passengers.

There’s now enough space for average height adults, but the centre-skewed backrest caused by the folding roof mechanism means it’s still best kept for short trips only. Smaller children are not likely to be troubled though, and there are two ISOFIX child seat mounts to help the 2 convertible double as backup family transport.

Also aiding everyday practicality is an increase in boot capacity. Roof-up, you get 335 litres and 280 with the roof down (up 30/20L). The gap through to the boot with the rear seats folded has also grown considerably, and now measures 450x246mm (up 300/28mm).

Even with the roof down, this leaves enough room with the seats up for a weekend’s luggage for two and a few dozen wine bottles.

Even with the roof down, this leaves enough room with the seats up for a weekend’s luggage for two and a few dozen wine bottles.

The roof now folds two seconds faster for a total of 20 seconds, and can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 50km/h (up 10km/h) – at the press of a button.

An extra layer of insulation has been added to the roof to now total five, and with the roof up, has been designed to be as quiet as the Coupe at speeds up to 150km/h. BMW also boasts that phone conversations are possible at speeds up to 180km/h.

Despite the roof mechanism and extra body bracing adding around 150kg over the 2 Series Coupe, the Convertible retains a dynamically sound 50/50 weight distribution.

VALUE

The $54,900 220i kicks off the 2 Series Convertible range, representing a premium of just $4000 over its hardtop equivalent, and a full $14,000 less than the 228i Convertible that sits above it.

The Audi A3 Cabriolet is the 2 Series Convertible’s nearest rival, and while the Audi range starts at around $7000 less, the 220i competes head-to-head with the top-spec A3 Ambition Quattro.

Standard equipment on the 220i includes Sensatec man-made leather trim, dual-zone climate control, satnav with a 6.5-inch multimedia screen and reversing camera, rear parking sensors, heated side mirrors, auto-dimming rear view mirror, auto headlights, keyless ignition and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Luxury Line pack is available for an extra $1000, which adds leather and woodgrain trim, extra chrome detailing to the outside and unique Y-spoke 17-inch alloys.

ENGINE/TRANSMISSION

The 220i’s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine packs a respectable 135kW/270Nm, which delivers comfortable performance. Acceleration from 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.6 seconds puts it firmly in the warm bracket.

Like the 220i Coupe, the default transmission is the excellent eight-speed ZF torque converter unit, but a six-speed manual is available by order for the same price.

With the auto, a standard start/stop system helps the 220i achieve a 6.2L/100km official combined fuel figure and it will accept Regular 91 RON unleaded petrol.

DRIVING

Rolling into Adelaide traffic with the top down, the 2 Series was free of body creaks as we crabbed across driveway exits and crested speedhumps – both classic tests of body rigidity.

As speeds increased, conversation was still possible on the highway with the windows raised  - even without the optional wind-blocker in place.

With the roof up, the 220i remained impressively rattle-free, and seems every bit as quiet as the 2 Series Coupe.

The raised soft top’s larger blind-spot does mandate proper mirror adjustment, but is easily adapted to and largely negated by the reversing camera when parking.

Heading off the highway, the roads evolved into a proper testbed for a convertible, with equal doses of corners and bumps. On the standard 17-inch alloys and non-adaptive suspension, the 220i soaked up road imperfections impressively well, even when surprised mid-corner at speed.

A small degree of scuttle shake can be felt in these situations, but only when the suspension is being worked hard.

The 220i rides on run-flat tyres in lieu of carrying a spare, and rather than the rock-hard sidewalls of earlier designs, the standard Bridgestone Potenzas and Turanzas that come with the Luxury line had no trouble with coarse surfaces or cats-eyes alike.

The 220i’s standard steering doesn’t quite offer the same level of connection as the 228i’s variable ratio rack, but gives good consistent feel and should satisfy keen drivers.

When pushing hard through corners, initial understeer balances nicely post-apex, and can lead to a cheeky tail wag on corner exit if you’re particularly generous with the throttle. This is the key smile-generator of rear-wheel drive right here, even in the base 220i.

This is the key smile-generator of rear-wheel drive right here, even in the base 220i.

Driven back to back with a 428i Convertible over a twisty road, the 150kg lighter and significantly smaller 2 Series is more nimble and entertaining, and therefore a more fitting heir to the classic BMW small convertible lineage.

With max torque on tap from just 1250rpm, it’s easy to get the best out of the smooth and responsive 2.0-litre turbo engine, and even the 220i’s 135kW/270Nm entry tune is more than capable of a satisfying blast through the hills.

Shifting between Comfort and Sport in the drive menus, there’s a discrete shift in personality as throttle response and steering are sharpened slightly.

The big gain, however is available by sliding the gear selector into the transmission’s Sport mode. The auto goes from efficient and comfortable to a genuinely sporting shift pattern, holding gears longer, speeding up the shift times, and downshifting aggressively under heavy brakes.

There are paddle shifters if you want full control, but Sport auto does a cracking job on its own.

SAFETY

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, and an automatic rollover protection system that fires twin roll hoops from behind the rear seat. Due to the folding roof, there are no curtain airbags.

Thanks to BMW’s Connected Drive system, the 220i will automatically dial 000 if an airbag is deployed, but like the hardtop range, the 2 Series Convertible is yet to receive a crash rating from ANCAP or Euro NCAP.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price From $54,900
  • Thirst 6.2L/100km Tank 52L
  • Warranty 3yr/unlimited km
  • Engine 2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl petrol 95RON, 135kW/270Nm
  • Transmission 8-speed torque converter auto, RWD

VERDICT

If you’ve been burned by convertibles in the past, perhaps it’s time to give them another look. The new 2 Series is so close to its hardtop sibling in most important measures, and packs enough practicality to make it a convincing daily driver.

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