Test Drive Notes Library
- Engine. This is a 228 hp version of BMW’s widely used 2.0 turbo charged four-cylinder. It sounds great. It revs great. It pulls well. And it gives the 228i enough BMW-ness to justify putting it in their dealerships. This is a smooth, responsive, great sounding four-cylinder engine.
- Handling. The 228i an oddity for BMW; a front drive car. It’s the same platform that BMW uses for the X1 crossover and most Minis, rather than the rear wheel drive platform that underpins more expensive BMWs. In the 228i Gran Coupe, it’s set up with all wheel drive. And for the most part, it has the sporty feel of a BMW. They’ve done a good job tuning the handling and making it fun to drive quickly. Cornering is sharp. Twisty roads can be driven with confidence. Lane changes are crisp. Steering feel is good and has a nice heft to it. At the limit, you can feel the front-heavy quality, though.
- Interior. Look ahead from your position in the driver’s seat, and you see what every BMW buyer sees these days; the company’s most-recent digital instrument cluster, a large, clear, color head-up display, a solid, sporty steering wheel with aluminum paddle shifters, and, to your right, BMW’s excellent iDrive system displayed on a 9-inch screen. So even though you’re buying BMW’s entry level sedan, you’re not compromising on primary driving instruments or basic switchgear. It’s not quite as posh as the more expensive Bavarians (there’s a little bit of cheap plastic here and there that wouldn’t pass muster on a 3 or 5 series), but it’s a calm, clean-looking, well-organized, modern interior. The front seats are comfortable on long drives, but the bolstering might be tight side-to-side for those wide of girth. Materials are mostly soft to touch and high quality. Only the frameless door feels a little less solid that what one expects when they close.
- Standard Safety. The 228i comes with most of the basic safety equipment Car Talk recommends to its listeners and readers, including city-speed automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assistance, and rear cross traffic alert. To get highway-speed automatic emergency braking — and you should — you have to order adaptive cruise control.
- Flat load floor. A pleasant surprise when you pop open the trunk is that there's no lip to lift stuff over. The floor of the trunk is flush with rear bumper, making it easy to slide in a case of Schlitz or a half dozen cinder blocks from the lumber yard. The rear seats fold to create more space.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Firm ride. The good handling comes at the expense of ride comfort. The ride is on the stiff side, and road imperfections are transmitted into the cabin. It’s not a problem on smooth roads, but if you live where potholes flourish, you’ll likely wish for a little more suppleness in your suspension.
- Turbo lag. While the engine is smooth and peppy, and the 8-speed automatic transmission works well, there were plenty of times when we were rolling along or decelerating a bit, then tried to suddenly accelerate, and had to wait a second or so for the engine to pick up and go. That’s not very sports-sedan-like. There’s also a 301 hp version of the 2.0L engine available in the 235i trim. It may be better in that regard, but we haven’t driven it yet.
- Tight rear seat. It’s acceptable back there for adults, but there’s limited head, knee, and foot room.
- Looks. BMW will hate this, but from certain angles, it can be mistaken for a Corolla.
- Value. Our 228i rang the cash register at $48,495. That includes a $4,000 M Sport options package that most people will contentedly live without. In reality, you’ll see lots of 228i's selling in the $40-$45,000 range. But for about $5,000 more, you can get a genuine, rear-wheel-drive (or RWD-based AWD) 3 Series, which is a far better car. It’s larger, more comfortable, more refined, and more powerful. If I knew someone looking at a 2-Series Gran Coupe who could manage a few thousand bucks more, or a few bucks more on a monthly lease, I’d strongly push them towards a 330i instead.
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