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What is the BMW 2 Series?

Although it may seem rather disjointed that BMW employs the 2 Series name across a conceptually diverse range of models, there is a degree of logic behind its decision. Despite this mismatch, BMW claims that each member of its 2 Series family is designed very much with drivers in mind – whatever their primary purpose or which wheels are driven.

Essentially, the range is split into two distinct camps: the sportier and predominantly rear-wheel drive 2 Series Coupe (often known by BMW fans by its internal F22 codename) and 2 Series Convertible (that's the F23) on one side, topped by the high performance M2 Coupe (F87 if you're interested), and on the other, the more practical, largely front-wheel drive 2 Series Active Tourer (F45) and 2 Series Gran Tourer (F46) people carriers. The creation of this pair of model lines that reside under the same nameplate reflects the huge expansion of the BMW range in recent years.

Still confused? You won't be after reading this.

At-a-glance 2019 BMW 2 Series specs

  • Top speed: 119-155mph
  • 0-62mph: 4.1-11.4 seconds
  • Fuel economy: 43-74mpg
  • Emissions: 46-227g/km of CO2
  • Boot space: 335-1,820 litres

Which versions of the BMW 2 Series are available?

Despite it being a case of two different families and four bodystyles under one name, exploring what the first-generation 2 Series range comprises of is relatively straightforward.

By far the biggest seller is the two-door, four-seater BMW 2 Series Coupe launched in 2014. Larger and consequently more practical than the 1 Series Coupe it replaced, the 2 Series Coupe has a diverse array of rivals including the Audi TT Coupe, the Porsche 718 Cayman and Toyota's GT86, but none of these come in anywhere near as many permutations as the BMW.

Frugal diesel-engined 2 Series Coupes are particularly popular, with the 218d, 220d and 225d all powered by the same 2.0-litre motor in various states of tune, with a range of six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic gearboxes.

BMW 2 Series Coupe side elevation

There's more variety when it comes to petrol choices, starting off with the 218i featuring a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit, while the 220i and 230i have a more familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant. Further up the range, the M240i and M2 feature different six-cylinder 3.0-litre units and prodigious performance to match. Again, a range of manual and automatic transmissions are available.

All 2 Series Coupes have send power to the rear wheels aside from the 220d xDrive models that come equipped with four-wheel drive.

Arriving a year after its Coupe sibling, the BMW 2 Series Convertible replaced the 1 Series Convertible that came before it, with a line-up similar to that of the hard-top, minus any four-wheel drive xDrive versions or a blistering M2.

BMW 2 Series Convertible

As a four-seater, rear-wheel drive soft-top, it has few direct rivals, so cars such as the Audi A3 Cabriolet, Mazda's MX-5 and the MINI Convertible can all be considered as alternatives to the BMW.

Arriving in 2014, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer was a complete departure from anything the German prestige brand has previously produced.

Most obviously it was BMW's first MPV - albeit a five-seater - making it a rival to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Renault's Scenic and the Volkswagen Golf SV, but more important were it's underpinnings: a predominantly front-wheel drive platform that's shared with in-house alternatives in the forms of the BMW X1 and MINI Countryman.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

Petrol-powered 218i and 220i Active Tourers share their powerplants with the rear-wheel drive 2 Series models, as do the 218d and 220d diesel-fuelled versions. However, with the Active Tourer, there's also a three-cylinder 1.5-litre diesel badged 216d.

There’s also a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) version badged 225xe Active Tourer, which has the 218i's 1.5-litre petrol engine and a large battery feeding an electric motor, with CO2 emissions of 46g/km. 

That 'x' aspect of the 225xe's title denotes that it has four-wheel drive, the only other version which does being the more conventional 220d xDrive.

Transmissions vary depending on the model, with six-speed manuals coming as standard lower down the range and automatics in the forms of a seven-speed double-clutch and a conventional eight-speeder available as prices rise.

Finally, reaching the market in 2015 is the elongated version of the Active Tourer - the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer.

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

Its extra length - and more perpendicular rear-end styling - allow it to accomodate a pair of small, foldaway third row of seats, making it a just-about-seven-seater. Consider it an upmarket alternative to the likes of the Ford Grand C-Max, Renault Grand Scenic and Volkswagen Touran

Engines, gearboxes and drive options mirror those of the Active Tourer, with the exception of their being no PHEV version of the Gran Tourer.

What is the BMW M2?

For many BMW ranges, the most performance-focused model is thoroughly fettled by the firm's Motorsport division, and badged with an 'M' and the Series number to reflect this - hence this, the BMW M2.

Unlike with other M-badged models, which are available in a number of bodystyles, the sole version on offer here is the M2 Coupe. 

Is it worthy of the hype? If there’s one sure-fire way to enthuse our team of reviewers, it’s giving them an M2 Coupe to get to grips with. This ultra-fast two-door has a 3.0-litre turbocharged engine, a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes and is resolutely rear-wheel drive for some of the best handling available.

BMW M2

And if the 'regular' M2 isn’t compelling enough, it was replaced in 2018 by the even quicker, more focused BMW M2 Competition, boasting an upgraded powerplant resulting in a 410hp output. You'll also find sharper steering and even firmer suspension. 

BMW 2 Series styling and engineering

Again, we're looking at two basic design philosophies with the 2 Series family of models. 

Styling-wise, the two-door models won't alienate the marque faithful, with the traditional 'double-kidney' grille up front, flanked by sleek headlamps with integral Daytime-Running Lights (DRLs) designed to ape the classic quad-lamp look, a long-standing BMW feature. The honed lines fit in neatly with the larger 4 Series and 8 Series models, while the Coupe has the iconic 'Hofmeister kink' of the rear side windows. Fairly traditional BMW, then.

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer rear three-quarters

Less so ith the five-door models: although both instantly identifiable as BMWs, which is quite an achievement given their unsporting one-box design, that's primarily because of the low nose with easily identifiable grille and lights arrangement.

While the sculpted flanks show that BMW has put a great deal of effort into making its least-sporty model ranges look interesting, their styling jars compared with the rest of the range in a way that the X-badged SUV line-up generally doesn't.

Once again, more important is the front-wheel drive platform underpinning the 2 Series Active and Gran Tourers: an evolution of it will replace the rear-wheel drive 1 Series, as well as the next-generation 2 Series Coupe and Convertible.

Is the BMW 2 Series good to drive?

Indeed it is - all of them are dynamically very proficient, although it's very much a case of degrees considering we're dealing with a selection of cars that spans a 410hp two-door Coupe through to a seven-seater MPV with few sporty aspirations at all.

Both the 2 Series Coupe and Convertible blend balanced handling, decent comfort, accurate and responsive steering, with excellent efficiency of all petrol and diesel engines.

BMW M2 Coupe dynamic rear cornering

Separating out the M2, it's agonising close to brilliance. Thanks to its balance, thoughtfully considered suspension set-up and electronically controlled differential, it's a wonderful car to drive very quickly.

Clearly the 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer won't excite in anywhere near the same way, but given their MPV remits, there's little to complain about. Their steering and road manners are above average, while the pair's high-quality interior is a good place to spend time in.

How much does the BMW 2 Series cost?

With prices spanning from around £25,000 for an entry-level 2 Series Active Tourer to over £50,000 for an M2 Competition Coupe, there's a broad spread to suit many budgets.

In terms of car finance, BMW is in a super-competitve position right now, offering decent monthly payments on the 2 Series (of all types) due to good resale values.

Keep an eye on Parkers Deal Watch, which regularly features BMW finance offers as and when they appear.

Find out how reliable the BMW 2 Series ranges are by reading our comprehensive selection of owners' reviews.

BMW 2 Series Convertible front three-quarter dynamic

BMW 2-Series Model History

BMW 2 Series predecessors

As the BMW 2 Series is the first generation of models to wear that nameplate, its history is mixed depending on which version you're focusing upon.

Most obvious in terms of lineage are the two-door, predominantly rear-wheel drive models as these were direct replacements for the BMW 1 Series Coupe and BMW 1 Series Convertible.

BMW 1 Series Convertible side elevation

Those models were launched at a time when the sportier bodystyles were offered as part of the same series as the core models, but just as the two-door versions of the 3 Series were split off to become the 4 Series range, what would have been the second-generation 1 Series Coupe and Convertible became part of a more diverse 2 Series instead.

Similarly, the hardcore M2 Coupe also had a predecessor. Logic would dictate that would be the M1, but because that name was applied to a supercar from the late-1970s the firm opted not to upset marque aficionados and instead opted for the clunky title of BMW 1 Series M Coupe instead.

BMW 1 Series M Coupe front three-quarter

Perhaps more interesting is that as they were completely new model lines, neither the 2 Series Active or Gran Tourer replaced a model in BMW's range. Given that sales of MPVs have continued to dwindle as buyers lap-up SUVs in greater numbers, it will be interesting to see if either model is directly replaced in due course.