BMW�s slow burner
The BMW 2 Series is a beautifully weighted car, with minimal body roll. Picture: Mark Bean

I'll be honest: it took me a while to really warm to the BMW 2 Series, aka the Vehicle Formerly Known as the 1 Series Coupe.

Now, don't read that as though I didn't like it at first - far from it. I mean, look at it: a car that looks this svelte and classy can't help but make a good impression.

It's just that usually when you hop in a premium car there's something that will immediately make you sit up and take notice, be it the power, tech features, plush cabin, gearbox, handling, value for money, what have you. But the 2 is more of a slow burner and after a few days I realised that while it mightn't have one main aspect to hang its hat on, as an all-round package it's a cracker.

The test car's interior was decked out in some bright red leather seats, which certainly isn't my thing, but the cabin mainly suffered from the fact I'd jumped into the 2 straight after having its bigger, more expensive 4 Series sibling.

It had everything the 4 did, but everything was, unsurprisingly, just that little BIT smaller and more cramped. Otherwise, it was perfectly comfortable and refined, as you'd want.

At first I found the 2.0-litre petrol in the 220i a tad underwhelming. It wasn't sluggish and it was smooth as silk with BMW's eight-speed auto offering great ratios.

But it also didn't feel sporty and it was nudging 9.0L/100km after a few days of regular driving in the standard Comfort drive mode.

But - and this is the crucial bit - both the lack of sporty response and higher than expected fuel use can be fixed. As with systems found elsewhere, the Eco mode cuts fuel use by recouping energy from braking - according to the display I had eked out an extra 7.5km from my tank and that was after using the Eco feature sparingly.

And flicking the 2 into Sports mode, while not turning it into a beast, certainly saw it perk up significantly: throttle response became far more sensitive to the touch, gears were held on to far longer and the already quality handling was sharpened. It's a beautifully weighted car, with minimal body roll.

Sports Plus mode saw the electronic stability control relaxed, which offered even more fun driving but not the sort anyone should be doing on public roads.

Elsewhere, the good-sized boot easily swallowed a suitcase for a business trip and the rear seats had enough leg room that rear passengers didn't feel they were in a small car.

So I was starting to definitely come around to the little coupe. It was crystallised when a mate, to whom I had earlier voiced my indifference towards the 220i, asked what the problem was.

It was then I realised I had been blind to the 220i's many charms; while it wasn't outstanding in any one facet, it was very, very good in just about every criterion and by the end of the week I was loath to return the little dynamo.

VERDICT
You get the looks, the badge and the comfort you'd want from a $50K-plus BMW but those looking for acceleration thrills might be better served going higher up the 2 Series food chain to the more powerful 228i or M235i petrol variants.

BMW 2 SERIES
Model: 220i
Price: $50,500
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Outputs: 135kW/270Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.0L/100km

COMPETITORS
AUDI A3 SEDAN
Model: Quattro Ambition
Price: $47,800
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Outputs: 132kW/280Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.5L/100km

MERCEDES CLA-CLASS
Model: CLA 200
Price: $49,900
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Outputs: 115kW/250Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Thirst: 5.7L/100km

VOLKSWAGEN SCIROCCO
Model: R
Price: $50,490
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Outputs: 188kW/330Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 8.2L/100km

The West Australian

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