2017 BMW 230i xDrive Review: The Brilliant Base Model

– Detroit, Michigan

I drove the plucky BMW 230i xDrive at the tail end of last year (hence the ‘17 model year), but wanted to be sure the review didn’t get forgotten about – the 2 Series is too good an enthusiast car for that fate.

What’s more, I think the 230i – perhaps slightly ignored by other car media thanks to the brilliance of siblings like the M2 and M240i – could be the gem of the lineup… at least when you start really factoring for dollars and sense.

In all-wheel-drive xDrive trim, the 230i starts at a very reasonable $35,150; meanwhile my test car was tastily optioned to over fifty grand. Considering that spread, it’s a bit tough to score the BMW for pricing… so much depends on exactly how many bells and whistles you’ll need.

Consider this: At the low end the 230i offers a luxury badge, subtle handling, and a cool shape for the same money it takes to buy far more common coupes like the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang. The more ink you add to the options sheet – I like the $2,300 spent on this car’s Track Handling Pack, but am less enthused about paying nearly three grand for the Premium Pack – the less rational it gets. Still, coupes as a species are meant to be a little decadent, which means expensive.

Like the 1 Series before it, I’m smitten with the stubby, wheels-at-corners looks of the 230i. Even without the muscularity of the M2, the coupe has great proportions and lines that will age really well. It’s conservative, where sporting coupes are concerned, and that’s a formula that has worked well for BMW for decades.

Still, some points are deducted here for a lack of originality and outright beauty, in a segment where looks are considered before just about anything else.

Driver and passenger have a surprising amount of room in this subcompact. At well over six feet tall, I found the head and legroom especially impressive, and welcome. In fact, the 230i measures out remarkably near the gigantic Dodge Challenger (in the front seats) in every direction save for width.

BMW seats are pretty magical for people of all sizes, too, and no exception has been made for this 2er. Thigh support is welcome for my long legs, and the back and bottom bolsters seem to beg me to take the next corner a little faster.

There’s a big, bright infotainment screen smack in the middle of the dash, which is both easy to read and make use of. Apple CarPlay is available but one must pay extra for it, which sucks; and while I think making wireless charging optional is sensible (not everyone cares to use it), charging $500 for the privilege seems daft. I can buy a lot of Chinese knock-off Lightning cables for five hundo…

Crisp steering response and a really capable adaptive suspension (from the M division) allow the 230i to hang with cars with a lot more motor. Though feel and feedback have fallen off from the 1 Series days, this car is still utterly joyful to drive on a Saturday, on my favorite country lane.

The engine isn’t bad, either. Output figures of 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque make this the least powerful 2 Series BMW sells, but there’s still more than enough oomph to keep one entertained. The eight-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t get in the way, though this does feel like a car that deserves a good manual transmission for maximum enjoyment.

The 230i xDrive is really about average where advanced safety tech is concerned. The little two-door is stuffed with airbags for the front-seat passengers, it’s true, but it lacks newer tech to stop those bags from ever being needed, like automatic braking.

To be clear, I’m comparing the BMW to other coupes, and not the entire world of vehicles, but in its own area it’s actually kind of a fuel sipper. The 2 Series returns 33 miles per gallon on the highway, 24 in the city, and 27 combined. Those figures might not scare off the Honda Civic Coupe – but if you’re looking at a sporting, German, rear-drive (based) two-door, you can’t do much better.

Photos: Seyth Miersma / Motor1.com

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