2020 BMW 218i Gran Coupe

2020 BMW 218i Gran Coupe

THE newest coupe in the BMW family is as smooth as a creamy fresh latte.
It’s the 2 Series Gran Coupe, which joins a series of curvy cars that tracks back to 2012 when the original 6 Series Gran Coupe was rolled into showrooms.

BMW is using this sub-set to stretch the appeal of its traditional models, taking the same mechanical package and then dropping a rounded roof on top.

If you want the basics you get a hatch or sedan, if you want to look and feel special then you get a Gran Coupe.

So the 2 Series GC is already in action as the 1 Series hatch, and this week’s test car is the baby 218 with a three-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbo engine and front-wheel drive.

If that also sounds a like like a basic Mini, it should. The same dots are joined for a different Mini picture because the two BMW divisions are sharing engineering expertise on models that can be twins under the skin.

So the GC is a good looker and it’s relatively affordable from just under $50,000, pitching it against the more homely Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.

It’s a style-over-substance car, something reflected in relatively mediocre performance as the 218 and a back seat that’s more useful for shopping bags than people.

Still, plenty of people are looking for a swish new motoring accessory and the Gran Coupe package delivers on that front. It looks good from every angle and, although it’s called a coupe, it’s really a low-roofed four-door hatchback with a biggish boot for the class.

I already know the GC package after driving BMW’s latest 1 Series and that experience showed me that the 235, with a four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, is likely to be quite a perky little gadget. It’s considerably more costly, probably tipping past $70,000, but what you pay when you want to play.

The 218 is more modest, although the benefit of middling performance is impressive economy that’s claimed at 5.9 litres/100km but easier to beat in the real world. When I want a bit more go, I sometimes take manual control of the six-speed automatic and that’s more enjoyable than trying for a kick-down response from the seven-speed automatic.

It’s nicely quiet at highway speeds and the baby turbo engine, complete with the syncopated soundtrack I first experienced in the 1980s with a three-cylinder Daihatsu Charade, is good enough for the job.

But point the GC at a curvy road, or ask it to really sprint for overtaking, and it is disappointing.

The interior of the GC is typically BMW, with clear display screens classy finishing, and it also has impressive safety credentials and a head-up instrument display on the test car.

It might be called a coupe but there is no shortage of headroom, at least in the front. And it looks good.

But BMW touts its brand as the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ and this one fails to deliver.

It’s a gentle, enjoyable car and the styling makes me smile. But BMW just got back to its best with the all-new 3 Series, and even the latest X3, and that makes the Gran Coupe a disappointment.

If it wore a different badge it would definitely qualify for The Tick, but BMW makes bigger promises and the car needs to be judged to a higher standard.

2020 BMW 218i Gran Coupe
6 Stars
Smooth design, efficiency
Minimal driving enjoyment
Price: from $47,990
Power: 103kW/220Nm
Position: prestige compact coupe