Road test: BMW M235i

With great road manners, the BMW M235i is fun and engaging yet docile enough for the daily drive to the office
With great road manners, the BMW M235i is fun and engaging yet docile enough for the daily drive to the office
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THIS M235i variant is the quick version of BMW’s new 2 Series Coupe. Since there’s been a recent naming reshuffle, you’re excused for thinking that you’re looking at a 1 Series Coupe. Honestly, this is the “new” 2 Series.

And for buyers seeking proper rear-wheel drive thrills without having to sell a kidney, the M235i is the closest most of us will get to a similar car sporting an “M” badge. Yes, an M2 is on the way, but until then you’ve got the M235i – likely a more rounded and sensible choice if you’ve only got space for one performance BMW in your life.

It’s not difficult to tell the difference between this M235i and a cooking diesel variant. The former has clearly been at the box marked Shredded Wheat, what with its beefy bodykit, low and purposeful stance plus those equally businesslike chunky wheels and tyres.

It’s a little less in your face in the car’s cabin, but the sports seats, M car-like steering wheel and subtle graphics ensure you don’t forget what this car is capable of.

Crucially, for all the talk about genuine M cars, this M-lite version offers a good balance of comfort and sportiness in the real world.

If there’s one thing that the M235i does share with its slower siblings, it’s the fact that it’s a surprisingly practical car for a compact coupe. Granted, space for rear seat occupants is less than great, but it boasts a good size boot and there’s ample storage space in the cabin for all the tat associated with an active life.

From being a maker of rev-happy cars BMW has fully embraced turbocharging with its latest range of performance motors. The M235i is no different, and its 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine benefits from turbocharging to the tune of 322bhp. That figure is plenty to get you to the horizon in a hurry, while the rasping from the exhaust ensures that your journey is always entertaining.

Crucially, the M235i is a doddle to drive at modest speeds, while pushing harder reveals a car eager to please. It’s only when you really lean on it that it shows its hooligan hand. That trick BMW approved tuning bits can be bought to further enhance the experience should please the hardcore fans, while you’ll also want to pay a little extra for the slick eight-speed auto gearbox as the six-speed manual ’box lacks polish.

It’s all relative of course, but in the world of premium hot hatches – or coupes – the M235i should be at the top of your shopping list. It possesses great road manners, is fun and engaging and is docile enough to double as regular transport to the shops and the office. Base trim is a little, well, basic, but you’d be wise to spend your cash on the extra tuning bits instead of fancy paint or gadgets.

Anyone who’s been raised on a diet of hot hatches will like the M235i. It’s a mature evolution of the breed yet retains that all important “edge” to keep you interested away from the city limits.

Thankfully its low-key looks don’t scream performance so you’ll rarely turn heads – good news if you want to have some fun but not telegraph it to every man and his dog. Plus, it’s rear-wheel drive, which is an important characteristic in a world full of million horsepower front-drive hot hatches.


Car BMW M235i

Price £34,250

Engine 3.0-litre, 6cyl, turbocharged petrol, 322bhp, 332 lb ft

Performance Max speed 155mph, 0-62mph 5s

Economy 34.9mpg combined

CO2 emissions 189g/km