- Classically handsome looks
- Luscious, good-sounding six
- A usable, enjoyable convertible
- $9,000 more than the coupe
- Boot pretty small top-down
- Steering is a little artificial
Picture a fast BMW 2 Series. Chances are you’ll see a BMW M2, the halo car of the range, painted in signature Long Beach Blue. Since its arrival just over twelve months ago, the M2 has eclipsed the attention surrounding every other version of BMW’s smallest two-door car. But while the M2 deserves its status, there’s another 2 Series that, in many ways, is even more appealing. That’s because the 2017 BMW M240i convertible has two things the M2 can’t match. The M240i has even more torque than the M2, making it feel even stronger when pinning the throttle from a standing start. And while the M2 is only available as a coupe, the M240i is optionally available as a convertible. The sensation of speed is really maximised this way, with the additional sensory involvement that drop-top motoring gives a driver.
The M2 comparison is inevitable, especially given there is just a $6,600 jump from the M240i convertible to the M2 Pure, a more basic and manual-only edition of the $99,210 M2. But perhaps the more meaningful comparison is between the M240i and other quick convertibles in BMW’s range. The M240i is the sweet spot in BMW convertibles. At $83,610, it’s much less expensive than the $117,900 440i that uses the same engine. The 2 Series looks better, and the dynamics are tighter, too. Of course, you could spend silly money on a brash M4 or M6 convertible but both are relatively boaty in comparison to the lithe M240i. The law of diminishing returns operates to its full effect when choosing a convertible BMW. Spend less; get relatively more.
Some will find the M240i too small for their tastes, preferring the grander and more muscled look of the 4 Series and 6 Series-based drop-tops. But while preferring your BMWs on the larger side is a perfectly valid choice, it is a choice that ignores the brand’s history of making small performance machines with delicate dynamics – a legacy many link to the E30 3 Series, a vehicle the modern 2 Series almost matches for size. Delicate, an M4 ain’t – and some would argue the 250kW M240i is itself too much of a hammer, with the 185kW 230i a more balanced machine.
The point is, though, that today’s 2 Series – in coupe or convertible form – is as close as a modern BMW gets to replicating the company’s best-ever cars. Sure, it’s small – the back seats are tiny, and the tight lines are much less showy than the relatively yacht-like 4 Series. That’s the point. This is a classically taut, rear-driven BMW sports car that aims to maximise the connection between driver and machine. For that reason, I found it very likeable.
I also found it great to look at. These are ideal BMW proportions – short overhangs, long doors, a gradual wedge shape forming towards the nose. And they are classic BMW lines. The 2 Series is almost a nineties BMW in its refusal to adopt overly fussy creases. It’s very handsome from the front and the side, and it’s not too bad from the rear. Our car’s Mineral Grey paint over oyster grey and black leather is as good a combination as can be selected on this car. The M240i-specific, grey 18-inch wheels masking blue calipers complete a look that manages to combine a rare combination of elegance and sporting intent.
The shape of the convertible is more beautiful than the coupe, but you pay for it. The open-top form adds $9,000 to the cost of an M240i, and in my observations, you see far too many driving around Sydney with the roof up to have justified the extra outlay. Despite testing the car in winter, I made a point of driving it every day with the roof down. Don a ski jacket and it’s entirely possible (and fun). If you buy the convertible, you have to use it – it’s the best way to hear the luscious straight six and the gurgling and popping exhaust, and see and smell everything around you – the real joy of driving any convertible, but especially one as good as the M240i.
The 2 Series acquits itself well out of the blocks with a properly-low driving position. At the lowest setting it may even be too low in the high-silled convertible, but on a great road you feel like you are sitting well inside the vehicle, and nice and close to the road. You feel it all.
You sit behind quite an engine. The M240i, which uses BMW’s B58 three-litre twin-scroll turbo inline six-cylinder petrol engine making 250kW of power at 5,500rpm, and 500Nm of torque in a very broad band between 1,520 and 4,500rpm, is quite quick. Sprinting from 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds, the M240i is just 0.4 seconds behind an M2, and a substantial 1.2 seconds quicker than the lesser, four-cylinder 230i.
A six-speed manual is available for the same price as the eight-speed, ZF-sourced torque converter automatic that essentially everybody will buy. And that is fine – BMW automatics have long been better than their manuals, and this one is particularly good, with intuitive shift points and immediate kick-down when the throttle is booted.
And while the M240i convertible is really too heavy – at 1,630kg, it is a porky 145 kilograms weightier than the M240i coupe – it impressively is just 0.1 seconds slower to that 100km/h benchmark than its more lighter fixed-roof sibling.
The only place that mass is felt is when really lunging for a corner in the convertible, which sees a touch more drama, in the form of body roll, than the M240i coupe. But that roll is still impressively limited for a convertible, and in fact, the 2 Series is one of the most rigid convertibles we have tested. Shake and scuttling are only perceptibly felt on Sydney’s particularly corrugated roads; smoother tarmac would have you thinking you were driving the coupe.
You don’t have to accept poorer handling for buying the convertible, either – the M240i is a hoot on the right road in either body style. Direction changes are short and sharp, with the front end remaining predictable and agile despite the shoe-horning of a much heavier six-cylinder on top of the front wheels. It might be this extra weight in the front that has required the dialling up of steering assistance, though; the M240i’s steering feel never felt natural. In the car’s normal mode, it is too light; in Sport it became too heavy and treacly. By contrast, the 125i hatchback we drove the next week was spot-on.
A small BMW that is also rear-wheel-drive is always a delight. That is probably a combination that won’t exist for much longer; the efficiency and packaging benefits of front-wheel-drive are simply too appealing to manufacturers. BMW’s X1 SUV has already made the switch; future 1 Series and 2 Series models likely will in the next few years.
That’s why you should probably buy this car now, because the rear-drive balance is so palpable. The front end, unencumbered by power running through the turning wheels, is highly accurate. With BMW’s excellent Sport Plus mode limiting stability control intervention, a kick of the throttle will easily coax the back end into swiftly rotating beneath you in a controlled slide. Even Sport mode will allow a bit of fun before intervening more promptly.
The brakes, which make themselves known with distinctive blue calipers, are strong and up to the task of hauling the M240i to a standstill. Adaptive safety technologies are, for the moment, a bit patchy however. City-speed autonomous emergency braking is included, with a forward collision warning. However, there is no adaptive cruise control or blind spot monitoring available; the lack of blind spot sensors is frustrating on any convertible when the roof is up.
BMW is criticised for the strong family resemblance that runs through its interiors – a concept that sees this 2 Series, a model from the lower end of the BMW family, look similar inside to the 7 Series, Bavaria’s flagship. This approach contrasts to Mercedes-Benz, who fit their low-end cars with relatively basic interiors and lavish the S-Class with the best of everything. I think that the BMW way might be the better way. BMW’s interiors are consistent, but they are handsome and conservative – and the design is ageing very gracefully. Plus, the materials used the 2 Series are notably nicer than the relatively hard plastics found in a Mercedes-Benz CLA.
A 2 Series will look especially good in a smart, traditional colour combination. My recommendation is to avoid bright colours and red leathers, and instead stick to the sort of blend that made our test car look so good. A dark exterior colour over BMW’s handsome oyster grey and black leather suits nicely. Light leather can be a lot of work but from experience, I believe it’s worthwhile. Interestingly for a model with sporting intentions, our M240i featured dark wood trim which ideally complemented the other interior colours.
The entry-level status of the 2 Series within the BMW lineup is effectively masked by the use of upmarket materials. The leather on the steering wheel is creamy and supple – the gear shift could be more tactile, however. You get BMW’s ‘Dakota’ grade leather in the M240i – not the fine Merino from, say, an M4 – but it’s soft and yielding enough. And the soft plastics on the dash look good and are yielding to the touch.
The seats offer excellent support because they have a substantial range of adjustment. BMW’s trademark manual leg extenders are of immediate assistance to a long-legged driver like me, while the 14-way electric seat movement helps to customise this car’s low-slung driving position that affords a good view out and a strong sense of connectedness with the road. Back support is especially good – however, beefier side bolsters would improve matters even further.
Like the 230i beneath it, the M240i features BMW’s iDrive Professional navigation, which replaces the too-small 6.5-inch screen from the entry-level 220i model. The M240i also gets iDrive 5, a new-ish version of BMW’s software with softer graphics and a less complicated interface. This isn’t a touchscreen – a feature that will arrive on 2018 2 Series models – but BMW’s rotary iDrive dial is still the best in the business. The 12-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo is powerful, and crisp enough.
But what about life in the back? The 2 Series convertible is quite useful as theoretically there’s room for four passengers. The back row is small – it’s best thought of as a dicky seat for occasional use. Kids will have sufficient legroom and headroom back there. I needed all four seats for adults at one point, and we did fit – but don’t ask your close friends to spend too many kilometres back there, as it’s tight and can get pretty blustery without the benefit of the windscreen that shields the front passengers from most of the wind.
As convertibles go, the 2 Series isn’t too impractical. With a few caveats, I could foresee living with the drop-top M240i as my only car. So what are those compromises?
First, you can’t plan to use the back seats regularly, unless your kids are still small, or you’re friends with unusually short-legged people. It’s just not massive back there. It’s usable, and the back seats are very nice to have, but particularly when the roof is up it’s tight, dark and dingy. On a warm summer afternoon with the roof down, though, your mates will absolutely put up with it to enjoy the pleasure of being in the back of a BMW convertible.
And there are actually a few features back there, too – there are air vents for a bit of warm ventilation, and there are twin cupholders for your back seat passengers to console themselves with hot chocolate.
But say you need to carry stuff, and not people. I found it useful to simply chuck an overnight bag onto the rear seats – so that’s one way. But the back row actually folds down on itself, creating a wide pass-through for long (but not particularly wide) objects.
The boot is also not too small. Like most convertibles, the boot contains at least part of the roof mechanism. If you want to have the ability to put the roof down (and you do), that limits the available boot space to 280 litres – about the same as a Volkswagen Polo, but the shape is awkward. If you really need to transport gear, and you can keep the roof up, that space expands to 335 litres – or about a Mazda 3’s worth of space. You can make it work.
Back up front, storage is acceptable. There are two cupholders and a small tray ahead of the gear shifter, and there’s a relatively shallow central box where you’ll find the USB port and 12 volt socket. The door bins up front do accommodate a bottle of water.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
There are three major running costs to every vehicle – fuel, maintenance and depreciation. Our calculations are based on the 2017 BMW M240i convertible.
BMW M240i fuel economy
BMW claims the M240i convertible will use 7.4L/100km combined, with an urban figure closer to 10L/100km. This compares favourably to its rivals, with the lesser-outputted S3 cabriolet claiming a slightly lower 6.8L/100km, the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 claiming an identical figure, and the Audi RS3 claiming a higher 8.4L/100km.
In our time with the M240i, it used higher than claimed however, returning an overall figure closer to 10L/100km and in purely urban use, closer to 12L/100km. It must be said that these are performance cars, and if you’re chasing low fuel consumption over performance with the same level of style, the lesser-performance models in each range are much more suitable.
BMW M240i servicing costs
BMW covers the M240i under a three-year, unlimited km warranty with three years of roadside assistance for customers from new. While BMW doesn’t have set service intervals/costings, the M240i is covered under the brand’s condition-based servicing, which uses information from the car’s computer to inform owners when their cars need servicing.
The M240i also falls under BMW Service Inclusive pre-paid servicing, which allows owners to purchase five-years/80,000km worth of servicing at purchase. At the time of writing, it costs $1,340 for the 2-Series (excluding the M2), and covers oil and brake fluids, filters, spark plugs and electronic checks - those wanting brake pads and clutches to be covered can purchase a more inclusive Plus package, though BMW doesn’t disclose the cost of that.
Both Mercedes-Benz and Audi also allow owners to purchase their servicing when buying their car. The S3 and RS3 both offer 15,000km/yearly service intervals, with the CLA45 offering a slightly longer 20,000km/yearly interval. For an S3 Cabriolet, it costs $1,680 to cover a lesser three-years/45,000km of servicing, and like the BMW arrangement, does not cover brake pads and clutches, but does include all oil, filters and spark plugs. The RS3 is not covered by such a scheme, and its service costs aren’t published either.
Mercedes-Benz is unique in this segment for offering capped price servicing, even for its AMG models. Whilst regular CLA models follow 25,000km/yearly service intervals, the CLA45 follows a slightly lower 20,000km/yearly arrangement. Over three years/60,000km, the CLA costs $2,880, or an average of $960 per year.
BMW M240i depreciation
The M240i compares well to competitors with depreciation. After three years and 40,000km – the Australian average – Glass’ Guide reports that the M240i is worth around $59,800 or just over 71% of its original value, which is one of the best depreciation scores on the Australian market. This is just better than the Audi RS3 sedan on just under 71% of its value of $60,500. The Audi S3 cabriolet sits just below that on 59.7% or $41,700 and much better than the Mercedes-AMG CLA45, which will retain just under 56% of its original value, or just under $52,000.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Aside from the performance-focussed M2 ($99,210), and the less lavishly-equipped M2 Pure ($90,210, the M240i is the top of a three-strong 2 Series range that starts with the $51,300 220i coupe – add $7,000 for the convertible 220i.
The 220i, which uses a 135kW, 270Nm two-litre turbo four-cylinder, can be had with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic at no additional charge. It arrives decently equipped, with 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, automatic bi-xenon headlights, a 6.5-inch navigation system, DAB+ digital radio, leather trim and autonomous emergency braking.
From there, it’s a $10,600 step to the $61,900 230i coupe. The convertible is $10,000 more. The 230i turns up the heat quite significantly, with a 180kW, 350Nm tune of the same two-litre turbo. Equipment swells to include 18-inch wheels, the better 8.8-inch navigation screen, and the M Sport package with sportier looks, beefier brakes and a stiffer suspension setup – though the Luxury line can be had at no cost.
We drove the M240i, which is $74,610 in coupe form and $83,610 as a convertible. Performance is way up, thanks to the 250kW, 500Nm three-litre, and there’s more equipment in the form of adaptive LED headlights, a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo, electric heated front seats, and a full M Performance kit including a unique suspension tune, larger brakes, grey 18-inch wheels and more aggressive styling.
The higher M2 gives you the ultimate in 2 Series performance, with a 272kW, 465Nm tune of the M240i’s three-litre turbo six. It also gains a much more aggressive visual treatment and 19-inch wheels.
At the high end, the options list is pretty short. On an M240i, I recommend metallic paint ($1,547) and the fineline wood trim ($260). I would also begrudgingly pay for two options that should be standard – Apple CarPlay ($623), and tyre pressure monitoring ($550).
While the 230i is realistically all the 2 Series most people will need, the M240i’s combination of small body, big six, and rear-wheel-drive – which will probably be impossible to find in ten years – makes it very attractive.
The M240i sits in unchartered waters for the premium small sports car segment with no other competitor offering a similarly-sized and similarly-sporty offering for the money.
Audi S3 Cabriolet ($72,000)
What gets closest to the M240i in terms of both bodystyle and performance is the S3 Cabriolet. Despite not offering an even faster RS3 cabriolet and therefore producing only 213kW and 380Nm vs the M240i’s 250kW and 500Nm, the S3 is only half a second slower to 100km/h (5.2 seconds vs 4.7 for the BMW) and more than $10,000 less expensive, though adding options to better match the BMW’s equipment quickly raises the car’s price.
Audi RS3 Sedan ($84,900)
The RS3 in a sedan bodystyle is new, having been launched in Australia in May 2017 - the RS3 badge was previously limited to the hatchback variant. The RS3 uses a new version of Audi’s iconic turbocharged five-cylinder engine, this time a 2.5-litre 294kW/480Nm variant. Sprints to 100km/h the fastest of this group in a supercar-worrying 4.1 seconds, with a similar 250km/h gentleman’s agreement electronically limit. Uses a claimed 8.3L/100km - more than both the BMW’s more relaxed six-cylinder, which claims 7.4L/100km.
Mercedes-AMG CLA45 ($92,900)
Like the RS3, the CLA45 produces its 280kW/475Nm through a smaller turbocharged engine, but instead of a 2.5-litre with five cylinders, it uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with one of the world’s highest specific outputs per litre. The CLA45 sprints quicker to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds, half a second faster than the M240i, thanks to all-wheel drive. Like the BMW and RS3, the CLA45 is fully loaded with equipment and a very satisfyingly loud exhaust and like the RS3, features a more practical bodystyle, though a the Shooting Brake wagon is available for those who need more practicality with their devastatingly fast small car.
|Capacity||3.0 litres (2998 cc)|
|Induction||Single twin-scroll turbocharger|
|Power||250kW at 5,500rpm|
|Torque||500Nm at 1,520-4,500rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||156kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||7.4L/100km|
|Fuel capacity||52 litres|
|Average range||703 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||Rear wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1,598 kilograms|
|Cargo space (seats up)||280 litres (roof down storage)|
|Cargo space (seats down)||335 litres (roof must be up)|