First Fang: BMW 228i

What is it?

This is the 228i, BMW’s latest addition to the compact rear-driver 2-Series range.

Before its arrival last November you had the choice of either, in the entry-level 220i, struggling to keep up with a Toyota 86, or in the M235i, mildly frightening yourself with Tomahawk-like acceleration.

Not only was there a large chasm in the range in terms of performance but also in terms of price. The 2-Series coupe kicked off at $50K (220i) and finished at $79K (M235i). The 228i fixes this, plonking itself neatly in the middle with a price tag of $64,400 and a 2.0-litre turbo four.

Hold on, the 125i, BMW’s last middle-of-the-range small coupe, had a free breathing six…

Ever since the less aesthete 1-Series coupe retired to its grave, the last naturally aspirated six-cylinder to feature in a BMW was buried with it. Taking its place has been the 2.0-litre turbo four that features in this car and other ‘28i’ models.

It must be a bit of slouch then?

Not quite. The 228i, even with an eight-speed automatic transmission, matches its predecessor’s weight at 1405kg. Kiss the firewall with your right foot and the compact BMW launches at the scenery with proper urgency. BMW calls it 0-100km/h in 5.7sec. For progress, that’s 0.7sec faster than the six-cylinder 125i.

It’s no firecracker either like an old-school Rex. The engine stirs up 350Nm early at 1250rpm and then has 180kW to look forward to at 6500rpm, and it’s extremely smooth, though a little boring sonically, while doing so.  

Does it handle?

Thanks to its decent 2690mm wheelbase, the 228i feels stable when threading a decent set of corners. Balance wise, there’s a slight bias of grip towards the rear, but the car feels adjustable the same way a third-gen Mazda MX-5 does though without the edginess.

It can’t all be roses, what’s bad about it?

Like a day with your in-laws, you just never get comfortable with the 228i’s variable steering. In ‘Comfort’ mode it’s appropriately quick, useful for the city, but feels indirect. Sport mode helps solve that, but then weighting feels artificially heavy. Where the steering rack does excel, however, is feedback. There’s loads of information coming back to your palms.

Should I buy one?

Like most BMWs, the sweet spot lies in the options. The 228i comes with loads of standard equipment, however leather is $2200, metallic paint is $1142, and the exterior desperately needs a little venom – where nothing will do short of the $500 optional wheels exclusive to the $3500 M Sport package (for us, at least).

But if you can tolerate the price game and never ferry around more than four people, then you’ll find the 228i one of the sweetest BMWs under $70K.

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