CAR REVIEW: BMW 230i’s superb engine and premium amenities redefine ‘entry level’ | News
When a new car shows up in your driveway every week, fully insured, with a full tank and the freedom to use it however you see fit, it’s easy to get a little spoiled. This recently came to a head when I had to test the 2022 BMW 230i, powered by a twin-turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and not the 240i model with a 382-hp straight-six. Oh, the disappointment of running out of horsepower under the hood.
There’s also the disappointment that the reworked-for-2022 2 Series will no longer be available with a manual transmission, a feature that’s sure to brighten up a small coupe with BMW pedigree.
But that dissatisfaction quickly dissipated once I got behind the wheel of the 230i. I am now a full church convert of his 2.0-liter twin-turbo and would happily sing his praises from the top of the mountain. Check your mailbox for our flyers.
The twin-turbo engine develops 255 horsepower, seven horsepower more than the 2021 model, and will take the 230i from standstill to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. Respectable numbers, sure, but they don’t include the necessary context drivers’ experience behind the wheel.
This two-liter is like an excitable puppy that will simultaneously try to chew your hand, run around in circles, attach itself to your leg, and walk away. His energy and pep are absolutely endearing.
While the twin-turbo might not have the raw power of the straight-six, it serves up plenty of grunt. Its 295 foot-pounds of torque peak from 1,550 rpm to 4,400 rpm to deliver serious passing power and the umph needed to max out the 2 Series’ optional M-tuned suspension.
The motor feels completely effortless in its power delivery to the rear wheels. Even beating the 230i for every horsepower under the hood and every bit of torque, the twin-turbo unfolds its intensity with the efficiency and ease of Max Fried punching a Little Leaguer.
The 230i powertrain’s eagerness to increase speed, coupled with a quiet cabin, will remind drivers to constantly check the available head-up display. Otherwise, you might find yourself doing 90 mph on an open highway while being convinced you’re not doing more than 70. At least that’s what happened to me. On several occasions.
A good engine can only be as good as the transmission it’s bolted to, and thankfully the 230i’s eight-speed automatic is another feather in its powertrain ceiling.
While it’s easy to lament that a manual transmission is no longer offered in the 2 Series, the 230i’s automatic shifts quickly and is so smooth around town that drivers will wonder if BMW has perfected a single speed transmission. Regardless of the driving situation, the paddle shifters are essentially steering wheel adornments, as at no point did I feel the need to change the cogs myself.
The reworked twin-turbo engine is one of the 230i’s many updates for 2022. The coupe is several inches longer and wider, the wheelbase has been stretched two inches and it rides an inch lower. There have also been styling updates, including the grille, which features electrically operated air vents to increase cooling when needed. Most of the styling updates gave the 230i a more aggressive appearance. Although its swept-up rear end might look a little awkward from angles, the profile is fantastic and the front does without the massive polarizing grille of the 4-Series.
Those who want to push the 230i, and with its engine that everyone will love, should consider the optional M Sport Package ($3,250). The suite includes sport suspension, variable sport steering and a rear spoiler along with Shadowline exterior trim, bloated front air intakes and 18- or 19-inch wheel options.
I can’t speak to the 230i’s agility without this option package, but once installed the Beamer has exceptional athleticism, grip and balance. The steering, while quick and a little heavy, is responsive and provides considerable feedback. The brake pedal modulates with a natural feel, and the four-piston front fixed calipers and single-piston rear floating calipers boost confidence with their remarkable stopping power.
In short, the 230i is simply brilliant to drive.
Its passenger compartment goes against the “entry-level” trend with top-of-the-range materials and a modern and attractive look. Creature comforts like synthetic leather seats, multi-zone climate control and a 10-speaker audio system are standard, while a 10.25-inch touchscreen, sunroof, ambient interior lighting and other features are available.
And the iDrive rotary control system is still my favorite way to operate an infotainment rig.
So the reworked 230i is an absolute gem, isn’t it? To quote Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.”
In many ways, the 230i shines. It has a fantastic powertrain, extensive cornering ability and delivers the luxury experience expected of a BMW.
But despite its overall growth for 2022, the 230i’s rear seat and trunk size have been reduced. The rear seats, while able to accommodate smaller children, are actually leather-wrapped parcel shelves.
Ride quality can also be difficult. The suspension will soak up minor road imperfections, but the energy from small potholes or bumps seems to be transferred directly to the passengers’ backs. It’s no doubt not helped by the fact that the 230i only runs on flat tires.
The auto start/stop feature is also annoying and jerky, often kicking in before the Beemer has come to a complete stop. It’s fine when coming to a red light but boring in creeping traffic.
Still, it’s much easier to deal with these downsides when viewing the 230i’s overall positive qualities, of which it has many.
A small luxury coupe should have gusto, verve and notable appointments, and the Beamer excels in those categories. Obviously yes, because it takes a great performance to make an enthusiast forget that there is an even sportier and faster version.