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BMW’s 230i Convertible takes on the 220d xDrive Coupe

How does the new look convertible stack up against the coupe?

It was back in 2014 when one became two at BMW or to clarify, the sportier and higher specced models in the Bavarian company’s 1 Series line-up were given a new identity. And so the 2 Series Coupe and Convertible cars were born.

But three years down the line they were starting to look a little jaded round the edges so it was time for a mid-life facelift and both cars have been given a new look inside and out. 

So we wanted to see how they fared when pitched against one another. After all, we Brits love an open-top car despite the unpredictable weather, but we also appreciate the driving dynamics offered by more aerodynamic and balanced coupe models.

BMW 230i Convertible - starting from £27,540

The rear-wheel drive BMW 2 Series Convertible has a brand new look with more dynamic styling thanks to the larger kidney grille, lower air intakes high gloss black, full LED headlights, new flashier wheels and full LED rear lights.

The interior also adopts BMW’s design language with a new less cluttered dashboard and horizontal lines to accentuate the car’s width. The material has been upgraded and there are neat stitching lines, clearer dials and instrumentation, along with pearl chrome finishing.

Also included as standard is the Servotronic steering which offers weightier steering at speed and a lighter feel when pottering around town where lots of manoeuvring is necessary. And as one would expect, there is a host of top notch on-board technology to explore.

The car is available in three trim levels called SE, Sport and M Sport - the latter of which accounts for more than 50 per cent of sales. Buyers can also choose from four petrol engines - 218i, 220i, 230i and the mighty M240i, or three diesel powertrains - 218d, 220d and 225d. And then there’s the choice between six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes. Factor in the optional packs and there is plenty of scope to personalise the car.

We tested the 2.0-litre 230i 248bhp M Sport Convertible petrol model with automatic transmission priced at £35,715 - a price-tag that increased to £42,875 with options fitted. The rear-wheel drive car which sat on 18-inch wheels could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 5.9 seconds, topped out at a limited 155mph and delivered combined fuel economy of 45.6mpg with carbon emissions of 143g/km. This would mean the 230i Convertible would have a Vehicle Excise Duty cost of £200 for the first tax year and £140 after that.

The M Sport is fully loaded when it comes to technology and offers Drive Performance Control with ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes to alter the car’s driving dynamics. There is an excellent harman kardon sound system, sat nav, ambient lighting plus a list of M Sport identifiable cues, including aerodynamic body styling, an M Sport multi-function steering wheel, M Sport suspension and lots of M badging inside and out. 

Come rain or shine, we can’t get enough of the wind-in-the-hair driving experience in the UK and the BMW 2 Series offers the best of both worlds with its layered fabric roof that opens and closes in 20 seconds at speeds up to 30mph. With the roof up the insulation is excellent and very little outside noise filters through into the cabin. Then when the sun shows a glimpse of enthusiasm the roof is lowered at the push of a button and away you go.

The boot capacity on the convertible is 335 litres. However, this is reduced to 280 litres when the roof is dropped down as it folds away into the boot. There are some handy storage options throughout the car though such as a practically-sized glovebox, cup holders front and rear, a central bin, non-slip tray, door bins with partitions and mesh pockets in the back of the front seats.

When it comes to handling, the Convertible is light, agile and very rapid through the eight-speed automatic gearbox. There are paddle shifts if you fancy taking a little more control and there is plenty of driver feedback through the sports steering wheel. The various driving modes really do crank up the responses when in Sport or Sport+ modes and even in Comfort the ride is quite exhilarating, especially with the roof down.

On a slight downside, the visibility isn’t that great. The rear screen is quite shallow and the two rear headrests block the view even further. And when it comes to space in the back - don’t think about asking any adults to sit there or you are guaranteed to lose them as friends. However, like most coupes or convertibles, there is enough room for children or alternatively a place to dump coats, etc.

BMW 220d xDrive M Sport Coupe - starting from £24,300

Like the 2 Series Convertible, the sporty Coupe is also available with the same choice of engines and trim grades. And once again we tested the range-topping M Sport model with auto transmission priced at £33,630 (increased to £40,955 with options). But this car also had the assurance of 4x4 traction.

It also boasts compact proportions with short overhangs and a muscular rear end and all the eye-catching design cues seen in the Convertible model.

This 2.0-litre 188bhp diesel model was slightly slower and could sprint from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds and maxed out at 140mph. However it was far more frugal and can achieve a combined 60.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 124g/km which would result in a Vehicle Excise Duty cost of £160 for the first tax year and £140 after that.

Whilst the Coupe model featured the same classy level of on-board technology and was just as easy on the eye as the Convertible, it does have quite a few advantages.

Firstly, the boot capacity is 390 litres at all times. Secondly, the handling. This may sound like quite a sweeping statement, but the Coupe is better balanced than the open-top and that comes across when out on the country lanes. Because the Convertible would be lighter due to the lack of a hard roof, extra weight has to be added to the floor to make it more rigid and as a result, it feels a little less responsive. The Convertible is actually about 115kgs heavier and it’s only when you drive the two cars back-to-back that this is really noticeable.

Out on the twisting country lanes, the Coupe is a real ‘driver’s’ car with very precise steering and ultra-assured road-holding. Body roll is non-existent and the cabin is beautifully sound-proofed against the outside world. Both cars featured BMW’s iDrive controller which offers easy access to all the car’s many systems. 

Obviously the cars we tested were kitted out to the max, bumping up prices by about £15k. But it’s worth noting that the entry level models are very competitively priced and there is an excellent choice of specs and powertrains across the range.

And if you really want to push the boat out then there is the M240i models that cost £36,415 for the Coupe and £39,615 for the Convertible - and that’s without any optional packs added on. These cars are both cable of sub-five-second 0-62mph sprint times.

But as for the comparison cars - both have their own individual appeal. The Coupe is everything a two-door sports car should be from its athletic design to its enthusiastic, responsive and energetic handling. The Convertible offers all the sporting elegance with the added benefit of open-top freedom.

But for me the all-year round appeal of the Coupe wins the contest and my views are supported by the sales figures that showed 7,350 Coupe cars were sold in 2016 compared to 3,550 Convertibles.