General

2022 BMW 230i stands alone

2022 BMW 230i stands alone

BMW should have picked a name and stuck with it. After our David E. Davis Jr. had sung the praises of the 1968-2002, BMW could have said, “Okay, from now on, our super fun compact sports coupe will be called 2002 and eventually become an iconic brand in its own right.” But no. BMW continued to build cars in the 2002 idiom, cheerful little rear-wheel drive coupes, but the names were whimsical: Series 3, Series 1, Series 2. The 1987 325i could have been a 2002. The same goes for all E36 coupes, the 2008 135i and now the 2022 BMW 230i. If BMW never stopped building the 2002—and it actually didn’t—it would be the latest model, and we’d all understand what to expect, that is, understated style girded with surprising performance and a touch of practicality for four passengers . Redesigned for 2022, the 230i is an everyday car with a secret dashing side.

Not that it looks dowdy, but the 230i’s styling is exceptionally understated compared to almost everything else in the BMW range these days. The proportions of the long hood and short deck are reminiscent of the 1 Series, and the grille is approximately half the size of the 4 Series, with movable vanes to optimize cooling or aerodynamics as needed. The triangular vents in the lower front corners are functional, BMW says, reducing turbulence around the front tires. Otherwise, the optional M Sport brakes, with their blue or red calipers, are the one and only peacock going. BMW maintained a theme of restraint, including dimensions, which are within a few inches of an E46 3-series coupe (that’s the early 2000s, if you don’t speak BMW model jargon).

Michael SimarisCar and driver

HIGHHS: Deceptively fast, excellent brakes, retro dimensions.

While BMW estimates the 230i’s 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four at just 255 hp (the M240i xDrive gets a 382 hp 3.0-litre inline-six producing 382 hp), these are BMW horses, which means that a large number of them have escaped the count. As such, the 3,554-pound 230i rips to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, an impressive number for a car that doesn’t consider itself a drag racer. The quarter-mile time — 13.7 seconds at 101 mph — is solid in noisy territory, too. With numbers like that and a base price of $37,345, the 230i could plausibly score a few converts coming from a Subaru WRX or a V-6 Chevrolet Camaro.

Unlike those two cars, the 230i is automatic only, with the ubiquitous and capable ZF-originated eight-speed automatic. And you know what? That’s fine. The BMW 2.0-litre four-cylinder is powerful enough, but it’s not the kind of engine that draws you to a red line to hear it sing. And the automatic offers a few neat tricks, like launch control (which isn’t the fastest way to hit 60 mph) and a “sprint” function on cars with the Shadowline package – pull the left paddle shift for at least a second and the transmission drops to the lowest possible gear, while all other engine management systems put themselves in maximum attack mode. But essentially this engine and transmission are a means to an end, generating enough speed to show off the chassis and brakes.

Michael SimarisCar and driver

LOWS: No manual transmission, options add up quickly, no one knows what “230i” stands for.

Of the 2002 David E. wrote, “I’m not learning to handle the kids in their big hot moms with the 500 hp engines unless I can get them into a tight spot that requires agility, braking and the raw courage that is built into the BMW driver’s seat as a free extra.” The same can be said of the 230i.You wouldn’t want to mess with a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat right away, but if you descend into a chasm, the BMW will run off with staggered Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires, 225/40R-19 up front and 255/35R-19 in the rear, the 230i generated a healthy 0.92g of slippad grip and showcased the kind of balance that comes with a nearly 50-50 weight distribution from front to rear (50.4 percent front, 49.6 percent rear) With totally smashing stability control and the optional electronic locking differential, the 230i would be great on an autocross track.

Michael SimarisCar and driver

The brakes are also ready to dive deep into the corners all day long. Not only did the 70-mph 230i stop in just 152 feet (within a meter of the Maserati MC20’s performance), it did so again and again with no fade. Even repeated stops from 100 mph resulted in consistent results and more than 1.0 g of deceleration.

Since this is a BMW, there are all sorts of options available, but the 230i works best with minimal trim – no need to kill that throwback vibe with the full color head-up display and Tacora red leather. The stock SensaTec leatherette is believable enough, and if you’re careful with the options, you could build a 230i that costs less than a Toyota Supra 2.0, which uses the same powertrain. Those two machines may not seem like natural competitors, but the 230i delivers near Supra performance along with a rear seat and less extroverted styling. It even delivered 38 mpg during our highway fuel economy test.

Michael SimarisCar and driver

Yes, we’ve compared the 230i to many cars that aren’t really its competitors. Because what is right now? Minimalist European rear-wheel drive coupes aren’t exactly thick on the ground these days — the Mercedes C300 Coupé has a base price about $11,000 higher than the 230i. Only one company stuck to this formula and developed it over decades. And while we might wish for a manual transmission or more feedback through the steering wheel, let’s look at the big picture: this car still exists and it still delivers performance that might surprise a few muscle cars when you get in it. his element. The fact that we can take that for granted is proof of why we shouldn’t. Regardless of what else BMW rolls out – electrified, bombastic, hyper-complicated – we’re glad someone in Munich still has their hymnal on page 2002.


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