The old 1 Series Cabriolet was like a young man who had just graduated from adolescence - playful, but not all that solid. Meet the 2015 BMW 2 Series Cabriolet, a man who has turned 30 and knows what he wants.
The driving experience is still fresh and would easily bring a summer breeze attitude regardless of the outside temperature, but things are now steadier. The sure-footed attitude, this is the main benefit the generation change attached to the new designation.
Even though the silhouette has remained the same, the 2 Series casts a larger shadow compared to the model it replaces. The newcomer is 72 mm (2.8 inches) longer, 26 mm (1 inch) wider and benefits from a 30 mm (1.2 inches) wheelbase increase.
To describe the car’s appearance in a nutshell, the 2 Series Cabriolet looks sleek, but is restrained enough to keep you from being overloaded with attention. When you’re in a convertible, it’s great to be able to enjoy a drive without feeling like all eyes are on you.
And to tickle your fancy bone, you can now choose between three soft top hues. Aside from the usual Black, you also have the brilliant-looking Anthracite (visible on our tester) as well as Brown, which comes with a Silver Metallic effect option.
BMW needs to update its cabins, as it has done with the 7 Series, but, as we said during the M235i Coupe review, this isn’t an issue when it comes to the 2 Series. This is a car that doesn’t take itself too seriously and therefore the interior you know from the 1 Series gets the job done.
Once again, we came across good ergonomics and the slight increase in cabin space has solved a part of the problems we’ve had in the past. We were surprised to find plenty of stowage compartments around the cabin. We also appreciated the dedicated open-top mode of the climate control system, which did a good job at keeping us cozy,
In terms of optional extras, we’d steer clear of the Sport Seats on our tester. Even with a medium-sized frame such as mine, you’ll feel the rib area being too tight. I do have to mention this has always been an issue with the 1 and the 2 Series.
Still, if you order the M Sport package, the Sport Seats will come finished in Alcantara and hexagon-motif cloth. This makes them a bit softer and therefore a viable option.
If you’re inexperienced or looking for a way to play, the Professional Navigation system also bring the Proactive Driving Assistant. This tells you when to lift your foot off the throttle when bends or roundabouts are coming up. As a bonus, updates are now more frequent and done over the air using a SIM card.
If you travel outside the city a lot, the LED headlights with the anti-dazzle High Beam Assistant are also worth considering. As we’ve experienced during many other BMW reviews, these use cones of shadow to keep the road ahead well-lit and the other drivers safe.
On the other hand, we recommend the Navigation System Professional and not just because the standard one’s 6.5-inch display looks outdated. Aside from the 8.8-inch display, the feature brings a touch-sensitive iDrive controller. By now, our fingers have learned to write properly using this gadget.
The 2 Series proves to be a practical cabriolet.
With better access and a bit more space than before, two adults can fit in the back for short and medium trips. The limitations come from the backrest angle and the firmness of the seat cushions.
Compared to its predecessor, boot capacity jumps 30 liters to 335 liters (11.8 cubic feet) with the roof up. When the top is stowed, the luggage capacity is increased by 20 liters to 280 liters (9.9 cubic feet).
The boot opening offers enough room for your daily operations, having been increased too. And if you really want to load larger objects, look inside the luggage compartment - there’s a lever that will allow you to raise the roof mechanism.
The 2 Series Cabriolet is a doll inside the city.
With this relaxed mindset, you’ll find the car incredibly symbiotic. This open-top BMW is agile and can be driven as easy as a supermini. The visibility is decent, even with the top on, so everything is at your disposal. Even so, you shouldn’t complete your configuration without adding the rear-view camera (part of the Park Distance Control).
As a Cabriolet, the 2 Series shows plenty of assets. The new roof offers serious thermal and sound insulation, keeping you away from the urban buzz and allowing you to go for speedy trips outside the city. The noise cut compared to the 1 Series Cabriolet is particularly impressive, both up front and in the back.
The top can be folded or raised up to 50 km/h (31 mph), but the 20 seconds required for either operation (verified) feel a bit too much in real life. In fact, you can see the soft top opening and closing in the video below.
With the top down, you can drive cozy up to the speed mentioned above, or up to about 100 km/h (60 mph) with the wind stopper installed. This element is easy to operate, but, as usual with conventional systems, it renders the rear seats useless.
This is a problem that spreads beyond the BMW brand and we wish car companies would learn from the Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet. The Benz has a smaller, power deflector integrated with the rear headrest assembly, while an AIRCAP textile protection element at the top of the windshield brings serious assistance. The 2 Series Cabriolet is a much-needed piece in BMW’s line-up. Let’s put it this way, the 2 is the exact opposite of the 4 Series Convertible. The open-top 4 rides heavy-footed, whereas the 2 Cabrio is light. Obviously the folding metallic top vs. modern canvas top difference only adds to the distance between the two.
As a result, while the 4 Series Convertible makes the 6 Series Cabriolet somewhat irrelevant, there’s no overlapping with the 2 Series.
The distance between the experience offered by the open-top versions of the 2- and the 4 Series is somewhat similar to the ease of driving the separates a Boxster from a 911 Cabriolet.
This attitude of the car means it’s a pleasant road trip partner. After a serious number of hours behind the wheel, we felt relaxed.
As for the 220d Cabriolet in particular, preconceptions tell us a diesel cabriolet shouldn’t work. Interestingly enough, it does and here’s why.
First of all, the chassis is refined enough to offer a supple driving experience. The car doesn’t let the diesel ruin the balance. Then again, it doesn’t have all that much to compensate for. You see, this is BMW’s new 2-liter diesel making its debut on a compact car. And you can feel it.
Sure, the grunt is decent and nothing more, since the engine generation change only brings a limited upgrade from 184 hp and 380 Nm (280 lb-ft) to 190 hp and 400 Nm (295 lb-ft). Nevertheless, it’s the usability and refinement that impress.
The oil burner never dares to disturb you with its rattling and if we also factor in the solid soundproofing, we end up with an experience that makes it into the premium area. And it pulls well, from 1,800 to around 4,600 revs. This is particularly pleasing when you consider the Convertible carries a hefty burden of over 130 kg (290 lbs) compared to the Coupe.
The ZF 8-speed auto, whose Sport, paddle-gifted version we tested here, is a perfect match for the powerplant. The ratios are now further apart than pre-facelift 1 Series drivers are used to. With this powertrain, the underrevving-for-efficiency issue we experienced on the non-Sport 8-speed auto X3 xDrive20d is gone.
In terms of efficiency, we came pretty far from the official numbers BMW provides, but since the results were still good, we’re not complaining. We got 7.4 l/100 km (31.8 US mpg) inside the city and 6.5 (36.2 US mpg out on the open road).
And since we're here, we have to mention we'd like to see the coasting function outside the Eco Pro mode.
The 220d Convertible never feels laggy inside the city, while out on the open road it provides decent pace. Don’t expect it to perform mid-corner throttle adjustments though. With a modest engine like this, you can have light-hearted fun, but you won’t upset the balance of the chassis, not even with the electronics “fully” off - the quotes are here since, as we noticed with virtually any present-day Bimmer, the DSC
never goes away 100 percent. You can pull off little slides, but you’ll have to turn to the handbrake to initiate them. Good thing it’s a mechanical one.
Before we talk handling though, we have to discuss the 2 Series suspension options, which can be a bit confusing at first due to having four different versions to choose from. Aside from the standard passive dampers, you get the adaptive ones, which are called M Sport. These were the ones we had on our tester.
In this trim, the 2 Series is a comfortable car. It can cope with most road imperfections, even with the 18-inch wheels we had. It’s not the perfect kind of ride, but the car is never seriously upset by caprices of the asphalt underneath. As for the handling chapter, things are decent, but there’s an odd feeling you’re driving a jacked-up car, with a longer suspension travel than you might expect. This is particularly strange since the ride height is 10 mm lower compared to the standard suspension. We think the more rigid runflat tires BMW insists on using are the ones to blame for the difficulties we had in finding the right suspension mix.
We also got the impression of a contradiction in terms of the steering. While our test car was gifted with the Variable Sport Steering, the system was still too light at high speeds. We’re talking about the default Comfort mode of the Driving Experience Control. Luckily, the relaxed overall attitude means you can overlook this aspect.
From mild B-roads to twisty mountainous tarmac with serious elevation changes, you can have a few smiles in a 2 Series with a moderate powerplant such as the 220d. The Cabriolet displays a softer chassis compared to the coupe, but it never becomes a problem.
The 2 Series Convertible is 20 percent stiffer than the 1 Series Convertible and this is enough to enjoy the open road. For a more serious approach, you’ll have to turn to the M Sport adaptive suspension, which features stiffer springs and dampers. Once again, you car will sit 10mm lower.
If you’re really serious about the twisty side of the driving, you can browse the M Performance aftermarket catalog for even stiffer damping and a 20-mm ground clearance reduction.
While we haven’t experienced the last or the first options, our M235i review, which included the suspension mentioned just above, revealed a certain handling limitation. As you advance towards the harder setups, you’ll notice the chassis has been tweaked for grip, so it’s hard to convince the rear end to let go.
We’ll probably have to wait for the M2, which may never arrive in Cabriolet guise, in order to enjoy a truly sideways-savvy setup. Or you could go for the xDrive models, a feature that hasn’t been introduced on the Cabriolet yet, but will arrive by the end of the year. While no official body has crash-tested the 2 Series, we can turn to the Euro NCAP ratings of the 1 Series, which are excellent. Given the well-balanced chassis and the good communication with the driver, the 2 Series gets an 8 out of ten for this chapter.
Interestingly enough, it’s almost as if the BMW 2 Series Cabriolet plays in a league of its own. The only competitor that comes close is the Audi A3 Cabriolet, but the Ingolstadt model has a more limited appeal. There’s also the new Ford Mustang
that has just landed on European shores, but the two are entirely different proposals.
Truth be told, there’s really no other model that offers the same balanced approach. Opel/Buick Cascada? VW Eos? You wouldn’t want to reach that segment of the market and the same can be said about the French side of the story. Moreover, the price of a Porsche Boxster means it can only compete with a loaded M235i, in which case the mid-engined machine wins the battle.
Speaking of the financial side, the 2 Series Cabriolet starts at EUR32,200, on the German market. Nonetheless, if you’d go for our pick of the range, the 228i Cabrio, a 245 turbo-four petrol, you’ll have to pay at least EUR41,650.
The 220d we drove starts at EUR38,050, but a well-gifted model will bring you well north of EUR50,000. All the prices mentioned here include 19 percent VAT.
In the US, the 228i is the starting point of the range, coming with a MSRP of $32,100, not including destination tax.
The fact that you can also enjoy the car in diesel guise says a lot about it. Speaking of which, while oil burners get eight out of ten for the conclusion, a petrol model would receive an extra point.
We would’ve liked BMW engineers to gift the 2 Series Cabriolet with a sharper handling though. While the M235i Coupe left us searching for a more playful rear end, some extra precision would’ve helped in the case of our 220d tester.
The spirit of the joyful 1 Series Cabriolet is still here, but it’s delivered in a different package. The greater wheelbase and tracks make the vehicle feel more stable and offer a noticeable cabin space increase.
So while the character of the car isn’t as strong as it used to be, the end result is more usable. Unlike the new MINI, where this type of changes felt exaggerated, altering the spirit of the car, the 2 Series experience remains flavored enough to make this a memorable BMW. Something like the ultimate bruschetta.