Having passed every test we’ve laid in its path, BMW’s latest M Performance brand introduction – the M235i coupé – has one more hurdle to jump, one more opportunity to show if – and if so, why – it’s the most exciting sports coupé on the block right now. The full Autocar road test workout awaits.

Rebranding the 1-series coupés and convertibles as 2-series is part of BMW’s new naming strategy, but it also gives a nod to Munich’s original compact coupé: the 02 coupé series.

The two-door BMW 1600-2 arrived in 1966, with the 2002 following in 1968. Then in 1973 BMW launched the car most would consider to be the closest spiritual antecedent of the M235i: the 170bhp 2002 Turbo, Europe’s first turbocharged mainstream passenger car.

On first inspection in the US earlier this year, Richard Bremner described the new M235i as “the most enjoyable, well balanced model in BMW’s range”. After a subsequent European drive, road tester Nic Cackett labelled it “a sports car of the highest order”.

The M235i also bettered its competition from Mercedes AMG and Audi in a UK group test, shaded only by the significantly more expensive but less practical Porsche Cayman. Could we be on for a perfect five-star score? The omens are promising.

Moreover, are we looking at a new performance legend? Having turned the last M3 coupé into a £60,000 buy and placed the upcoming M4 equally out of reach for a great many of us, has BMW invented a new affordable sporting hero in the M235i?

Time to go in search of greatness.

Top 5 Affordable sports cars

  • Porsche Cayman
    The Porsche Cayman is now in its second generation

    Porsche Cayman 2013-2016

    1
  • Here is the fourth-gen Mazda MX-5 - the definitive small sports car

    Mazda MX-5

    2
  • Toyota GT86
    The stated criteria for the GT86 read like a purist's manifesto: rear-drive, no turbo, ordinary tyres

    Toyota GT86

    3
  • BMW M235i
    The BMW M235i is a rear-wheel-drive turbocharged coupé which rivals the likes of the Porsche Cayman

    BMW M235i

    4
  • Lotus Elise S Cup
    Road-going version of the racing Elise. Suspension mods help make it an unbridled joy.

    Lotus Elise S Cup

    5

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