Some might crave the simplicity of such innocent times but the world is now a far more complex, not to mention complicated, place and quick, compact BMWs are no exception.
The traditional two-door M3 isn’t even an M3 any more but an M4, and while for decades there has usually been an Alpina alternative for the more eclectically minded, the Buchloe brand has always kept a respectful conceptual distance between the two.
No longer: Alpina’s brand-new B4 is priced to within £200 of this M4 and has a 0-62mph time within 0.1sec, a weight within 3kg and a 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six engine with an identical capacity.
Spurred by recent successes, Alpina has never been bolder, nor bitten so hard upon the hand that has fed it donor vehicles for almost half a century.
And what is this, standing meekly in the shadows of these twin titans? It’s yet another BMW two-door coupé, also with M badges and, yes, a 3.0-litre turbo motor of exactly the same origin as the other two.
As we shall see, there are many differences between the three cars here but clearly none so great as this: although the B4 Biturbo and a paddle-equipped M4 are priced either side of the £59,000 mark, the M235i costs just a little more than £34,000.
You could buy it and an entire other 3-series before reaching the price of either of the others, a £25,000 gulf that only an extraordinary leap in ability and entertainment could justify.
So we’ll start here first. Parked with its glamorous companions, it looks very much the annoying tag-along little sibling. It’s presentable enough in isolation, but compared with its sleek sisters, the M235i looks dumpy, awkward and under-dressed on its 18-inch rims.
Its cabin is based on the same architecture (as indeed is the entire car, albeit with an abbreviated wheelbase) but even once you take into account the optional piano black and carbonfibre fillets fitted to the B4 and M4 respectively, it’s a lot less luxurious in here.
Even so, room in the rear is better than you’d expect: it’s cramped if you’re an average-sized adult but you’ll keep the blood flowing to your feet on short journeys and not much more can be said for the other two with their thicker, more space-inefficient front seats.
The engine sound is the same straight six BMW purr that we’ve been enjoying for decades and, given that this motor breathes through a twin-scroll turbo, that’s impressive.
It sets exactly the right tone for what’s to come. Its 326bhp is predictably shy of the 400bhp-plus output of an M4 or B4 but so, too, is it over 80kg lighter, so their power-to-weight ratios are not so far removed and their torque-to-weight numbers are closer still.
Running the same 10.2:1 compression ratio as the others but blowing far less boost, the M235i feels the least turbocharged of the three.
In fact, if you didn’t know, I doubt that you’d twig it for its throttle response is world class for a turbo. It makes peak torque at little more than idling speed and then just pours on the performance all the way to maximum power.
It feels like a genuinely quick car and were our test example fitted with self-shifting gears like the others, they’d all register 0-62mph times of between four and five seconds.