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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

Outside of the flagship BMW M240i and M2, we've only tested the 220d, but it's a model that'll most likely prove a popular choice among buyers and shares much with the 218d and 225d. It's perhaps harsh to judge this engine’s pitfalls first, but as a barometer of excellence, BMW’s four-pot diesel has slipped from pole position.

The measure of its fall will become apparent; the gearknob rattle, the clatter from cold, the disgruntlement dismissed before must now be reappraised as simply not good enough – especially in the compact 2 Series, where any refinement deficit is even more apparent.

I love the 220d as a long-distance motorway cruiser

Beyond the obvious, the side effect of all this excess noise and vibration is a potential dissatisfaction with the accompanying performance. The 220d actually pulls adequately from low engine speeds, but the splutter that greets gentle throttle openings is all too easy to mistake for a mortal struggle in the powertrain.

This means starting the car and getting it to the end of the road becomes a chore that must be endured before one can get to the business of enjoying it. It needs to be quieter, or at least pleasantly noisy. If refinement is a key buying criteria, the petrol engines would be a better choice.

While the engine’s din never completely dissipates, its proficiency elsewhere is so exemplary that you simply fail to take any heed. The introduction of forced induction comes on more subtly here than elsewhere and seems to assist for longer, giving the 220d an energetic rev range apparently far keener to work at high crank speeds.

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Its spirited rendition is not merely subjective, either. In the smaller car, BMW claims 7.2sec to 62mph, which seems reasonable considering we managed 7.8sec to 60mph with two up on a very damp track.

Its parsimoniousness is equally unimpeachable. Our 62.2mpg touring figure and a staunch refusal to drop below a 45mpg average despite frequently savage mistreatment (making a claimed combined economy of 58.9mpg appear achievable) continue to mark it out as special.

All the more of a shame, then, that this engine can do none of these remarkable things without shouting about them.