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Steering, suspension and ride comfort

BMW’s criteria for a successful outcome in this department will doubtless have been multi-faceted, but we’d lay good odds that renovating the 1 Series’ po-faced and ultimately uninvolving character was as high on the engineers’ priority list as it was on ours for the 2 Series.

Certainly that’s the impression one gets from even the briefest stint in the car. The hatchback’s precision and basic fluency have been preserved, largely courtesy of BMW’s springy steering and its insistence on a balanced weight distribution.

We'd opt for the 17-inch rims and avoid the M Sport suspension and variable steering

Everything beyond it now seems the result of a chassis tune considerably more in sync with the kind of interactivity expected of the brand. Emphatically, this is a rear-drive coupé – pleasingly adjustable on the throttle, patently agile (partly a virtue of the optional variable-ratio steering rack) and instilled not just with a capacity for brisk progress but an obvious relish for it.

Better still, the 2 Series is almost as adept at making the transition from trundling to pressing on (and back again) appear as seamless as it is in the 3 Series. Play with the standard performance control toggle if you must, but the differences here – even with the adaptive dampers – are subtle. In other words, the coupé’s composure largely seems default.

Perfect, of course, it isn’t. The 3 Series’ remarkable ability to soak long-wave undulations into its longer wheelbase isn’t ideally replicated. At times, the 2 Series’ body control wavers on tricky UK roads, faintly bobbing and weaving where others might already have settled.

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But the infringement on poise and comfort is minimal. In fact, its initial tendency to lean comes on like an old-school hint of adhesive strain, letting both car and driver settle into the plentiful grip before collaborating on how best to exceed it.

From there on there can be work to do but, on the road and in the dry at least, the half-doused driver aids of Sport+ mode permit just the right amount of sanitised fun.

With a notably better handling balance and in particular better body control and more precise steering than a 1 Series hatchback, the 2 Series felt effortlessly agile and willing to be hustled along much more quickly than most owners will ever drive.

At the limit of grip, the car had a slight tendency towards power-on understeer – but that could have been exacerbated by the conditions. On turn-in, the car dives towards the apex with incisiveness at the front axle allied to a sense of involvement and neutrality from the rear that could be developed into proper throttle steer if only there was a bit more power to deploy.

There isn’t quite the balance or amusement factor of a proper rear-drive sports car here, but there’s more than enough of both to get your teeth into and maintain your interest.