The advent of a full-blooded compact M car has been rather long in the pot.

In 2011, BMW unveiled a feature-length trailer in the guise of the 1 Series M Coupé but resisted the customer-driven urge to make it a proper volume addition to the M model line-up.

Two years later we got the next best thing: the M235i, a car based on the then-new 2 Series and breathed on heavily by M division. We like it very much. But the real thing it conspicuously wasn’t, even after it was reworked slightly and called the M240i.

Now though, with the 2 Series very much a separate entity – and the awkward nomenclature problem encountered by the 1M fixed – the kosher version lands.

As a flagship, it fits the billing. Flagrantly muscular in the arches (in likeable contrast to the M240i), unmistakably succinct (in likeable contrast to the M4) and undoubtedly butch underneath (it’s 30bhp more powerful than the 1M), the M2 appears to be the machine we were after.

And at £46,430 it is – appropriately – by far the cheapest way into the bona fide M car range.

That price makes it noticeably more expensive than the equally powerful Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3 and also puts it handily between the Audi TTS and the Porsche 718 Cayman and the more powerful Audi TT RS and Porsche Cayman S, the models closest to the M2’s two-door coupé format.

Of course, all of those cars feature four-cylinder engines except the TT RS which uses Audi's blown five-cylinder unit, making BMW’s persistence with the concept of a turbocharged straight six a very appealing point of differentiation.

That being the case, one of the M2’s most potent competitors is likely to be a stablemate: the sporting 335bhp M240i and a starting price £10k shy of its nominally more distinguished sibling could still prove highly attractive to buyers.

It’s crucial, then, the smallest, most affordable M car underwrites the anticipatory excitement with actual performance prowess. 

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