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.

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 M235i), 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 £44,080 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 (which might be considered rivals once removed) and also puts it handily between the Audi TTS and the imminent Porsche 718 Cayman, the two models closest to the M2’s two-door coupé format.

Of course, both of those cars feature four-cylinder engines, 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 just-announced M240i, sporting 335bhp and a starting price almost £10k shy of its nominally more distinguished sibling.

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

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