Manual version of hottest 2-series shows that no matter which transmission you choose, this is one of the best performance coupés on sale

What is it?

A UK-spec M235i, the coupé version of the M135i and a car we’ve already hotly tipped for greatness after a recent drive in the US. It goes on sale over here next month, where it will sit at the top of the new 2-series line-up. 

In Nevada we drove the more expensive version with the eight-speed DCT automatic gearbox; now, in Spain this time, it’s the turn of the six-speed manual, which starts at £34,250. The latter is marginally slower (by 0.2 seconds to 62mph), 2.3mpg less economical and 13g/km dirtier on measured CO2. 

Crucially, though, it is £1650 cheaper. The standard kit on offer is appropriately generous, too: 18-inch alloys, dual-zone air-con, leather upholstery, a DAB tuner and automatic headlights are all included. BMW’s adaptive suspension isn’t (being a £515 option) nor is a mechanical limited-slip differential – which doesn’t have a price yet owing to its status as a dealer rather than factory-fit addition. 

What's it like?

Magnificent, really. Flipping the steering wheel has done nothing to dent our initial opinion: the sweet spot between the frenzied 1-series M Coupé and rather more neutral M135i has been brilliantly realised, yielding a compact rear-drive sports car of the highest order.

Like practically everything from the top drawer, the M235i’s foremost feature is symphony, with seemingly not one facet of the car’s identity overcooked or underdone. The performance from the straight-six is strong and a joy to work at beyond 6000rpm while the chassis caresses the power beautifully, remaining fast and fluid within the wide limit of traction and downright gleeful beyond it. And all the time the body, steering and flowing ride quality conspire (via the Drive Performance Control and adaptive dampers) to satisfy whatever mood you’re in. 

It’s addictive stuff, and it speaks to the M235i’s abilities that the choice of gearbox doesn’t drastically impact the almost-continual mood enhancement. BMW’s eight-speed auto inevitably makes the package quicker by virtue of its blink-quick upshifts when you’re really trying, just as it makes it smoother and much less effort when you’re not. 

But the physical satisfaction of the six-speeder is hard to deny. While the interaction between your left-hand side and the occasionally notchy gearshift pock-marks the glossiness of the car’s progress, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is one rear-drive BMW which doesn’t automatically best reward smooth driving. Instead, its compactness, adhesive agility and on-demand hooliganism mean that there is plenty of neck scruff to get a hold of – and if your inclination is to go up the road in confrontational, hot hatch-style abandon, then the manual ‘box is certainly the best cohort for such progress. 

Final judgment on the ride quality must wait for a drive on UK soil, but there’s nothing to suggest that the car will fall at the final hurdle. The dynamic is firm but beautifully controlled on Spanish roads, which tend to challenge the primary ride rather than the secondary. However, in brief patchy spots, the M235i never relents so much as a smidgen of composure. 

Should I buy one?

Absolutely. The M235i has future classic stamped all over it. Between the added expense of a Porsche Cayman and the obvious savings of a Toyota GT86, this is unquestionably the coupé to own. And, given that it persuasively resembles an obvious midway point between the high handling talent of one and the sideways revelry of the other, it is arguably the one to buy. 

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BMW M235i

Price £34,250; 0-62mph 5.0 seconds; Top speed 155mph; Economy 34.9mpg; CO2 189g/km; Kerb weight na; Engine 6 cyls in line, 2979cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 322bhp at 5800-6000rpm; Torque 332lb ft at 1300-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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johnmetkar 4 July 2014

BMW and its care

Hi All, We all prefer to have BMW as option to our day to day life. As it is a branded luxury car that gives smooth driving experience to the owner. But many people buy the car but forget how to maintain it, so as to maintain the proper car you select the location where you will get proper and accurate servicing for the car.
Ali_ 1 March 2014

This should make me really

This should make me really excited. It's within financial reach, it has RWD, 320bhp and an M badge. So why does it leave me completely cold?
Overdrive 26 February 2014

I don't get the comparisons

I don't get the comparisons with the GT86. M235i is in a different performance league to the GT86 with a far more powerful six cylinder engine. It is also a lot more luxurious and nicer inside. Even the Cayman (the non S version) has nowhere near M235i's performance and is far more expensive. The BMW is also more practical and roomier than the other two. Despite the usual doom and gloom merchants I think BMW know what they're doing with the M235i.