BMW 2 Series M235i Convertible

October 2015

picture of car from the front

Handsome M235i design translates well into convertible body

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 5Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 6Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Smooth and powerful turbocharged engine
  • Rear seat space is decent for a car of this size
  • Sharp handling makes it one of the best cabriolets at this price
  • Appeal of M sub-brand is strong

Gripes

  • Some scuttle shake is apparent on poor road surfaces
  • Exterior can look a little awkward from some angles
  • Coupe version is cheaper, a better drive and better looking
  • Boot is spacious but aperture is narrow

For every high performance BMW there's the potential spin off of a convertible version, which is why its impressive M235i coupe can also be specified with a folding fabric roof. Combining the look and high performance of the second-tier M model with the fresh air appeal of the 2 Series Convertible has the potential to create an attractive sports car.

Well known for its high performance coupe models BMW also has a long history of drop-top performance cars, the most obvious example of which is the E30 M3. Latterly the German manufacturer ensured that all the subsequent M3 models were also available with a folding roof, whether metal or fabric. It is continuing this approach with its smaller 2 Series.

Based on the 2 Series coupe, itself closely related to the 1 Series, the M235i Convertible combines the upgraded powertrain, suspension and braking of the M235i Coupe with the fabric folding roof and four-seat layout of the 2 Series Convertible. In doing so it has created one of the few compact, four-seat, high performance cars in the market, as the majority of its rivals are two-seater or 2+2 in configuration.

The M235i Convertible shares the same improvements over the outgoing 2 Series Convertible, namely that an increase in length and wheelbase have resulted in more interior space front and rear. The folding roof operates in 20 seconds and BMW claims it has reduced noise levels with the roof up and offers a wind deflector for improved acoustics with the roof down.

BMW also claims that all 2 Series Convertible models are stiffer in their structure than the previous generation, which promises better crash safety as well as improved vehicle dynamics as a result. The M235i Convertible can also be enhanced by the M Performance range of accessories which includes visual and dynamic upgrades inside and out.

Our verdict on the BMW 2 Series M235i Convertible

As far as convertibles go the M235i is possibly the most entertaining version that BMW make. It manages to be both fun and exhilarating to drive but also perfectly useable and reasonably spacious for a car of this nature. Purists will prefer the greater body rigidity of the coupe but for those more interested in the excitement of fresh air motoring the M235i Convertible will tick a lot of boxes.

Costs
Costs rating 5

Select the automatic gearbox option and there is potential for reasonable fuel consumption, although it will require restraint from the driver. However the rest of the ownership experience is likely to be relatively pricey, with insurance and maintenance at the higher end of the scale.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 6

Because of the convertible roof and the saloon-like rear end the M235i Convertible's boot can require a little thought before use, as it is reasonably capacious but through a relatively narrow aperture. Inside the front seats offer decent head and legroom in what is quite a compact cabin, and in the rear the space on offer is respectable. Adults will fit but it is best suited to children.

picture of car from the rear

Rear view is less convincing but is colour sensitive

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

The car's steering can feel a little heavy, but the weight and feedback quickly becomes a bonus when having fun. The manual gearshift could be smoother, though. Dials and instruments are well laid out and easy to read while the column stalks and switches are where you'd expect to find them. BMW's much improved iDrive system can still be a little fiddly at first but becomes second nature after some practice.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

The M235i Convertible offers the same supportive sports seats as the coupe version, while the triple-insulated roof means refinement is good even at motorway speeds. Some drivers may find the sports suspension a little firm but optional adaptive suspension allows two settings depending on the circumstances.

Car security
Security Rating 7

As required for a car like this the M235i Convertible offers a standard alarm and immobiliser package, especially as this is a convertible with a fabric roof. There's ample covered storage inside the car and items in the boot will be out of sight thanks to the traditional saloon bodystyle.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

Big brakes mean the M235i Convertible is sorted when it comes to stopping from any speed, while the various electronic stability and safety systems also do a good job without proving intrusive when you're pressing on. As standard the Convertible is fitted with rollover protection which ensures peace of mind.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

With its rear-wheel drive layout, compact footprint and powerful petrol engine, the M235i Convertible has the right ingredients for a fun driving experience. Weighty controls are backed up by a firm but measured ride, while traction is predictable even in the wet. Driven gently the car requires little effort but it has the capacity to deliver excitement when extended, although very keen drivers will find the occasional shudder from the body a good reason to choose the coupe version instead.

picture of car interior

Interior is good quality and a pleasure to use

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 6

It is unlikely that the M235i will feature on lists of potential family cars but even so the rear seats are big enough to accommodate small children. However the shape of the boot aperture means it may struggle to swallow some buggies, or at least make storing and removing them an unpleasant ordeal.

First car appeal
First car Rating 3

The M235i Convertible is too powerful, too expensive to buy and too costly to run to be an effective first car. Younger drivers with no no-claims bonus will struggle to secure affordable insurance, and with budgets tight the road tax and fuel bills might be off-putting.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

In terms of quality the M235i Convertible might not be up with the very best in the class but it does set a good standard, with impressive fit and finish throughout. It is only the occasional piece of indifferent plastic that lets it down. Its image is strong too, with the BMW brand itself and the distinctive M badge offering its own unique appeal.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Being based on the coupe means the M235i has two long doors, making life easy for those in the front and helping those in the rear. As with most convertibles ease of access is somewhat dependent on whether or not the roof is up, but the worst case scenario of access to the rear even with the roof in place is acceptable. Getting into the boot is straightforward too, although it is worth bearing in mind that the aperture is much narrower because of the roof mechanism.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The M235i has a high quality sound system, but despite being the range topper it only comes with a single slot CD player as standard. It can be specified with sat-nav and CD/DVD changer. The latest-generation iDrive system has been updated with the latest style of interface to make accessing the most commonly used functions easier.

picture of car in detail

Turbocharged 3.0-litre engine gives M235i effortless performance

Colours and trim

The M235i Convertible suits brighter shades better than most BMWs and there are two available in particular, with a pale blue and a deep orange. Inside there is plenty of leather and brushed aluminium trim, although there are a few plastic elements within that feel of a lesser quality.

Parking

As with most convertibles the rear visibility is entirely dependent on whether or not the roof is up or down, and it is much improved with the latter. Additionally however the M235i Convertible comes with rear parking sensors, and for a car of this nature it is not too difficult to get parked.

Spare wheel

Emergency tyre repair kit supplied as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.5-litre (134bhp); 2.0-litre (182bhp, 242bhp); 3.0-litre (322bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (150bhp, 187bhp, 221bhp. Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, plus eight-speed auto gearbox. Trim levels: SE, Sport, M Sport, M.

 

Alternative cars

Audi S3 Cabriolet Better quality, a little less cabin space but virtually as quick

Ford Mustang Convertible V8 character and sharp looks with a driving experience to match

Vauxhall Cascada Not an outright performance car, spacious and good value

Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet Shares a great deal with the S3 Cabriolet though thankfully not its price tag



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October 2015