(Pocket-lint) - The BMW 2 Series has a range of different models, from the rear-wheel drive 2 Series Coupé to the front-wheel drive 2 Series Active Tourer. Sitting in the middle of these models is the 2 Series Gran Coupé.
The name and the looks position this car closer to the existing Coupé, but under the skin it's sitting on the same platform as the Active Tourer and indeed the new BMW 1 Series and Mini Countryman. So how do the cards fall?
Gran Coupé design
BMW likes to talk up the Gran Coupé design, likening this car to Gran Coupés that precede it, from 8, 6 and 4 Series. But in this case, the 2 Series Gran Coupé isn't really a 2 Series, it's a 1 Series with a boot.
That's reflected in the design, with the front more or less mirroring the design refresh that we saw on the BMW 1 Series, when that car moved from its rear-wheel predecessor. Indeed, the 2 Series Gran Coupé is likely to find favour in those markets that don't opt for hatchbacks - China and the US, for example - while those in the UK might drift back towards the 1 Series for its more compact stance.
BMW is looking to younger drivers here, with the new 1 Series looking like a Mercedes A Class rival, and the 2 Series Gran Coupé offering that same group of customers saloon styling. The big gain here is a pair of back doors, which the 2 Series saloon lacks, providing a car that's a little more practical for those wanting to use the back seats, without the larger step up to the 3 Series.
There are all the BMW design hallmarks you'd expect, with the expanding kidney grille, sporty folds and sculpting, with a serious looking rear-end on the thing. Many will opt for M Sport trim to make sure those sporty looks shine through, even on a front-wheel drive 218i (indeed, the Gran Coupé only comes in M Sport trim).
There is, naturally, an escape from all this talk of front-wheel drive with the M235i xDrive, which will give you much more sporty looks and a more aggressive drive, but using BMW's all-wheel drive system to handle the additional power.
The overall result is that the 2 Series Gran Coupé sort of falls into an awkward slot. It's not as good-looking as the 2 Series saloon and, in some ways, it misses the appeal of the 1 Series hatchback. We also don't think it looks as tidy as the Audi A3 Saloon - the BMW appears just slightly too angry - and it's these looks which are likely to divide opinion.
Move to the interior and it's very much as you find in the BMW 1 Series and closely related to many of BMW's modern cars. That means you'll find a digital driver display and a central display (which is super-wide) sitting on the dash in a prominent position, presenting a techy take on the world.
The fit and finish of the interior hits the premium standard that you'd expect from BMW - with leather and mostly soft-touch plastics, only dropping to harder materials lower down, which, in reality, makes sense for keeping things looking clean. Certainly there's nothing that really jumps out as compromised.
The rear bench is roomy enough, too, with space for knees and headroom for adults. Although, naturally, it's not a huge space - mostly due to the slope of the rear roof. That's one compromise you face in taking the saloon over the hatch, although with limited knee space, you're unlikely to pick the 2 Series for its rear seat spacing anyway, unless you're only really thinking about carting the kids about on short hops.
It's backed by a 430-litre boot which, in saloon-style access, isn't as practical as on the 1 Series - the latter offering wider access - but if you're sliding in your cases, you'll probably not mind too much. You'll probably be able to get your golf clubs in - not that we tested that specifically - and the rear seats will also fold flat if you're tasked with transporting something longer.
On the road
The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé starts with the 218i 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol option, coming in at 140hp, taking you from 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds. It's quiet and efficient and you rarely hear much noise from the engine or exhaust.
Paired with the 8-speed automatic gearbox it seems to be built for comfort - and we detected a noticeable delay between putting our foot down and the engine responding during our test drives. It's a little slow to react exactly when you don't want it to be - at low speeds.
There is a manual option - also available on the 218d too - if you would rather wrestle back control. We also found that the M235i at times felt a little slow off the line because of the auto 'box - there is Launch Control on that model, but that's not something you'll use when nipping into a space on a roundabout.
BMW has expanded the engine options on the 2 Series Gran Coupé (we've not driven them all), but there are two diesel options - the 218d and 220d. The former is the newer, offering a 150hp option to essentially rival the petrol. Many will probably plump for the 220d, though, with its 190hp taking you from 0-62mph is 7.5 seconds. This is likely to be the motorway workhorse.
Topping the range is the M235i version, benefitting from all-wheel drive, 306hp and a pacey 0-62mph time under 5 seconds - although the M2 Gran Coupé will set you back some £37k, so it's a pretty big jump.
There are three different suspension options, with M Sport slightly lower and stiffer and a little less forgiving as a result, but the 2 Series Gran Coupé rides and handles well, sporty and taut as you'd want it to be on winding back roads where the steering and handling shows its worth.
The M235i gets the option of adaptive suspension, there's a limited slip differential and xDrive, all working to keep you under control in all conditions, for those who want a little more performance.
Loaded with technology
The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé will give you plenty of internal tech, but it comes in two versions. The entry-level is the Live Cockpit Plus, with driver dials and a 5.1-inch display paired with an 8.8-inch central display, while the step-up option is Live Cockpit Professional, which gives you the digital driver display and a 10.25-inch central display.
Live Cockpit Plus, the entry-level version, comes with an older version of BMW's software (iD6), whereas the Professional package comes with Operating System 7, offering up-to-date functions and features.
Tech fans will be drawn to the Professional option for that digital driver display. While that's futuristic, it doesn't go quite as far as Audi's Virtual Cockpit - but it's capable enough. There's the Hey BMW voice control system on the Professional package, which is pretty good, as well as support for Apple CarPlay and (from summer 2020) Android Auto.
Both those smartphone-based systems work wirelessly, meaning you won't have to plug it in to get access to those services. You may have to pay a fee, however, which is the downside compared to many cars that now offer these features as standard. That's probably because BMW puts a lot into its own systems - and, to be fair, what you get from Operating System 7 is comprehensive and capable, with decent navigation and mapping.
What's great about BMW's interior tech is that it retains button controls as well as touch-based ones. We've seen many manufacturers moving away from physical buttons and we don't think that's necessarily a good thing. In the 2 Series Gran Coupé you still have that "iDrive" controller and direct access buttons to features, meaning that if you've owned any BMW from within the past 10 years, you'll be able to get to grips with the latest system quickly enough.
We like this layout and design: it's still a system where you can rest a hand on the controller and navigate the system easily, without taking your eyes off the road - and that's a really important point. Of course, just saying "Hey BMW" can often get you to the same place, so it really is a joined-up system.
The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé fills a gap in BMW's line-up with a degree of inevitability. We're drawn more towards the 1 Series, which is likely going to be the more popular option for those in the UK, but there is saloon appeal to the 2 Series Gran Coupé for those looking for something compact and a mite more affordable than the 3 Series.
Comfort and quality of the interior really come through, giving the 2 Series Gran Coupé the premium feeling you expect from BMW, even in a smaller model. It's nice to drive, there's plenty of options to choose from, but we don't think it's the prettiest car in BMW's portfolio.
Alternatives to consider
Audi A3 Saloon
The Audi A3 Saloon pops a boot on Audi's popular hatchback, giving executive appeal, good looks and lots of technology.
German rivals Mercedes offer a little more space in the CLA in a similarly appointed model, with a larger boot and an interior that's a little more distinct.