BMW finally offers a competitor for the Mercedes-Benz CLA

The 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is a four-door coupe version of the second-generation 2 Series. Essentially a smaller alternative to the 4 Series Gran Coupe, the 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe is the very first four-door version of BMW’s smallest two-door coupe yet. It’s also the first four-door model this small that’s available globally, after the release of the China-only 1 Series Sedan in 2017. Although it runs on the same underpinnings as the 1 Series, the 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe sports a unique exterior design that combines a three-box layout with specific details front and rear. Its interior layout and the technology is, however, identical to the 1 Series. The 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe is aimed at the Mercedes-Benz CLA, but it also competes against the Audi A3 Sedan.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Exterior

  • First 2 Series with four doors
  • BMW’s smallest sedan
  • Sporty front fascia
  • Sleek profile
  • 8 Series-inspired rear end
  • A bit awkward for a BMW
  • Stands out compared to 1 Series
  • Extremely thin taillights
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The 2 Series Gran Coupe stands out from the 1 Series through a wider grille and more angular headlamps

Just like the previous generation, this 2 Series model is heavily based on the 1 Series. However, while the outgoing 2 Series was almost identical to the 1 Series, the new model stands out a bit more through unique features.

The kidney grille, for instance, is a bit flatter and wider. It also sits a bit lower in the fascia, a change highlighted by the bigger distance between the badge on the nose and the bottom line of the engine hood. The swept-back headlamps have a similar angle, but the design is a bit different. Not only they are mounted closer to the grille, but they are also a bit wider at the edges, while the bottom line is no longer straight, featuring a kink between the two C-shaped signature LED lights.

The bumper retains some of the features of the 1 Series. The center vent is thinner in the middle and wider at the corners, while the side outlets become even taller. However, while the 1 Series features thin, vertical side vents, the 2 Series comes with almost rectangular openings that remind of M models. Another defining feature is the way the grille extends a bit more into the bumper. This enhances the impression that the nose is lower, so it contributes to a more aggressive appearance similar to M-badged Bimmers.

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The profile is definitely a bit awkward for a BMW, but it probably previews a new look for the company's sedans

The profile of the 2 Series Gran Coupe remains very similar to the 1 Series, but only as long as you look from the nose to the C-pillar. Beyond this point, it’s a completely new configuration for the 2 Series, since its the first sedan version of the nameplate. While the front bumper and the front door sport the same character lines as the 1 Series, the rear door was redesigned in order to make way for a separate quarter window. The iconic Hofmeister kink is almost unrecognizable on this model, but its absence makes sense given the design. Because the D-pillars are no longer integrated into the rear fenders, the latter display a more muscular design.

The sedan layout makes way for a deck lid, but it’s not as long as on the 3 Series, so it looks more like a notchback rather than a proper sedan. The coupe-style roof completes the look, but the 2 Series Gran Coupe is more than just a shrunken 4 Series Gran Coupe. That’s because it has different proportions. The rear end looks shorter and feels cluttered, while the thin and long side sections of the taillights make it look different than any other Bimmer available as of 2019. The profile is definitely a bit awkward for a BMW, but it probably previews a new look for the company’s sedans.

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The rear end of the 2 Series Gran Coupe is based on the bigger and more luxurious 8 Series

The rear of the 2 Series Gran Coupe is actually a big departure from the 1 Series. And surprising enough, it’s based on the bigger and more luxurious 8 Series. The L-shaped taillights seen on most Bimmers carry over for this model, but they’re much thinner than the 1 Series. Actually, they’re among the thinnest taillights created by BMW so far. Also, unlike the 1 Series, the 2 Series Gran Coupe features a piece of black trim that runs above the lights. This stripe extends over the entire width of the fascia to add a bit of elegance specific to bigger sedans. The trunk lid features a small spoiler for improved aerodynamics and a sportier look.

Just like the 8 Series, the 2 Series features a deep license place recess in the lower area of the trunk lid. The line that defines the upper section of the recess splits the lid in two and creates a character line that adds width to the design. The bumper is a big departure from the 1 Series as well. The black-painted diffuser-like element is just as wide as the fascia and features rectangular exhaust pipes instead of round outlets. The central diffuser is a tad sportier than usual, but it’s not as aggressive as on proper M cars.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Exterior
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Standard features for the 228i trim include 17-inch multi-spoke wheels, LED headlamps and foglights, satin aluminum exterior trim, and high-gloss black grille slats, air intake surrounds, lower mirrors caps, and rear diffuser panel. The M235i trim adds 18-inch M wheels, extra aero features, Shadowline trim, and Cerium Grey detailing.

As far as dimensions go, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is 178.2 inches long, 70.9 inches wide, and 55.9 inches tall. Its wheelbase measures 105.1 inches. To put this into perspective, the Gran Coupe is 8.2 inches longer and just 0.1 inches wider than the 1 Series. At the same time, its roof sits 0.6 inches closer to the ground, while the wheelbase is identical.

Although it’s promoted as a competitor for the Mercedes-Benz CLA, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is actually notably smaller. Specifically, it’s 6.4 inches shorter and 1.1 inches narrower. The CLA is also 0.8 inches taller, while its wheelbase is 2.3 inches longer. Interestingly enough, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is closer to the A-Class Sedan when it comes to dimensions. The Bimmer is only 0.9 inches shorter and 0.2 inches wider, while its wheelbase is 2.3 inches shorter.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Interior

  • Identical to 1 Series
  • Extra room in the rear
  • Upscale design
  • Big infotainment display
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • Sporty seats
  • Decent passenger room
  • Trunk smaller than competition
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The 2 Series Gran Coupe features a new infotainment display that’s seamlessly integrated into the upper dash

While the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s exterior is clearly different from the 1 Series, the interior of the two compact vehicles are virtually the same. And that’s good news for the 2 Series, as it now boasts a cabin with a modern and clean layout.

Like most modern-generation BMWs, the 2 Series Gran Coupe features a new infotainment display that’s seamlessly integrated into the upper dash. It’s set near the redesigned instrument cluster and created the impression that a really wide screen stretches over half of the dashboard. Below the screen, there are new, modern-looking A/C vents that take up less space and a clean center console with just a few controls. Most of the buttons and knobs that cluttered the old car’s center stack were replaced by digital controls in the infotainment screen, just like in larger BMW models

The new digital instrument cluster is shared with new-generation Bimmers like the 8 Series and Z4. It’s obviously identical to the 1 Series as well. It displays the speedo and rev counter as "half clocks" on the sides and navigation and performance info in the center. It’s a unique take in a sea of instrument clusters that usually feature full digital gauges, so I have to give BMW credit for thinking out of the box.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Interior
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The new digital instrument cluster is shared with new-generation Bimmers like the 8 Series and Z4

The steering wheel looks rather sporty thanks to its thick spokes and big center section, but there’s no flat bottom in the M235i model, which is a bit disappointing. It features touch-sensitive buttons, so it’s as modern as they get.

The door panels feature larger storage bins, aluminum-look handles, comfortable armrests, and backlit strips. The latter debuted in the 1 Series and comes in three different designs with six switchable colors. They also add a translucent effect to areas on the dashboard and the center console.

When it comes to tech, the 2 Series Gran Coupe includes features similar to the 1 Series, starting with BMW’s 7.0 operating system. It includes gesture control and displays information on both the infotainment screen and the instrument cluster. The standard infotainment screen measures 8.8 inches, and it’s paired to a smaller instrument cluster of 5.1 inches. However, order the BMW Live Cockpit, and both are updated to 10.25-inch units, an impressive feature for a vehicle in the compact segment. You can also order a 9.2-inch head-up display so you can see basic information on the windscreen while focusing on the road ahead.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Interior
- image 866833
The BMW Digital Key enables you to lock and unlock the car from your smartphone using NFC technology

A cool option you can get for the 2 Series Gran Coupe is the BMW Digital Key. Previously offered only in the bigger Bimmers until recently, it enables you to lock and unlock the car from your smartphone using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. You can open the door by holding the phone up to the door handle even if your battery is dead, so you don’t have to worry about getting locked out of the car. To start the engine, you need to place the phone in the phone tray or the optional wireless charging tray, and you can also share the Digital Key with up to five other people. The not so good news is that the Digital Key is only available for Samsung Galaxy models with Android 8.0 and above. Tough luck, iPhone users.

The 2 Series Gran Coupe is also available with the Intelligent Personal Assistant, a system that debuted in the latest BMW 3 Series. The assistant is connected to all of the car’s functions, and it can be activated with the prompt "Hey BMW." Once active, you can use it to operate and access functions by speaking. It’s very similar to Mercedes’ MBUX system, so it can learn routing, preferred settings, and habits, and it allows you to name the digital character for easier and more familiar communication.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Interior
- image 866812
The four-door sedan is surprisingly roomy for this segment and it can hold its own against the Mercedes-Benz CLA

When it comes to trim-specific features, the 228i xDrive Gran Coupe is fitted with a leather steering wheel, power front seats, 40/20/4 split-folding rear seats, illuminated trim four years of Connected Package Plus including Advance Real-Time Traffic, Remote Services, BMW Assist eCall, and Concierge Service, plus Apple CarPlay Compatibility with a one-year trial. The M235i version adds an M sport steering wheel, ambient lighting, Comfort Access Keyless entry, and lumbar support for the front seats. Stand-alone options include M Sport front seats, a Harman-Kardon sound system, wireless charging, gesture control, heated front seats, and steering wheel, and active cruise control.

Since it’s the first member of the new-generation 2 Series, we can’t compare the Gran Coupe to the regular coupe for passenger space. But the four-door sedan is surprisingly roomy for this segment. And I say surprisingly because it can hold its own against the Mercedes-Benz CLA, which is notably bigger.

Specifically, the Gran Coupe offers 41.1 inches of legroom in the front, only 0.7 inches less than the CLA. Rear legroom is rated at 34.4 inches, and that’s a half-inch more than the Merc. Front headroom comes in at 38.2 inches, which is 2.1 inches less than the CLA, but rear headroom is almost identical at 35.6 and 35.7 inches, respectively. The 2 Series Gran Coupe holds its own when it comes to shoulder room as well. It boasts 55.5 inches in the front, 0.4 inches more than the CLA, and 53.1 inches in the rear, 0.9 inches below the CLA.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Exterior
- image 866878

As far as trunk space goes, the 2 Series Gran Coupe can swallow up to 12 cubic feet of luggage. That’s 4.2 cubic feet below the CLA, which is a notable difference. The 2 Series falls behind the A-Class Sedan as well, which is rated at 14.8 cubic feet. BMW says that trunk space will grow if you fold the rear bench, but it doesn’t mention by how much.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Drivetrain

  • New engines
  • Two gas options in the U.K.
  • Diesel mill in Europe
  • M235i with 301 horsepower
  • Solid power across the board
  • Eight-speed automatic
  • M Sport upgrades available
  • One of the fastest in class
  • xDrive AWD
2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Drivetrain
- image 866843
The 228i trim cranks out 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of twist

Just like the latest 1 Series, the 2 Series Gran Coupe rides on a new, front-wheel-drive platform. Unlike the old 2 Series, the new-generation compact shares the same UKL platform that BMW created for Mini a few years ago. On top of the underpinnings, the 2 Series Gran Coupe also shares engines with the 1 Series hatchback.

Two engines are available in the U.S., starting with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the 228i xDrive model. The turbocharged mill cranks out 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of twist and pushes the four-door coupe from 0 to 60 mph in six seconds. Top speed is rated at 130 mph with the standard all-season tires, but it can increase to 151 mph when fitted with performance rubber.

If this isn’t fast and powerful enough, the 2 Series also comes in M235i xDrive trim. This version also draws juice from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but this unit features a reinforced crankshaft with larger diameter bearings, new pistons, modified connecting rods, and a larger turbocharger with a built-in exhaust manifold. It also features modified fuel injectors for increase flow volume, an independent transmission oil cooler that is separated from the engine’s coolant circuit, an electric 850-watt fan, and two remote coolant radiators in the wheel arches. The result is an engine that generates an impressive 301 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of twist. This is enough to push the sedan from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds (4.6 clicks with the optional over-boost function) and up to a top speed of 155 mph (with the performance tires).

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe
- image 866909
The engine in the M235i generates an impressive 301 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque

Both engines mate to eight-speed Sport automatic transmissions. Of course, the M235i version features an upgraded gearbox that handles the extra power that comes from the engine. They also feature Auto Start-Top functions and all-wheel drive, while the M235i also comes with a Torsen limited-slip differential. The latter is integrated into the eight-speed transmission. The Launch Control function enables you to use the full peak torque of 332 pound-feet in first and second gear.

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe specifications
BMW M235i xDrive GC BMW 228i xDrive GC
Engine type B48A20T1 B46A20O1
Cylinders 4 4
Valves per cylinder 4 4
Bore mm 82.0 82.0
Stroke mm 94.6 94.6
Displacement cm³ 1,998 1,998
Compression rate :1 9.5 10.2
Engine power hp 301 @ 5,000 – 6,250 228 @ 5,000 – 6,000
Engine torque ft. lbs. 332 @ 1,750 – 4,500 258 @ 1,450 – 4,500
0-60 mph (w/ M Performance Pkg.) seconds 4.7 (4.6) 6.0
Top speed (with performance tires) mph 130 (155) 130 (151)

In Europe, the 2 Series Gran Coupe benefits from two more engines. BMW offers a base gasoline unit in the form of a 1.5-liter three-cylinder. This tiny mill generates 138 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The 218i, a rear-wheel-drive model, sprints to 62 mph in 8.7 seconds. A diesel model, the 220d, is also available with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 188 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This sedan needs 7.5 seconds to hit 62 mph from a standing start.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe
- image 866869
In Europe, the 2 Series Gran Coupe benefits from two more engines, including a diesel

The 2 Series Gran Coupe is mainly aimed at the Mercedes-Benz CLA, so let’s see how it compares to its German rival. The U.S. lineup includes just one non-AMG model, the CLA250. Available with either FWD or AWD, it features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that cranks out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s seven horses less than the 228i xDrive, but the cars have identical torque. The 4Matic-fitted model hits 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, three tenths slower than the 2 Series. On the other hand, its standard top speed is 155 mph, 25 mph higher than the BMW.

The other CLA available is a full-fledged AMG 45 model, so it’s notably more powerful than the M235i. Specifically, this Merc comes with 382 horsepower and 354 pound-feet on tap, and it’s more than a half-second quicker to 60 mph. An AMG CLA35 model would be more appropriate here, but Mercedes doesn’t offer one yet. The smaller AMG A35 Sedan, for instance, comes with 302 horsepower 295 pound-feet on tap, an output that’s pretty much on par with the BMW M235i.

Chassis, Suspension, and Brakes

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Exterior
- image 866854
The M Sport suspension, standard on the M235i and optional on the 228i, reduces vehicle ride height by 0.4 inches

The 2 Series Gran Coupe benefits from enhanced torsional stiffness compared to the old two-door model’s thanks to intelligent use of aluminum and high-strength steel in the body. The chassis and suspension have also been reinforced, so the 2 Series is more agile now, even in base 228i trim. Opt for the M235i version, and BMW adds a strut tower tie bar and bracing on the front axle and an anti-roll mounting for improved support for the body. Combined with the M Sport steering, it helps provide sharper response and improved power assistance.

The M Sport suspension, standard on the M235i and optional with the M Sport Package on the 228i, reduces vehicle ride height by 0.4 inches and increases handling capabilities. The optional Dynamic Damper Control lets you choose from two different shock settings. The Driving Experience Control switch can be used to select either Comfort setting for better ride comfort or Sport setting for more spirited driving and even a few laps on a race track.

Stopping power comes from the same basic brakes that you get on the 1 Series, but you can fit the 228i trim with the optional M Sport brakes. These come standard on M235i model.

Safety and Driving Assist Systems

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Exterior
- image 866895
Standard equipment includes collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function

Just like the 1 Series, the 2 Series Gran Coupe borrows many assistance systems from the bigger, more expensive Bimmers. For instance, the compact sedan uses camera images and data gathered by radar and ultrasonic sensors to monitor its surroundings and alert you about hazards, so you can avoid them. Standard equipment includes collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function and a lane departure warning system with active lane return. The latter is active from 44 to 130 mph.

You can add options like active cruise control (usable up to 99 mph) and the Driving Assistant, which combines the lane change warning system, rear collision warning, and crossing traffic warning to provide a safer journey.

The 2 Series also provides assistance with parking through the optional Park Distance Control (PDC) feature, the rearview camera, and Park Assist, just like the 1 Series. The latter enables automatic assisted parking in spaces that are either parallel or perpendicular to the road, as well as automatic exit from parallel parking spaces. The reversing assistant stores the steering movements for any section the car has just driven forward along at up to 22 mph. The system is then able to steer the vehicle in reverse distances of up to 164 feet at up to 5.5 mph along the same line it took when moving forward.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Prices

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Exterior
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Pricing for the 2 Series Gran Coupe is not yet available, but you can expect it to compete with the Mercedes-Benz CLA in this area. That said, look for this German four-door coupe to retail from around $35,000 before options.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Competition

Mercedes-Benz CLA

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The vehicle that started this niche is already in its second generation, having been redesigned for the 2020 model year. Essentially a shrunken CLS, the CLA looks just as dynamic as the 2 Series Gran Coupe thanks to its big front grille, swept-back headlamps, and sleek trunk lid and taillights. Technology-wise, it’s on par with the 2 Series Gran Coupe, as it includes everything from a state-of-the-art infotainment system and semi-autonomous driving to high-quality materials and fancy features. The U.S. lineup includes just one non-AMG model, the CLA250. It features a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and it’s available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Pricing for the CLA starts from $36,650.

Read our full story on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA

Audi A3 Sedan

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The Audi A3 sedan has surprisingly similar proportions to the 2 Series Gran Coupe, but its rear end is not as sleek. What’s more, its more sober front fascia and overall design make it a more understated choice. The band news here is that the A3 Sedan is fairly old. Introduced in 2013, the four-door is based on a design that goes back to 2012. Sure, Audi introduced a nice facelift in 2017, but it’s still long in the tooth when it comes to technology and design. The base model available in the U.S. is also a bit less powerful than the 2 Series Gran Coupe, as the 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood generates 184 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque. As a competitor for the M235i, Audi has the S3, which comes with 288 horsepower and 280 pound-feet on tap. Again, the S3 is slightly less powerful than the Bimmer. Pricing for the A3 Sedan starts from $33,300, while the S3 Sedan comes in at $43,000.

Read our full review of the Audi A3 Sedan.

Conclusion

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Exterior
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Considering this is BMW’s first 2 Series Gran Coupe, we can’t say what impact it will have on the market. It is simply a front-wheel drive-biased model BMW is launching in order to keep up with its main German rivals. Its traditional competitors have much more experience in selling front-wheel-drive cars in this segment: is already selling the second-gen CLA, while Audi has been making the A3 Sedan since 2013 and an all-new model is not far into the future.

But the good news is that the 2 Gran Coupe looks good and combines style with sportiness. It’s also on par with the Mercedes-Benz CLA when it comes to technology, and it’s available with two solid engines in the United States. Some may view the 2 Series Gran Coupe with suspicion since it doesn’t look like a traditional BMW and it won’t drive like one with its front-wheel-drive-based platform, but it will be appealing to those who just want a BMW and that BMW has to be a sedan and not a trendy crossover. Or a sporty coupe. It’s the same recipe behind the Mercedes-Benz CLA, and it will probably work in the long run.

  • Leave it
    • Doesn’t really look like a BMW
    • Doesn’t drive like a BMW
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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