When it comes to buying a four-door BMW 2 Series, aka the 2 Series Gran Coupe, you don’t have a whole lot of options. You can either choose the base, 228i, or the current range-topper, the M235i. With a price difference of $7,800, it leaves one to wonder whether you might as well pony up a little extra to get something that looks, well, less bland, or if you should just get the base 2 Series GC and drive it for what it is. The extra $7,800 doe net you nearly 70 extra horsepower and a drastic improvement in acceleration, but is it enough? We just spent a week with the M235i, and our experience with it – and how it competes with the Audi S3 and Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 – will enlighten you.

  • 2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    301
  • Torque @ RPM:
    331
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    4.7 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

BMW M235i Driving Impressions

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932397

What’s it like to drive the BMW M235i? Well, from the moment you sit inside the cabin, you immediately feel like you’re in something special. Not super special like a one-off Ferrari or even a mass-produced McLaren or Lamborghini, but you can’t deny that it’s something that aims to sit above its peers.

From the driver’s perspective, the car is comfortable, intelligent, and spacious for something its size.

The steering wheel begs to be squeezed in tight maneuvers, and even the brakes respond in a way that makes you feel like you’re in control. Granted, the seats aren’t as supportive as those in full-fledged M cars, and you wouldn’t mistake the M235i for a pure-bred M, but you don’t move around even under hard maneuvers.

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932399

We found little to complain about during our time with the M235i. Acceleration is on point and comes as demanded. Braking and steering evoke confidence. Pairing both iOS and Android devices is as easy as you’d expect, and we even found the navigation system to be on-point and definitely worth investing in. The only real complaints regard the rear seating area, which is –suffice it to say – not exactly big. Full-size adults can fit, but after a while, it does get a little uncomfortable. The M235i is okay for the occasional rear passenger, but if you have a family or are looking to expand your family, you might want to consider something a little larger.

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932445
In terms of fuel economy, we actually managed to exceed the EPA’s rating, but not by much.

We did maintain 23 mpg in city driving, but with an easy foot, we averaged just a hair above 33 mpg on the highway over about 50 miles, which brought our fuel economy over the period up to 27.2 mpg – a figure that also included a few bouts of spirited driving (within legal limits and on private property) for what that’s worth. Over ten different sprints to 60 mph, we averaged 4.628 seconds, with the lowest being just a hair over 4.5 seconds and the slowest being 4.78 seconds. In the end, however, we really couldn’t ask for more.

BMW M235i Drivetrain and Performance

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Drivetrain
- image 932402

The BMW M235i is powered by the same 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder found under the hood if its lesser counterpart, the 228i. In this case, however, it’s tuned to deliver 301 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque, which represents an improvement of 73 horsepower and 73 pound-feet of torque. This engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that ultimately sends power to all four wheels.

This engine is similar to what’s offered in both the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 and Audi S3, and it’s almost superior in every way… almost. The CLA 35, for example, actually delivers one extra pony at 302 horsepower but falls short in the torque department with just 296 pound-feet – a deficit of 36 pound-feet. Meanwhile, the Audi S3 falls short compared to both, with just 288 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. But, that’s also where things get interesting because the M235i isn’t the fastest of the bunch.

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Drivetrain
- image 932405
BMW M235i Gran Coupe vs competition - engine comparison
BMW M235i Gran Coupe Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Audi S3 Sedan
Engine 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four
Transmission 8-Speed Auto 7-Speed DCT 7-Speed DCT
Horsepower 301 @ 5000-6250 302 @ TBA 288 @ TBA
Torque 331 LB-FT @ 1750-4500 295 LB-FT @ 3000-4000 280 LB-FT @ TBA
Driveline AWD AWD AWD

How Fast is the BMW M235i?

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932467

The BMW M235i can sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and tops out at the German standard of 155 mph. In terms of top speed, the M235i is equally matched with both of its competitors, but in terms of the 60-mph sprint, it actually falls in the middle. When lined up with the CLA 35, the M235i will win a sprint to 60 mph by one-tenth of a second (4.7 vs. 4.8 seconds), but if you make the mistake of lining up next to an Audi S3 – yes, the least powerful of the bunch – you’ll fall short by one-tenth of a second (4.7 vs. 4.6 seconds)

Does the BMW M235i Get Good Fuel Economy?

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932453

The BMW M235i is good for 23 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. If you’re someone that likes to extract every mile you can out of every gallon you burn, then the M235i is better than both the AMG CLA 35 and the Audi S3 in most regards. The AMG CLA 35, for example, matches the M235i in city driving, but the Bimmer has it by three mpg on the highway and one mpg combined. As far as the S3 goes, at 22 mpg in the city, it falls short of the Bimmer in the city. It’s also inferior by three mpg on the highway and one mpg combined.

BMW M235i Interior Design

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Interior
- image 932419

The BMW M235i Gran Coupe has a rather interesting interior. In our opinion, it’s much better than what you get in the base model in terms of material and technology. Of course, there is no extra room in the M235i vs. the base model, but the seats are more comfortable. On that note, they are also more supportive, which does come in handy when you’re enjoying a bit of spirited driving on your way home from work on a Friday evening.

The one thing to keep in mind here is that, while the M235i GC is a four-door car, there’s not a ton of room in the rear.

It might be okay for kids or even adults on short journeys, but you’ll find that it’s not exactly the most comfortable place to be for long periods of time.

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Interior
- image 932438

As far as materials are concerned, leather adorns most of the interior panels, including the center armrest, door panels, and the dashboard. Seating position for the driver is near perfect, giving most people a clear and commanding view of the road, however, you might find that you need to elevate the seat if you’re on the shorter side. The biggest highlight of the cabin is the digital instrument cluster that is easy on the eyes at night and attractive during the day – it was one of our most favorite features.

Is the BMW M235i Spacious Inside?

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Interior
- image 932417

The 2 Series Gran Coupe is a compact car at its core, so you can’t expect much in terms of interior space. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily cramped, but if you’re someone of the bigger persuasion, you really need to test drive the M235i to make sure it’s a good fit for you – literally. It might not excel in every regard over the competition, but it does offer more front shoulder room and rear headroom than the competition. It’s also the best in terms of cargo room, but we’ll discuss that more a little later. Check out how the M235i compared to the AMG CLA 35 and Audi S3 in the charts and tables below.

BMW M235i Gran Coupe vs competition - interior dimensions
BMW M235i Gran Coupe Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Audi S3 Sedan
Front Headroom 38.2 38.5 36.8
Front Shoulder Room 55.5 55.1 54.8
Front Leg Room 41.4 41.8 41.5
Rear Head Room 38.2 35.7 36.1
Rear Shoulder Room 53.1 54 53
Rear Leg Room 34.4 33.9 35.1

Does the BMW M235i Have an Easy-To-Use Infotainment System?

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Interior
- image 932423

BMW’s infotainment system is second to none, with the strongest competition coming from Mercedes’ MBUX system. Using the Bimmer’s infotainment system is a breeze for the most part. Menus are laid out in an intuitive fashion that makes navigation and changing options easy. The navigation system works impressively well, too, but controlling the system with the dial controller on the center console could take some getting used to if you’ve never used one of BMW’s more recent infotainment systems or anything lie it.

How Much Cargo Room Does the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Have?

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Interior
- image 932416

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe can carry 15.19 cubic-feet of cargo, which puts it quite a bit ahead of the AMG CLA 35 with 11.6 cubic-feet or the Audi S3 with 10.0 cubic-feet. The 2 GC’s amount of cargo room is also impressive considering the fact that the coupe offers up just 13.8 cubic-feet.

BMW M235i Exterior Design

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932455
The BMW M235i Gran Coupe is an attractive, sexy little car. It doesn’t suffer from excessive grille disease like its newer, larger brothers, and it’s so aggressive that it’s easy to mistake it as a full-fledged M car.

In fact, compared to the base 228i, the M235i is decades ahead in terms of attractiveness. It doesn’t come without a trade-off, though and up front, that includes the fake vents that are about 90-percent vaporware and purely aesthetic. For being a compact four-door, however, the 2GC – in general – comes off as a very attractive vehicle and actually appears to be larger than it is, perhaps something attributed to the Alpine White exterior finish on our tester.

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932446

The rear end of the M235i is essentially a polar opposite of the front. It definitely has more of an aggressive flair than the base 2GC, but it doesn’t have M written all over it – outside of the M badge, of course. In fact, from certain angles, you can even spot the wide muffler that makes the fake dual exhaust outlets possible. That said, our tester was generally well-received everywhere we went in public, with one of the most telling questions being, “why would you spend so much on such a small car?” In that specific case, our M235i was seen as a $60,000+ vehicle, which it clearly is not, so it does project a certain status among its peers when out and about.

How Big is the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe?

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932463

The BMW 2 Series – and our M235i tester – sits firmly in the compact segment. It comes in at 178.5-inches long, 70.9-inches wide, and 55.9-inches tall. It also rides on a 105.1-inch wheelbase. In terms of the competition, the 2 Series GC sits between the AMG CLA 35 and Audi S3, with the exception of width, where it falls more than seven inches short. It’s also the heaviest model between the three at 3,605 pounds. That said, the BMW 2 Series GC can fit in most single-car garages, however, if you have something that’s really small, you should probably check your measurements first, just to be on the safe side. A 1.5-car garage would be more ideal and would give you plenty of room, relatively speaking.

BMW M235i Gran Coupe vs competition - exterior dimensions
BMW M235i Gran Coupe Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Audi S3 Sedan
Length 178.5 184.8 175.8
Width 70.9 78.7 77.2
Height 55.9 55.3 54.8
Wheelbase 105.1 107.4 103.6
Ground Clearance 5.1 3.63 4.7
Front Track 61.5 63.4 61.1
Rear Track 61.4 63.4 60.1

How Much Does the BMW M235i Cost?

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932452

As the current range-topper of the 2 Series Gran Coupe lineup, the M235i has a starting price of $45,500, before options, taxes, registration, and the like. If you want to opt for the Shadowline package at $500, you’ll get a selection of black exterior trim and the navigation system. Alpine White exterior coloring is standard, but all other colors will set you back an extra $550, with the exception of Storm Bay Metallic, which commands an extra $1,200 on top of the MSRP. There are four standard wheel options, but you’ll have to pay up an extra $600 for the 19-inch wheels, while the driving assistance package will run your $950 and the Premium Package $2,750. Check off all the options, including some of the more obscure choices not mentioned here, will push the M235i closer to $55,000 territory, though, so if you’re on a budget, you should probably double-think some of your selections.

As far as MSRP goes, however, the M235i sits right between he AMG CLA 35 at $46,900 and the Audi S3 at $43,000. It’s not a bad choice, though, and it is priced right as long as you don’t go overboard with options.

Competition

Is the BMW M235i Better Than the Audi S3?

left right

The Audi S3 doesn’t really come off as the performance car that it is, at least not in the looks department, anyway. Compared to the other models it competes with – like the M235i and Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 – it is very subdued. In terms of performance, the S3 comes to the party with 288 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. These figures come off quite short when compared to the M235i’s 301 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque, but this is one of those cases where weight – or a lack thereof, actually – makes quite the difference. Because the S3 tips the scales at just 3,461 pounds – a mere 144 pounds lighter than the 3,605-pound M235i – it’s actually faster to 60 mph, taking just 4.6 seconds to make the sprint. That’s 0.1 seconds faster than the BMW M235i – a notable accomplishment for a car with just 280 horsepower.

left right

In terms of interior materials, however, the Audi S3 falls a little short. If you want M235i levels of refinement and comfort, you’d have to go with the RS3, which is significantly more expensive and not within the same Realm as the M235i. Technology and driving dynamics, however, are on par with the M235i, and that’s why this cheaper alternative – starting at $43,000 in the highest trim possible – is hard to pass up if the subdued looks and toned down interior doesn’t bother you.

BMW M235i Gran Coupe vs Audi S3
BMW M235i Gran Coupe Audi S3 Sedan
Engine 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four
Transmission 8-Speed Auto 7-Speed DCT
Horsepower 301 @ 5000-6250 288 @ TBA
Torque 331 LB-FT @ 1750-4500 280 LB-FT @ TBA
Driveline AWD AWD
Fuel Premium Premium
Fuel Economy 23/32/26 22/29/25
Suspension Front Independent Front Independent
Steering Electric Electric
Turning Circle TBA 36.1
Front Tire Size P225/40-18 TBA
Rear Tire Size P225/40-18 TBA
0-60 MPH 4.7 Seconds 4.6 Seconds
Top Speed 155 MPH 155 MPH

Read our full review on the Audi S3

Is the BMW M235i Better than the Mercedes-AMG CLA35?

left right

In terms of silhouette, the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 does have a sportier character than the BMW M235i, however, what you’ll find in the front and rear is more toned down. The front end, as a matter of fact, is typical Mercedes design that mimics just about every entry-level AMG in the lineup. The slightly longer good does lend a muscular appearance to the front, but the rear end is annoyingly short because of the longer roof to give it that “coupe” shape. I still consider it a sedan, but I’ll leave that discussion for another time. Mercedes interior is, arguably, a little better than what you’ll find in the Bimmer, and Merc’s technology is really second to none – in both driver air and infotainment.

2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Unveiled with 300 HP and Four-Door Coupe Luxury Exterior
- image 834324

In terms of performance, the CLA 35 isn’t a slouch, but it still falls just a hair behind the M235i in the end. With 301 horsepower, it does have one extra pony on its sworn enemy, but its torque rating of 295 pound-feet is inferior. It is 100-pounds lighter than the M235i, though, and it’s a good thing as it would lose even worse in the 60-mph sprint. As it is now, it’s capable of hitting the benchmark in 4.8 seconds, just one-tenth of a second slower than the M235i’s 4.7-second run. Like all the cars we’ve discussed in this review, the CLA 35 tops out at 155 mph. Pricing starts at $46,900, so it’s a bit more expensive, but the difference is negligible when you take into consideration the quality of the interior and the technology.

BMW M235i Gran Coupe vs Mercedes-AMG CLA 35
BMW M235i Gran Coupe Mercedes-AMG CLA 35
Engine 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four
Transmission 8-Speed Auto 7-Speed DCT
Horsepower 301 @ 5000-6250 302 @ TBA
Torque 331 LB-FT @ 1750-4500 295 LB-FT @ 3000-4000
Driveline AWD AWD
Fuel Premium Premium
Fuel Economy 23/32/26 23/29/25
Suspension Front Independent Four-Wheel Independent
Steering Electric Electric
Turning Circle TBA TBA
Front Tire Size P225/40-18 P235/40-18
Rear Tire Size P225/40-18 P235/40-18
0-60 MPH 4.7 Seconds 4.8 Seconds
Top Speed 155 MPH 155 MPH

Read our full review on the Mercedes-AMG CLA35

Final Thoughts

2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe - Driven Exterior
- image 932469

The BMW M235i is, without a doubt, once of the best compact, four-door, mid-performance cars that money can buy today. It had stout competition in terms of the Audi S3 and Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, but – as a package – it’s put together so well that it’s really hard to beat. Interior refinement is spot on, as it the technology, and the exterior design brings the aggressiveness that you want in a sportscar without going overboard or giving the impression that BMW was trying too hard – a mistake often made by automakers with something to prove, the most recent in memory being the Honda Civic. With a price point of $45,500, you really can’t go wrong with the BMW M235i, as long as a compact four-door is something you’re really interested in.

Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read More
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