In more ways than one, the 2019 BMW 2-Series is a holdover from an older age. It’s rear-wheel drive. It can come with a manual transmission. It’s a sport coupe – none of that pesky all-in-one crossover mentality. This is a car with a purpose, and it fulfills its mission with panache. We’re sure glad it’s still around.

Best Value

In classic BMW fashion, the 2-Series can be spec’d up well over $50,000 in higher trim. We’re all for customizability, but this is one instance where restraint is the better part of wisdom.

The base-trim 2-Series is nothing to sneeze at. It gets BMW’s all-purpose 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, good for 248 horsepower. That would be pedestrian in a larger car, but unburdened by excessive weight, it’s enough to hustle the 2-Series to 60 mph in just over five seconds.

The 2-Series is available in either coupe or convertible form, but the convertible adds nearly $6,000 and impinges on an already limited cargo capacity. All-wheel drive is available on all trims, but for a car this raw, the siren call of rear-wheel drive is too strong.

The result: a RWD BMW 230i coupe. We’d have the manual, if only because it’s good and one of a dying breed. The automatic is equally excellent, so no great loss either way. With tasteful (read: frugal) option selection, it’s a sport coupe that’s hard to dislike.

  • Model:2019 BMW 230i
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output:248 hp / 290 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual
  • Drivetrain:Rear-wheel drive
  • MPG:21 City / 32 Hwy
  • Options: Metallic paint ($550), Heated front seats ($500)
  • Base Price:$36,295 (including the $995 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price:$37,345

Performance

BMW 2-Series

The driving experience is what the 2-Series is all about. If the base engine isn’t enough for you, the M240i offers a turbocharged inline six-cylinder delivering 335 hp, which shortens the zero-to-60 sprint to 4.4 seconds. Both transmissions are smooth, and it’s a pleasure to drive a sweet-shifting manual these days.

The diminutive size and weight also contribute to excellent handling. Turn-in is precise, and the feel is an excellent antidote to the modern epidemic of numb steering. Performance upgrades in the suspension, brakes, and steering are available for race track disciples, although they’ll probably just buy the M2 (covered separately).

Even the mileage is decent. The larger engine isn’t particularly economical at an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon combined (21 with the manual), but the four-cylinder unit is good for up to 28 mpg combined. It won’t compare to hybrids, but it’s thrifty enough for a performance car.

Style

The 2-Series is attractive in both bodies. Clean lines support aggressive shoulders, and the profile is particularly nice in convertible form. Inside, a low beltline and a healthy amount of glass help things feel more spacious. The interior is cozy and well designed, with pleasant surfaces and a competent infotainment system. BMW’s synthetic leather is decent, and the seats are supportive and comfortable. Automatic emergency braking is newly standard, which adds to the 2-Series’ already strong safety scores.

But the attractively compact proportions aren't without their compromises. The biggest is the rear seats, where leg room suffers from the shortened wheelbase. The second row is fine for short trips, but it carries groceries better than adults. Cargo space isn’t spectacular, especially on convertible models, and the interior still uses hard plastics for a few minor surfaces. Another gripe is the options menu: despite excellent customizability, many options require expensive add-ons to unlock. One frustrating example is Apple CarPlay, which requires an expensive package and a subscription after the first year.

The Best and Worst Things

A compact and comfortable sedan with stirring performance is the formula with which BMW seduced the world. We’re glad they’ve still got the mojo, but we wish they wouldn’t try so hard to gouge your wallet on the options list.

Right For? Wrong For?

BMW 2-SeriesThe BMW 2-Series is right for the driver who loves driving. If you prefer a car that tells you what’s happening at the wheels, or a vehicle without the size or bloat of most modern sedans, the 2-Series will delight. It’s a joy to drive in any trim.

It'll disappoint buyers who need substantial utility, or those who frequently carry friends. The 2-Series is lovely from the driver’s seat, but we wouldn’t want to go on a road trip in the back. It’s a focused machine, but practicality is limited.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 BMW 2-Series is the kind of car that reminds us why we love the brand – and why we love driving. It’s not for everyone, especially at BMW prices, but for drivers who savor the journey, there are increasingly few options like the 2-Series. We hope it sticks around.