Is the M235i xDrive Gran Coupé a hot hatch for grown-ups?

What defines a hot hatch? Small engine, zippy performance, lurid bodywork? Yes, but most of all it needs to be fun, put a smile on your face, take you back to a time when you first got your license, your first car and all of the freedom that brings.

The BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupé (GC) is powered by a 2.0 litre TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder engine that produces 225kW of power and 450Nm of torque and it can do the 0-100km/h dash in 4.9 seconds, so it certainly ticks the first two boxes of the hot hatch recipe.

The M rear spoiler and optional M Performance Package ($2,200), which blacks out the grille, mirrors and tailpipe and adds 18-inch M light wheels in the V-spoke style on my M235i GC and the fact it comes with a boot rather than a hatchback does suggest this is a hot hatch for grown-ups.

The last and most important bit, fun, well ‘xDrive’ in BMW speak is code for all-wheel drive, so in the dry the M235i GC has good grip and acceleration and in the wet there was no loss of traction under hard acceleration in a straight line, but I did get some understeer during hard cornering.

While I was enthusiastically ‘manually’ changing gears with the steering wheel mounted gear shift paddles in the ‘manual’ gear box mode of the 8-speed Sport Steptronic transmission I was able to get the M235i GC to hold the gear up to 6,800rpm red line. But there was no audio or visual indication to tell me to change up just before the red line, so I had to eye ball it myself. When downshifting I was able to pull down to second rear rather aggressively, but then the M235i indicated I was in first, but really I was still in second. All of this action should have been accompanied by a playful exhaust soundtrack, but I found the exhaust to be not very vocal at all. So yes I did have fun driving the Gran Coupé, but I would have preferred some more noise from the exhaust.

Of course I drove the M235i around in Sport mode for the entire time I had it and this meant I used 9.2L/100km of fuel whereas the official combined fuel consumption is 7.6L/100km. You can individualise Sport mode between Sport and Comfort settings for the Steering, Engine and Transmission and there are two other drive modes, Eco Pro and Comfort. The M235i has no adaptive suspension and I found the ride to be firm but uncomfortable.

On the inside the sporty look continues with M Sport Seats in ‘Dakota’ leather with integrated headrests. These are comfortable and supportive and feature electric adjustment including lumbar support and manual front leg extension. The front seats were heated and the driver gets two memory positons. The lumbar support, heated seats and heated steering wheel are all part of the optional Comfort package ($1,200).

The M235i GC has a very cool interior with ambient lighting system and the design in the M235i I drove is called ‘Illuminated Boston’ and the design in the 218i GC I recently drove is called ‘Illuminated Berlin’. I don’t like the piano gloss black around the centre console because it shows finger marks badly and if this is something that bothers you, then I suggest keeping a micro-fibre cloth in the slim line arm rest. Thankfully though the buttons you press to access the infotainment system are matt black.

I liked how the driver’s dash was incorporated into the overall dash design, but the steering wheel is a bit fattish in size. The voice control is designated with a microphone rather than a face outline and being the M235i comes with the BMW Operating System 7.0, the voice control works very well. The head up display is also good and shows speed, navigation and media info.

You get a harmon/kardon 16 speaker surround sound system to enjoy your media from the AM/FM radio, DAB or Bluetooth. For connectivity to Apple CarPlay, there is one micro USB port under arm rest and one USB, one 12V outlet and wireless phone charger for compatible devices in a handy storage ledge at the front of the centre console.

I found the rear seats to be tight for headroom for adults, even with the bubble in the roof liner. For children there are two ISOFIX/two rear tether child seat restraint points, but I suggest you check the height of your car seat to make sure it will fit. The centre seat folds down as an arm rest with two cup holders at the front of it. Rear passengers get air vents with speed control only and there are two micro USB points under the vents. The annoying thing my daughter found was the seat belt buckle for the centre seat was under where she sat.

From an exterior design point I liked the pillar-less windows and how they are flush along the entire length of the cabin. If you are not a fan of privacy glass in the rear windows you will be happy with the M235i, so if you do tint your windows they can be the same colour for all four windows.

But the exterior design line of the M235i GC makes the boot opening awkward as the top is almost flush with the bottom. Although the boot is an okay size, to get shopping into the back I had to bend and reach in. It also has only manual open and close and no button to open it from the cabin that I could find. There is extra storage under boot floor, but no spare tyre. For carrying larger items there are 40/20/40 split folding rear seats.

Safety features on the M235i GC include blind spot assist, front collision warning, lane departure warning with or without steering intervention and lane change warning at speeds greater than 20km/h, a standard rear view camera with front and rear sensors and rear cross traffic warning. As part of the Enhancement Package ($3,770) you also get active cruise control with stop & go function. There are front airbags for driver and front passenger, side airbags integrated into outer backrest bolsters for driver and front passenger, head airbags in A-pillar and roof edge for all four outer seats.  Presently the BMW 2 Series Grand Coupé does not have a Euro NCAP or ANCAP safety rating.

All new BMWs come with a three years unlimited kilometre warranty and 24/7 BMW Roadside Assistance. The BMW Service Inclusive Basic package covers your scheduled servicing needs for 5 years or 80,000 km, whichever comes first. For the 2 Series this package costs $1,550 and includes your annual vehicle checks, oil changes, all filters, spark plugs and labour costs for the duration of the package.

Prices for the BMW M235i xDRive Gran Coupé  start at $71,729 plus on-road costs and as tested with the M Performance, Comfort and Enhancement packages (the latter includes metallic paint, panoramic sunroof and active cruise control) my Black Sapphire M235i GC was $78,899 plus on-roads. So this grown-up hot hatch fun comes at a price and although I enjoyed the M235i, for me it lacked the magic that transported me back to my youth. To test drive one for yourself, visit your preferred BMW dealer.

ProsCons
Cool interior ambient lightingQuiet exhaust
Revvy engineAwkward boot design
Nice ride and handlingNo ANCAP safety rating

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.