Expert Reviews

2023 BMW 2 Series Review

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

The BMW 2 Series is the second most affordable way to get into the brand’s lineup.

As the German automaker’s entry-level car in Canada, it has a responsibility to highlight what the brand is all about at a compelling price that won’t scare away potential newcomers to the brand or alienate its faithful fans.

It’s a good sign, then, that the 2023 BMW 230i is an excellent showcase for the automaker, and for its segment as a whole. It’s a compact luxury coupe that hits all the right notes, balancing performance and luxury well with affordability.

Styling: 9/10

BMW has been going back and forth on its “bigger is better” grille design philosophy, and the 2 Series has been untouched by the buck-tooth treatment the brand often gets roasted for. The 2 Series is also not to be confused with the since-discontinued 2 Series Gran Coupe, a frumpy four-door sedan that looked like a Kia Forte from two generations ago. And perhaps controversially, I think the 230i looks better than the new M2. It has classic BMW proportions that hint at the coupe’s sporting intentions: short overhangs, a long nose, and a short rear end.

Inside, the gorgeous tan faux-leather is a no-cost option, and the customizable standard ambient lighting brings a touch of joy to the normally very serious cabin. There’s a decent amount of plastic inside, as well as piano-black trim that gets dusty quickly, but there’s enough satin aluminum to give it more upscale vibes.

Power: 9/10

The 2023 BMW 230i is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L inline four-cylinder engine with 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, as is an eight-speed automatic transmission. A manual transmission is no longer offered outside of the M2, which is a bit disappointing but entirely understandable.

Output is ample; it’s enough to be entertaining and pass slower drivers with ease, but not enough to get you into serious trouble. All mechanical elements work together in harmony to create a cohesive driving experience.

Driving Feel: 9/10

In true BMW fashion, the 230i drives in a way not many others can match at this price point. The little coupe feels athletic, nimble, and stuck to the road, even in the default comfort mode. The steering is a bit over-boosted and digital in comfort mode, but feels more direct in sport mode, where the urgency of the coupe also gets amped up via how the transmission and engine reacts to your inputs.

It’s quite stiff in any setting because the suspension isn’t variable, but the payoff in how well it handles is well worth it. This coupe is a great representation for how BMWs are supposed to drive, and the experience is engaging and fun without being too hardcore for the daily commute, balancing sportiness and luxury admirably.

User-Friendliness: 9/10

BMW has upgraded the infotainment system in the 2 Series and it’s now one of the best out there. The screens for the instrument cluster and infotainment are wide and are housed under a single panel of curved glass, so it looks slick and upscale. The new operating system reacts quickly to inputs and has a simplified and way more logical menu structure, so drivers can complete tasks quickly without too many taps or digging through menus. When in motion, the rotary dial controller makes it easy to use the system without needing to reach for the screen.

The system has great shortcut buttons and all the functions are found easily. I wish there were hard buttons for climate control because you have to go into the touchscreen to make adjustments to the heated seats, temperature, and fan speed. The voice commands system can also be used to control the climate, but it’s awkward to use and takes too long. A saving grace of this setup is that the system remembers the settings from your last drive so you don’t have to configure them every time you get inside.

Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included and use all the screen real estate provided. This is one of the best Android Auto experiences I’ve ever had in a car because of how configurable your screen is and that it can show info for up to three apps like maps, audio, and notifications (most Android Auto systems can only show one or two functions at a time). They’re both well integrated into the car’s features, too. If you’re using Google Maps, for example, the navigation instructions and map will show up in the instrument cluster and the head-up display.

Safety: 9/10

I’m impressed that BMW includes most of its advanced safety and driver-assistance features as standard in the 230i, including blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with steering assist, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, speed limit info and speed warnings, front and rear parking sensors, automatic high-beam control, and reverse-tilt door mirrors. The only add-on available is adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability for $1,200. All the systems worked seamlessly without being too intrusive during this test, but can also be tailored to suit your driving style and comfort level to react and warn you of issues sooner or later.

Practicality: 8/10

If you’re in the market for a compact coupe, practicality likely isn’t a huge priority, so as long as you keep in mind this car’s purpose and keep your expectations in check, this 2 Series is as practical as you can expect. Inside, there aren’t too many places for small item storage, especially if the cupholders are being used, but the centre console bin is large enough and the door pockets can also fit a smaller water bottle.

The trunk holds 390 L of cargo and the seats can fold down in a 40/20/40 split to hold longer items. The pass-through is also appreciated so you could still hold a longer item and have two passengers in the back. It will be tight, but the option is useful to have.

Comfort: 8/10

In a similar vein, the rear seats aren’t meant to be used all the time. Like most other coupes, it’s a tight squeeze to get in and out of the second row gracefully, and once settled back there, head- and legroom are tight. It might work for small children on short trips, but for anyone else it’s likely out of the question, especially if the front seat passengers are tall. Front-seat occupants get ample room, comfortable and supportive sport seats with generous bolstering, many power options to configure the seats, and heated seats, but no seat ventilation.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

The 2023 BMW 230i is officially rated for 9.6 L/100 km in the city, 6.9 on the highway, and 8.4 combined. Over about 425 km of mixed testing in chilly weather and on winter tires, I averaged a respectful 8.6 L/100 km. Premium 91-octane gas is required.

Features: 8/10

The 2 Series has most of the basics covered, but the best features are saved for pricey options packages. For the type of car it is and for the price, it offers nearly everything it should, especially in the safety category.

Value: 8/10

Entry into BMW world starts at $47,950 plus a non-negotiable $2,480 freight fee. At the base level, the 230i still has a good core set of features, but the price quickly balloons once you add the packages and options that round out the luxury car experience. The model tested here had a $5,400 Premium Enhanced package I’d consider cutting, with its adaptive headlights, an upgraded sound system, head-up display, sunroof, lumbar support, heated steering wheel, and more.

There’s also an M Sport package with some performance and trim upgrades for $2,000 that you should get if squeezing the most performance in every drive is important to you. This package includes variable sport steering, bigger wheels, and a sport-tuned transmission. In total, with a few smaller upgrades and before taxes, this tester rings in at $60,875 before tax but including destination. At this point, the value begins to fade away for a car as small as this, but if this is a car that speaks to you, then it’s totally worth it.

The Verdict

The BMW 2 Series is the spiritual successor to the famed 2002, a vehicle my parents owned back in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They have fond memories of their sporty little coupe, and said it was defined by two main characteristics: how quick it was, and how it handled corners with a playful confidence.

While it might look and feel radically different and it wouldn’t be fair to compare the two directly, the 2023 BMW 230i still manages to encapsulate a lot of what made the 2002 so well loved. And as gas-powered sporty compact coupes in general become a dying breed, the 2 Series wears its heritage proudly as a fun and energetic little car that is a pleasure to drive. This is a car I’d be happy to have in my garage.

Engine Displacement 2.0L
Engine Cylinders Turbo I4
Peak Horsepower 255 hp
Peak Torque 295 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 9.6 / 6.9 / 8.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 390L
Model Tested 2023 BMW 230i xDrive Coupe
Base Price $47,950
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,480
Price as Tested $60,975
Optional Equipment
$10,445 – Premium Enhanced Package, $5,400; M Sport Package, $2,000; Melbourne Red Metallic, $895; Black Exterior Contents, $350; Aluminum Rhombicle Anthracite Trim, $250; Wireless Device Charging, $350; Active Cruise Control with Stop and Go, $1,200