First Drive: BMW M235i Convertible

Reviews

What’s new?

Even if you’re a driving purist and wouldn’t dream of sacrificing handling purity for open-air pleasure, it’s hard to deny the allure of a sports car on a sunny day with the roof down. No surprise then that BMW has taken its impressive M235i Coupe and created a Convertible version too.

It wears the same sporty additions as the Coupe with larger alloy wheels and tastefully larger bumpers front and rear, while under the bonnet you get the 306bhp twin-turbocharged six-cylinder petrol unit. Upgraded brakes and suspension complete the performance enhancements, while inside there’s appealing trinkets such as leather seats and a choice of aluminium trims.

Looks and image

It’s the exterior that grabs the attention first of course. With the M Performance additions the 2 Series Convertible shape is looking its best, although from certain angles it can look a little under-wheeled despite riding on 18-inch alloy as standard.

It might only be the junior M brand rather than the full ticket, but the M235i has enough presence and status in its own right to be rightly regarded as a genuine performance car and a highly desirable one at that. At least until the M2 arrives…

Space and practicality

It might be a relatively compact car from the outside but inside it’s one of the few convertibles that can take four passengers in reasonable comfort. You can’t use the rear seats if you have the wind deflector in place and six-footers might grumble a little, but roof-down fun is only enhanced by having three friends with you.

The boot is modest but still useful. 280 litres is over 100 less than the Coupe version which is an inevitable price of a folding roof. It’s also worth bearing in mind that having the roof down means some space is lost to the roof itself.

Behind the wheel

The ingredients of the M235i Convertible are just about perfect; lusty, six-cylinder engine, rear-wheel-drive, typical sharp BMW chassis and a folding roof for heightened pleasure. Better still, the M235i Convertible doesn’t disappoint. There’s an inevitable trade-off in sharpness with the fabric roof but for 90% of the time this won’t matter; what gives greater pleasure is the powerful turbo engine that you can hear even more clearly.

There’s a fine balance to the handling too, with firm but not harsh suspension and a happy relationship between grip and power. It’s sufficiently quick and sharp for sizeable thrills but not so much that it becomes a handful or is wearing on a longer journey. The optional auto gearbox also works well on its own yet is happy to be marshalled by the paddles. Compromise has never been so appealing.

Value for money

For the standard price tag of just under £40,000 the specification is decent, with all the styling enhancements, satellite navigation and leather included. However there are some notable omissions such as heated seats, while the excellent and desirable automatic gearbox requires further outlay, but the standard car will be enough for most buyers.

Who would buy one?

The badge might suggest that this is something of a boy’s toy but the reality is the M235i Convertible would suit a broad range of people. It’s performance and handling are more than sufficient for an enthusiastic audience, yet it’s not too harsh to be an everyday car for someone who wants a folding roof, style and a dash of performance. You could even carry kids in the back on a regular basis if you’re especially keen.

This car summed up in a single word: Tasty

If this car was a…: TV presenter it would be Graham Norton; outwardly a bit flash but with depth and quality beneath the shiny exterior.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

BMW M235i Convertible, £38,400

Engine:3.0-litre petrol unit producing 306bhp and 322lb.ft of torque

Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels

Performance: Top speed 155mph, 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds

Economy: 33.2mpg combined

Emissions: 184g/km of CO2

BMW

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