BMW M2 review ­- is the baby M car worthy of the badge?

Will Beaumont
14 Aug 2017

Even without the bonkers engine from M3 and M4, the M2 feels fast as well as supremely controllable

Evo Rating: 
Controllable, well balanced chassis
Brake feel and uninspiring cabin

For a while things weren't looking great for BMW's M division. The turbocharged M3, and the coupe alternative now called the M4, haven’t exactly lived up to the expectations that previous generations had set. Then you've got the fact that cars like the X5M and X6M even exist, both of which had us wondering if BMW’s M division had lost its way completely.

>Read our BMW M4 review

But now it seems, for the moment at least, that the M division is back on form. The new M4 GTS has resolutely impressed, the Competition Package and some recent updates for the M3 and M4 have righted some of the wrongs of the original car, and the little M2 is a fun and deeply enjoyable package.

BMW M2 in detail

Performance and 0-60 time > A DCT equipped M2 will hit 62mph in an impressive 4.3 seconds, beating the manual by 0.2 of a second. Thanks to the broad and linear torque delivery, the M2 feels fast at any revs.

Engine and gearbox > Sharing an engine with the M240i rather than the meatier M3/4, the M2 lacks the real wow factor of its siblings' powerplant.

Ride and handling > The M2 differs from its bigger M3/4 siblings by being friendlier. It doesn’t posses the same brilliant front axle grip, but the M2 is more approachable.

MPG and running costs > Being the entry-point to the M car world, economy is decent with the DCT equipped model rated at 35.8mpg. Manuals do a little worse thanks to a shorter top gear.

Interior and tech > Pretty much stock 2-series inside, the M2 does without some of the special touches that other M cars get but it’s inoffensive and functional.

Design > Unlike the interior, the M2’s body has been drastically altered from the standard 2-series. Pulled and stretched to fit over the wider axles, it looks tough, squat and brilliant, like all the best M cars.

Prices, spec and rivals

A basic M2 costs £46,430, but for that you get almost everything you need with little temptation to load it up with costly extras. There are only five colour choices, none of which cost extra; only one set of wheels; the basic manual gearbox is preferable to the £2245 DCT alternative; and there’s no carbon ceramic brake option.

The M2’s most obvious rival is the Audi TT RS; it’s a two-door coupe, with four seats and over 350bhp. As similar as they might seem at face value, they differ significantly as you delve into their details. The TT is, as is typical for a performance Audi, four-wheel drive, which means it’s much more secure, feels faster, but is less involving to drive. The four-wheel drive system helps make the most of the Audi’s 394bhp from its turbocharged five-cylinder and can accelerate from 0 to 60mph in 3.4sec, a whole 1.1sec faster than the M2 when we timed them both. The extra power, speed and traction comes at a cost; the TT RS starts at £52,100, but it’s easy to get carried away with the order book and bump the price to over £70,000.

In terms of cost, the M2 sits between the Porsche 718 Cayman and Cayman S, but is significantly more powerful than both as well as having rear seats. However, although the BMW’s six-cylinder engine is nicer to use than the Porsche’s the Cayman is still the better, more balanced drivers’ car and it beat the BMW and the Audi when we tested them together in Wales. But, only by a slim margin.

If that line-up is all too Teutonic for you, perhaps you could consider the Ford Mustang. It beats the M2 in terms of all-out power, and is almost £10,000 cheaper. However, the BMW is worlds ahead in terms of handling and enjoyment.

> Read our Ford Mustang review

Prices for the M2’s predecessor, the 1M Coupe remain strong and are currently still over £40,000, irrespective of age or mirage. It may not quite have the same power or the same poise as the M2, but it’s similar in size, looks better and, as they were built in small numbers, more exclusive. If you’re looking for an M2, don’t discount a second hand 1M Coupe as a real alternative.

There is a selection of M Performance upgrades you can make to your M2. Most of them are just cosmetic carbonfibre body additions and, as the M2 already looks aggressive enough, they seem pretty superfluous. However, a sportier exhaust, which can be turned on or off by a Bluetooth controller in the car, adds a bit of drama while a set of coilovers lower it without changing the car’s balance or behavior greatly. There’s also the possibility of an Alcantara steering wheel and interior trim; they might not be essential, they do look and feel great.

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