- Amazing performance and handling
- Beautifully appointed interior
- Four-seat practicality
- Space rather tight in those rear seats
- Offset pedals in manual model
- Steering could instill you with more confidence
In the pantheon of high-performance BMW M cars, the M2 could be seen as something of a jumped-up little upstart. You see, iconic cars like the M3 and M5 have years and years of heritage and history behind them, earning their stripes the hard way as stalwarts of the performance car world. The M2 Coupe, meanwhile, is only in its second generation, so its heritage is only at a fledgling stage. And yet, even though it’s a relative new-kid-on-the-block, the M2 is every bit as important to the success of the M Division as its storied stablemates, if not even more so.
That’s because, traditionally, the most compact M cars have been both the most successful and the most sought after, and the M2 is now the most compact of the lot. This is a car that will always be in massive demand. And moreover, don’t be surprised if this latest version quickly becomes a collector’s item. Why? Well, because with the automotive industry in the place it’s currently at, it’s possible that the M2 could be the last BMW M car without some form of electrification, which would give it a certain amount of historical significance. If that is indeed the case, then future-classic status is all but guaranteed, if it’s not already.
In fact, the tag of jumped-up little upstart feels entirely appropriate where the M2 is concerned. It’s a shouty little thing, with compact dimensions, lairy styling, rambunctious performance and a hooligan-like exhaust note.
However, don’t go thinking that the M2 is all mouth and no trousers. Behind all the bluster is a car with real pedigree. The 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engine is one that’s derived from the one in the latest M3 Saloon and M4 Coupe - meaning it’s absolutely sensational - and the platform within which it sits is deft, balanced and beautifully engineered. This is a car that’s endlessly fast and thrilling when you’re in the mood, yet it’s also surprisingly comfortable and civilised when you’re not. It’s not the most practical car in the world, with tight rear seats and a small boot opening, but compared with the two-seater sports coupes with which it competes, it has a sight more everyday useability.
What’s more, the M2 has the cabin quality and image to justify the hefty price tag you pay, and the level of technology on board - in terms of infotainment, safety and performance-enhancing equipment - helps on that score, too. Make no mistake, despite being small, the M2 is a serious, no-nonsense performance car which, if you can afford to buy and run it, will provide no shortage of thrills, as well as lots of all-round ability besides.
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Is the BMW M2 right for you?
The BMW M2 will suit you if you want a compact performance car that’s capable of keeping up with supercars, both in straight lines and around corners, but you still need four seats. There are a number of two-seat rivals that do a similar job, but with (albeit tight) rear seats and a fairly large boot, the BMW M2 offers that extra level of practicality. It also provides all the thrills that any performance car should, along with a reasonably forgiving ride, a gorgeous interior and a cracking infotainment system.
What’s the best BMW M2 model/engine to choose?
In truth, when choosing an M2, you don’t actually have a whole lot of choice. All examples come with the same engine, which is a barnstorming 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine fed by two turbochargers, and this sends all of its 454bhp to the rear wheels. It does this through either an eight-speed automatic gearbox or - if you’re prepared to pay extra - a six-speed manual transmission, which is something of a rarity in the class these days. In fact, this choice of transmission is one of the few you have to make, because there’s just one single standalone trim level. There are a few option packs you can choose to add if you so wish, which bundle extras together, but there aren’t that many individual options on offer.
What other cars are similar to the BMW M2?
Direct rivals to the BMW M2 and rather few and far between. Until fairly recently, the Audi TT RS would have been one of the closest, with its two doors, four seats and similar levels of power and performance, but the Audi has since been discontinued as a new car. Two-seater rivals such as the Porsche 718 Cayman and Alpine A110 remain, as does the four-door Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S. In fact, the M2’s closest rival arguably lies in-house, as it’s a smaller, cheaper alternative to the BMW M4 Coupe.
We have a mixture of positives and negatives to talk about in this area. We’ll start with the negatives, not because we want to be a bunch of Negative Nellies, but because we want to get them out of the way so we can focus on the positives. Firstly, our test car was fitted with M Carbon bucket seats: these are wonderfully supportive, and the chunky side bolsters hold you snugly in place as you power through corners. However, these same side bolsters are also extremely high, and they make it quite difficult to get in and out without clouting your backside, sometimes quite painfully. Secondly, the car we drove had the manual gearbox, and in these versions, the pedals are offset way to the right - indeed, the throttle pedal is so far over, it feels like it’s in another car entirely - and this awkward, off-to-one-side driving position can make you feel a little twisted up at the wheel, and could well have an impact on long-distance comfort.
Negatives over, and that second one is a particular shame, because otherwise, the driving position is spot on. The seat goes really low, giving you a proper legs-out, sports car feel, and you get full electric seat adjustment in all versions to help you fine-tune your position. What’s more, there’s lots of manual adjustment in the steering column so you can put the wheel exactly where you want it. Visibility is also surprisingly good at both ends of the car thanks to slim window pillars at all four corners, and in case you still struggle to see at the rear end, you get a Parking Assistant as standard, which gives a rear-view camera plus front- and rear parking sensors. The front ones will be particularly useful, as it can be quite difficult to judge exactly where the long bonnet ends.
There aren’t too many switches and buttons on the dashboard due to many functions being controlled through the infotainment screen, but those that remain are located mainly where you expect to find them.
Quality and finish
BMW has traditionally made some of the best interiors in the business, and just because the M2 is one of the firm’s smaller offerings, don’t go thinking that any scrimping or saving has gone on. The huge digital screens that dominate the cabin instantly deliver a hit of high-tech sophistication, and everywhere else you look, you find stitched leather and carbon fibre-effect trims that deliver a sense of both sophistication and sportiness. The precise action of the switches and dials, and the clicky goodness with which they operate, contribute towards the high-quality feel as well. Yes, this is an expensive car, but importantly, the interior quality easily feels worthy of the price tag.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the BMW M2
Like many of BMW’s latest offerings, the M2 comes as standard with the BMW Curved Display infotainment system, running Operation System 8 software. This combines a 12.3-inch driver’s information display behind the steering wheel with a 14.9-inch central control display, all incorporated into one glossy-looking unit that bends pleasingly around the driver. If that’s not enough information for your eyes to process, there’s also a head-up display that projects yet more information onto the windscreen in front of you.
The system supports most of the functionality you expect, including DAB radio, satellite navigation, a Bluetooth phone connection, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus two USB ports. You also get a powerful Harman Kardon surround sound stereo as standard, but at this kind of money, it’s perhaps a little bit surprising that wireless phone charging is an optional extra.
Given the sheer amount and variety of functionality the system has to take care of, it’s actually impressively easy to find your way around. You might initially find yourself scratching your head when trying to find a function, but it doesn’t take too long to familiarise yourself with how things work. It’s slightly annoying that you don’t have separate buttons and dials for the air-con, but at least there’s a shortcut to the climate menus permanently displayed at the bottom of the central screen.
Space and practicality: BMW M2 boot space
Predictably, there’s plenty of headroom and legroom in the front seats, and despite this being a relatively compact car, you and your front passenger won’t feel like you’re rubbing shoulders too much. There’s also a good amount of storage in the front of the cabin: the centre console has a large lidded cubby and another lidded area with two cupholders and another small space for odds and ends, plus there's a decent glovebox and deep door pockets.
Predictably once again for a car like this, things aren’t quite so rosy in the two rear seats. Legroom is actually surprisingly generous, but headroom is in such short supply that nobody over five and a half feet tall will travel comfortably, and anyone over six feet tall will struggle to fit at all. Small children will be okay, but gangly teens? Forget it.
The boot is a very decent size at 390 litres, but the intrusion of the wheelarches means the space is T-shaped. The shallow opening will make it tricky to load bulky items, too, and so will the chunky load lip. For when you need to maximise your cargo-carrying capability, the car has 40-20-40 split-folding rear seats as standard, which is more versatile than the 60-40 arrangement in some cars. However, the rear seatbacks lie at a slight angle when they’re folded, leaving you with an extended load area that’s slightly sloped, and there’s a small step in it, too.
The M2 comes with an adaptive suspension as standard, which alters its stiffness according to which of the various driving modes you select. These modes also offer variation in the behaviour of various other parameters, including throttle response, steering, automatic gearshift (where fitted), brakes, exhaust and stability control. You can also mix-and-match settings for each parameter as you wish, and there’s a greater level of configuration available than on most comparable rivals, and you even have shortcut buttons on the steering wheel that allow you to instantly choose between two pre-configured modes.
Programme the settings to the gentler end of the spectrum, and you might be surprised by how civilised the M2 is. There’s enough forgiveness in the suspension to keep you comfortable, and the controls are easy to modulate, so this is a car that doesn’t feel too highly strung when you’re just bimbling around. Set everything up to maximum-attack mode, but still continue to drive gently, and you might be even more surprised by how relaxed the M2 remains to be (in the manual form that we drove it in, at least). You can feel a little extra edge to the ride but it doesn’t become uncomfortable, and it remains a car that’s easy and satisfying to drive at a sedate pace.
However, wind up the revs and start to treat it a little meaner, and the M2 gets progressively more exciting, and in truth, that’s the case whichever of the modes are selected at the time. Grip levels are monstrous, body movements are kept tightly in check, and the near-perfect 50-50 weight distribution means the car feels tremendously well balanced as it changes direction. The steering is fast and ultra-responsive, but without feeling twitchy or nervous, so you need little more than the merest flick of your wrists to place the car accurately on the road. If we’ve one complaint, it’s that you get neither the weight nor the feedback through the wheel to immediately give you the confidence to push the car in corners. You have to work up to it, learning the car’s grip levels and satisfying your mind that the car will stick as you attack the corner. Spend a little time getting to know your car, though, and it’ll never fail to thrill you. Is it quite as deft as featherweight rivals such as the Alpine A110 or Porsche 718 Cayman? No, not quite. But the thing is, it’s not far off, and those rivals don’t allow you to bring three mates along for the ride.
What engines and gearboxes are available in the BMW M2?
The regular 2 Series comes with a choice of engines, but the range-topping M2 comes with just one, and when it’s such a belter, you don’t need any more than that. It’s a derivation of the same 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbo petrol engine found in the bigger M3 and M4, but slightly detuned to develop 454bhp, sending it all to the rear wheels via a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox, or a six-speed manual if you’re prepared to pay extra (yes, you read that right, the manual costs extra).
The numbers on their own make for very compelling reading. Select a car with the automatic gearbox, and the 0-62mph dash comes and goes in just 4.1 seconds. Equip your car with the manual, and that’s extended slightly to 4.3, but stirring through the ratios with a manual shifter does add an extra level of engagement that’s missing from the automatic, as well as many of the M2’s auto-only rivals, making this quite a novel offering in the sector. Top speed is limited to 155mph, but that’s raised to 177mph if you add the optional M Driver’s Package.
To heck with the numbers, though, because they’re only good for pub bragging rights. It’s how that speed makes you feel that’s important, and the good news is that the sensation of speed feels every bit as breathtaking as the numbers suggest. But not all the time, and in a very good way.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing is how docile and usable the car is when you’re just bimbling around town. At low revs, the engine is tractable and easy to modulate, keeping life easy and relaxed. However, let the revs build a bit, and the engine responds in a totally proportionate way, with more and more aggressive grunt being delivered the more the revs pile on. If you’re brave enough to rev it out to its 7,200rpm limit, then you’ll love the sensation of being whiplashed towards the horizon, while the engine screams mechanical melodies into your eardrums.
The M2 we tried was fitted with the manual gearbox. It’s smooth and satisfying most of the time, and although really fast gear changes can cause it to stumble a bit, it’s still an appealingly engaging experience. The throttle response is also as sharp and as quick as you’d want or expect, while the brakes - happily - deliver mighty stopping power.
Refinement and noise levels
You’ll have no complaints about the refinement of the engine. It’s smooth and quiet when it’s not being worked hard, and a sensory delight when it’s spinning as the makers intended. It’s definitely the thing that dominates in this area. Wind noise is reasonably well contained, but there is a fair amount of road noise being kicked up at the national limit. Then again, peer underneath the car at the incredible width of the tyres, and you’ll probably be surprised that there isn’t more.
Safety equipment: How safe is the BMW M2?
The BMW 2 Series Coupe was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2022, and achieved a four-star rating, which is no disgrace as the testing standards become more and more stringent every year, and the latest ones are exceedingly hard to ace.
The M2 comes with a variety of electronic driver aids as standard. As well as all the usual electronic stability and traction aids, you also get front collision warning with brake intervention, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, speed limit display and driver attention alert. You also get a Parking Assistant that gives a rear-view camera and front- and rear parking sensors, plus cruise control with brake function. However, proper active cruise control is an optional extra, which is a bit mean at this money. Other optional safety systems include the Driving Assistant package, which adds rear cross traffic alert with brake intervention, and lane change warning.
You wouldn’t expect any car with 454bhp and supercar levels of performance to cost you a pittance in fuel, so it’ll come as no surprise that the M2 has a bit of a thirst. According to official figures, it’ll return an average figure of up to around 29mpg, and this applies regardless of whether you choose the automatic transmission or the manual.
Do bear in mind, though, that these figures are gleaned from laboratory tests in which the cars are treated very, very gently. Your return when driving in normal conditions in the real world is likely to be considerably less, and the second you give in to temptation and unleash the engine’s full force, your instant average will plunge, most likely into single figures. And that’s precisely what you’re likely to do on a reasonably regular basis, otherwise it’s pointless having a car like the M2.
How reliable is the BMW M2?
Take a look at the latest HonestJohn.co.uk Satisfaction Index, and you might be fairly encouraged. In the overall customer satisfaction standings, BMW placed 12th out of the 29 manufacturers considered, putting it above average and out-performing rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz. This generation of 2 Series wasn’t namechecked specifically in the reliability assessments, but we’d hope that this latest iteration of the car would prove to be fairly durable.
Insurance groups and costs
All cars have an insurance classification that runs from group 1 (the cheapest grouping) to group 50 (the most expensive). The M2 sits in group 42, and that’s whether you go for the manual version or the automatic. Premiums won’t exactly be cheap, then, but given its lofty price and huge power output, you might have expected its grouping to be a little higher. Interestingly, though, the bigger, pricier, and even more powerful BMW M3 actually sits in a lower insurance group, with classifications starting at group 41 for rear-wheel drive Competition models.
VED car tax: What is the annual road tax on a BMW M2?
Despite its prodigious power, the M2 is subject to the same flat rate of VED road tax as any other petrol-powered car, which stands at £180 per year. Do be aware, however, that because the car costs more than £40,000 to buy new, it’s classed as a luxury car by the exchequer, meaning that you must pay an additional surcharge on top of that annual rate for five years, between years two and six of the car’s life. That surcharge amounts to £390, taking your annual road tax bill for that period up to £570.
Prices for brand new examples of the M2 start at around the £65,000 mark, and that’s before you specify any optional extras. Rivals such as the Porsche 718 Cayman and Alpine A110 can be had for marginally less, but these versions will have considerably less power than the M2, and choosing a Porsche with anything like a comparable output will cost you considerably more.
Unfortunately, the M2 is still relatively new, so used examples are still very few and far between, and those there are haven’t had the chance to shed much of their value yet. And comparatively, we don’t expect that to change too much over time. Small M cars tend to be among the most resolute when holding onto their value, and because the M2 could possibly be the last M car without electrification, it could have a certain historical value that might well see it becoming a collector’s item. Whatever happens, it’s unlikely you’ll get one at a pinch.
Trim levels and standard equipment
We’ve already talked about all the performance-enhancing kit that the M2 gets, along with the specifications when it comes to infotainment and safety, all of which are critically important in the modern sports car market. There are a few additional items of luxury equipment provided as standard, though. These include three-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, ambient lighting, powered and heated door mirrors, plus powered and heated front seats.
A variety of option packs are available. The M Driver’s pack increases the car’s top speed and gives you a session of dedicated BMW driver training, while the M Race Track package gives you that package plus a whole array of additional carbon fibre parts, including the M Carbon seats we mentioned earlier.