Car Review: BMW's 228i Convertible is all freedom and style

BMW's 228i Convertible boasts better proportions and a smooth ride

The 2-series Coupe introduced last year was hailed as one of the most entertaining cars BMW has made in recent times. So I had high expectations of the convertible version.

First of all, there is its styling. The 2-series Convertible looks much better than the 1-series Convertible it replaces. Being wider, longer and with short overhangs, it possesses much better proportions.

Best of all, the stylists binned the sagging lines that used to characterise the side profile, and adopted neat lines along the lower body with a single upward sweeper of the side valence. The rear styling works well but it is the front that provides the best view. It makes the car look broader than it really is.

The 2-series Convertible is launched with four-cylinder engines, with three- and six-cylinder versions to follow.

The base engine now is a 2-litre turbocharged unit that is tuned to two levels - a 220i which produces 184bhp and a 228i with 245bhp.

Later, BMW will release a three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged engine with 136bhp in the form of the 218i. And of course, there will be an M235i Convertible - with a 326bhp turbocharged 3-litre inline-six.

I had the opportunity to drive only the 228i on the open roads around Austin.

First off, the canvas roof can be retracted fully in 20 seconds, and at speeds of up to 50kmh.

With body sturdiness improved by 20 per cent, the new convertible displays an impeccable ride quality with no discernible scuttle shake. Its softer suspension helps here, but its wide stance means it does not require punishingly stiff springs to reduce body roll in the first place.

The 228i comes with three pre-set drive modes. The ability to individually set the engine, transmission and suspension will be available only in the M models.

In Eco-Pro mode, the engine and transmission dynamics favour sedate behaviour. It includes a coasting function, where the transmission's torque converter disengages to allow drag-free coasting to boost fuel efficiency.

In Sport mode, the gearbox is put on notice for quick upshifts or to hang on to higher revs a bit more.

Normal or Comfort mode is a brilliant default setting which suits the 228i's character perfectly. The car's responsive ZF eight-speed gearbox helps in this respect.

The 228i's engine is punchy without being frenzied. It propels the car to 100kmh in six seconds and on to a regulated top speed of 250kmh - commendable for an engine of its size.

More impressively, it is claimed to have an average fuel consumption of 6.6 litres/100km, which is close to the 6.2 litres/100km of the 220i - a variant that takes considerably longer (7.5 seconds) to reach 100kmh from standstill.

The 228i is not overly sporty and has a fluid delivery. It has enough verve to keep things interesting and yet it offers an excellent ride where occupants are shielded from most road blemishes.

The hardcore driving enthusiast will no doubt prefer to wait for the M235i Convertible, which has a five-second 0-100kmh timing.

But for the vast majority, the 228i is a particularly sweet spot in the Convertible range with its brilliant blend of good looks and performance.

stlife@sph.com.sg

The writer is a regular contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.