The BMW 230i is a great economy car. That’s like telling your friend that the blind date you’re setting him up with has a great personality. In this case, this really is a compliment. We found a lot to like about the new BMW 230i, highlighted by its outstanding fuel economy.

The exterior dimensions of the 230i have grown since the last generation. It is 4.3 inches longer, 2.6 inches wider, 1.0 inch lower, and has a 2.0 inch longer wheelbase. It looks aggressive and nimble and many people thought it was an M2 at first. It is certainly a good-looking car and we like that it is understated and does not look like it is trying too hard. It also does not have the huge kidney grills of some of the other BMWs that have been so controversial.

The contoured headlights each have a single individual circular full LED headlight. Our car had the adaptive LED headlights, which responded to steering angle. Their cornering light function can also “look ahead” using data from the navigation system data in order to illuminate the road as effectively as possible. On a dark twisty road, we found that the headlights worked amazingly well.

Behind the headlights resides a 2.0-liter turbo four cylinder engine. It features a twin-scroll turbocharger, aluminum block and alloy cylinder head with integrated exhaust manifold, direct fuel injection and a split-cooling system for the engine block. The result is an engine that produces 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, an increase of 7 horsepower and 37 pound-feet of torque over the previous model. An eight-speed automatic transmission is the only available transmission and the combination is good for 0-60 in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.

The front suspension of the 230i is a double-joint strut that has been used in BMWs for the past 20 years or so. A five-link suspension is fitted to the back, which helps to ensure precise wheel location thanks to the stiffness of its subframe and suspension arms. The rigidity of the components used in the two-joint strut front suspension brings even more precise front wheel control with aluminum suspension arms and swivel bearings which also reduce unsprung mass.

The introduction of a new generation of wheel bearings cuts weight by around 6 pounds compared with the predecessor and also reduce friction levels by up to 45 percent. Our car had the optional M Sport suspension with stiffer dampers and springs and was fitted with 225/40-19 Pirelli P Zero tires in front and 255/35-19 in the back that provided terrific amount of grip and feedback. The 230i is also fitted with an aluminum hood and front fenders to reduce weight at the front of the vehicle for improved front-rear weight distribution.

On a twisty road, the 230i proved to be a fun partner. The suspension and Pirelli tires work very well together and the car is a lot of fun to play with. It has gentle understeer at the limit which improves your confidence and the rear end stays planted and doesn’t surprise you. The steering is a bit numb but has been improved and does provide some feedback.

Our car also had the optional M Sport brakes with front fixed four piston calipers and rear floating single piston calipers. We pounded the brakes as hard as we could and they never faded or got too hot. The pedal remained hard time after time which is not something that you will see on many cars. Now we were not on a race track stopping from 120 mph but still the fact that the brakes could take the punishment was great to see.

The engine has to move around 3,500 pounds of 230i but does it with ease. While it is not super car quick, the 230i is plenty fast for street use and it has enough power to make things fun. BMW has much quicker versions of this car but those cost a lot more. The 230i is actually the sweet spot. The best part is that the 230i thinks it is an economy car with outstanding fuel economy. The EPA says that the 230i is good for 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Even with our aggressive driving we managed 35 mpg easily. It will probably be easy to get 45 mpg if you had a lighter right foot.

While you don’t have to pay a lot for gas when driving the 230i, you don’t have to pay a lot to own a 230i either. The base price is $36,350. Our car had about $10,000 worth of options, most of which you could skip. This is a lot of car for $36,350. It is a lot of fun and it feels luxurious and well made and the fuel economy is amazing.


Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder
Horsepower: 255 @ 5,000 – 6,500 rpm
Torque: 295 @ 1,550 – 4,400 rpm
Front Suspension: Two-joint McPherson strut
Rear Suspension: Five-link independent
Transmission: Eight-speed sport automatic
Axle Ratio: 2.81:1
Curb Weight: 3,519 lbs.
Base MSRP: $36,350


Image courtesy of BMW USA

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