Car Reviews

2015 BMW 220i Convertible review

Robert Pepper’s 2015 BMW 220i convertible  review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

Editor's Rating

How we rated the 2015 BMW 220i Convertible 97%
It may not have an M badge, but the BMW 220i is very much a driver's car yet one that is easy and practical to live with on a day to day basis. The driving dynamics, thoroughly practical yet stylish design and overall quality make it great value even compared against cheaper rivals of the same size, but if you just want lots of the very latest gadgets there are other options for the price.
97

 

On the outside

If you took the badge off many cars then the average punter would often be hard-pressed to identify the manufacturer.  No so with BMW, and to be fair, most of the other European marques.  Like it or love it, the 220 is instantly identifiable as a Bimmer and nobody considered it a bad look either.
 
The roof is a soft-top canvas, not a hard-top.  This makes little difference to noise or warmth, but it is not as secure because such tops can be knifed open.  The roof takes 20 seconds to fold away or restore, and there is a single button press to do it, no manual effort.  Maximum speed for the open/close operation is a pretty speedy 50km/h. The boot is lockable and can only be unlocked with the key, so it is a secure area when the top is down.  This test was over winter, so we can’t say how hot the car would get with the black roof…but in summer you’d open it up anyway!
 
bmw-220-profile
There is a wind deflector to reduce buffeting which has to be manually installed and goes over the rear seats, making the car a two-seater.  The deflector stows away into the boot when not needed.   In certain conditions above about 70km/h we found the front seatbelts on both sides to flutter slightly in the wind, not unsafely or particularly uncomfortably, but an irritant nevertheless.  The deflector made no difference to that problem or had any effect our occupants noted.
deflector
Wind deflector. We were unable to detect any difference with or without.
The bonnet is very easy to open, a double-pull on the release and then it’s up, no fiddling around for a latch under the bonnet, and it is gas-strutted.  This marks the first time I’m going to mention all the little practical and stylish design touches that make this BMW stand out from the crowd and it will not be the last.  
 
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Room & Practicality

The 220 is not a large car, but you don’t sit too close to the other front-seat occupant.  The general feeling is of compactness but not claustrophobia.  There is a storage compartment on the right of the steering wheel, and a centre console which is fairly shallow but still useful.  The glovebox is well designed and has some space left over once the owner’s manual is accounted for.
 
The rear seats are as easy to access as these things get in a two-door car of this size, one lever at the top of the seat which then tilts and slides forwards.  There are four seats, and the rear two have very good legroom considering the overall size of the car, although most adults will run out of headroom (with the top up!)
 
Even though this is a small four-seater three-door the rear seat occupants are looked after.  There is a 12v socket in the back, heating/cooling controls, a double drinks holder (removeable), seat pockets on both rear seats and even a tiny armrest – this is more gear than you find in the back of some family-oriented sedans and wagons.  The headrests are adjustable too.  There we go again with the small but important points which you find all over the BMW and serve to make it worth the asking price.
 
You can fold the second row down for extra storage space, and that reveales a hatch so you can store something long (1.7m) and thin. 
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A bit more storage space, with a hatch for longer items. More views in the photo gallery at the end of this article.
 

The soft-top storage system does intrude into the top of cargo area, but the boot space is adequate for the travelling bags of a couple of people.  The car passed our school run test – it took all our bags, and the kids didn’t feel embarrassed climbing out of it although apparently having the top down is “showy off” and that’s, like, bad.
 
The cargo area has some robust tie-down points, even a 12v socket, a little compartment with a net and an elastic strap all for making life easier to hold things down.  Again, this is the BMW attention to detail.  Cheaper cars just have a simple space with no thought to little practicalities.
 
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The net is for the wind deflector, but would be very useful for everything else. We’ve stuck a set of brake pads behind the strap, and the net to the right has a first-aid kit. There’s warning triangle on the underside of the bootlid, and there’s other tie-down points. So, not much space, but what there is can be well utilised.

On the inside

A seven-degree, dark Melbourne early evening is not the best time to enjoy a convertible, but the interests of Practical Motoring readers come first so I put the roof and windows down and set forth across the city and onto the freeway.  With the seats heated ($750 option on this model) and hot air blowing I was comfortable enough, although there’s no warm airscarf feature.  Next up was a phonecall, so I called one friend and we could hear each other even in rush hour traffic.  Then another friend called and we chatted while I cruised at 100km/h in freeway traffic, again with everything down.
 
As with any modern car there is central and remote locking, as well as a push-button keyless start.  BMW have not yet added keyless entry to this spec level, so you need to press a button to unlock it as opposed to merely grasp the doorhandle.  You have to press a button again to lock the car.  This is kind of the ultimate first-world whinge, but for nearly $60k in a BMW you’d expect it to have features which are common on cars for a lot less money.
 
The owners manual is brilliant.  Better written and laid out than the average, and also available online within the car.  Even better, the online system is actually usuable, and even has a limited ‘picture mode’ where you select the part of the car you’re interested in and up comes the manual.  But the BMW is so well designed you don’t often need to refer to the manual, which is rare these days for a premium vehicles.
 
top2
Owner’s manual. Bottom left shows the picture version where you select bits of the car that interest you. Top left shows the engine, and from there you can get to things like jumpstart instructions (yes, ironic, but useful). You can also use the iDrive dial to spin through the index. One of the better online manuals, and the way things are (and should be) going.
BMW have decided against a trendy touch screen and instead gone for a display controlled by a dial and buttons called iDrive. After due consideration, I think they’re right and everybody else should follow suit.  The reason is that the dial can be easily spun to scroll, and you can operate the buttons and dials without looking. Voice control is included as it is on many cars these days, and it works reasonably well – it also learns your voice over time.
 
IMG_6868
iDrive. Spin the dial to select, press to confirm. The other buttons are easy enough to operate by feel so you can keep your eyes up. The button to the left operates the roof. That never gets old for a certain nine-year old girl…
 
The side pockets in the doors are normally a pain in smaller cars, but in this case they are quite spacious, easy to access and split into a few sub-sections which means that smaller items don’t slide all the way from front and rear under acceleration and braking.   Notice in the photo there’s a fifth window button?  It operates all four windows at once.  Yet again…those little touches!
 
sidepockets
 
Almost all the controls are lit at night, with exceptions being the driving mode.  However, with a little familiarity you’ll be able to operate everything by touch.  The interior light illuminates the interior very well.  All the controls are easy to use and reach. Ergonomically, the BMW just works.
 
There are two drinks holders up front, ahead of the gearshift (where such things should always be, because they otherwise interfere with your arm), but they’re filled with other holders.  These holders are removeable…and guess what, they slot nicely into one of the compartments on the door sidepocket.  One of the holders is made for the key, nice to have somewhere to stow it properly.
seats
So many options to adjust the seat!
 
The 220i has Profiles, which are setups that store pretty much all your preferences and settings; mirrors, seats, steering wheel, radio, driving modes and more.  You can have up to four profiles and easily switch between them, or even back them up to a USB key.  You can then take that key and insert it into another BMW and it’ll set everything your way, or keep it on BMW Online.  A brilliant system other manufacturers should copy.
 
USB-BMW
Here is my BMW Profile. I can take it to any other new BMW and it’ll be set up just the way I like it. The profile selection comes up when you start the car.
The overall interior design looks, feels and operates at the premium end of the scale.   There’s a bit of faux-woodgrain which many people hate, but in this car it kind of works as it’s fairly subtle.
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A very pleasant place to spend your time.
I’ve just finished testing a long line of Japanese cars and this BMW is like barista-made coffee after a month on instant.

Performance, ride and handling

Around town
With the 220 in Eco or Comfort mode it is an easy, enjoyable drive.  You will never want for grip nor power, and every roundabout becomes a minor pleasure.  The gearbox always has the right gear ahead of time, the car is quite happy trundling around a very little revs and from the first corner it is clear the 220i is neutral and well balanced.
 
When you come to park and look over your shoulder you see what is perhaps the world’s largest C-pillar blocking your view and is the single biggest annoyance of the whole vehicle.  Well, apart from the flapping seatbelt.  Lucky there is a reversing camera which has wheel guidelines that change as you wind steering lock on and off.
 
At freeway speeds the 220 is a bit noisy, as you’d expect given it is a soft-top convertible, but it’s by no means unlivable.  The cruise control is easy to use and adjust, showing the target speed on the speedo itself, and when changed it displays the target as a digital display.  Even today not all manufacturers manage to get simple things like this right.
 
There is a self-park mode for parallel parking only (extra option for $ 462).  Hit the Park button, cruise along, and then you’re straight into it.  Compared to most others the system easy and quick to use although manually parking is still quicker.
 
BMW love their “Efficient Dynamics”and an example of that is when braking kinetic energy is used to charge the battery, which also helps slow the car and thus slightly preserves the brakes.  Conversely, when you accelerate the battery is not charged (and aircon is switched off) so the maximum power of the engine can be devoted to moving your forwards.
 
If the streets are flooded BMW say you can drive the 220i through water up to 250mm deep at a speed of no more than 5km/h.  It’s this sort of detail that makes reading the owner’s manual so worthwhile and would be a great conversation starter at a party.
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This is what it’s all about. Convertibles are just great fun. This one has good heating so works even on relatively cool days.
 
On the move

I am sometimes asked why people buy BMWs which, compared to many other cars, are under-specified for gadgets and features for the money.

These askers are people that have not driven a BMW.
 
BMW make much of their focus on the driver, and with the 220 that started the moment I got in.  The seat and steering wheel were perfectly adjustable, and while the seat was mostly manual the one electric control was the wings which provide torso support.  The steering wheel itself is a delight, tactile, smallish and while there are buttons they are never in the way.  There is even an extendable support for your lower thighs on the front seats, although I struggle to visualise the shape of body that would need it.  
 
The summary is the 220i is a true driver’s car, a proper sports car, and now we will split the review.   Driving nerds who want a detailed explanation read on, the rest of you can skip to Quality.
 
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Driving detail

Hello, nerds. 

Most cars that claim to be sporty have, if you’re lucky, a single sport mode.  And all that does is change the gearshift point so the car changes up later and changes down earlier.  Manufacturers call that ‘sporty’, I call it tokenism or by another name, marketing.

Here again we have the BMW difference.  There are four modes, called Driving Experience Control:
  • Eco – optimised for fuel efficiency.  Use it  when you are pretending to be environmentally friendly.  Unlike some eco modes the car can actually move beyond the pace of a elderly snail and not hold up traffic.
  • Comfort – default setting
  • Sport – basic sports mode 
  • Sport+ – advanced  sports mode, also desensitizes stability control 
The modes change the car’s Chassis settings (steering feel and stability control) and Drivetrain (throttle response, transmission shift points).  There are three stability control settings (DSC in BMW-speak).  There’s the default of fully on, Sport which is selected by a single press of the button where DSC is still on but restricted in operation and completely off accessed by a long press.  Selecting the Sport+ mode changes DSC to Sport.  
 
In Sport and Sport+ modes the gearshift is made deliberately jerkier. I could say this so you know for sure the gear has changed, but it’s probably more to do with creating a sense of excitement.  Either way, it does add to the experience.  In the other modes shifting is undetectably smooth.  
 
If you select manual control of the gearbox in Sport mode when you floor the accelerator the car will, if possible, downshift.  It will also shift up at redline.  In Sport+ mode there’s none of that, the car will not shift up at redline but bounce off the revlimiter, and it’ll stay in gear if you floor the accelerator.  That is the way it should be for an automatic sports car.
 
You can use paddles to change gear, and it is possible to multiple-tap the paddles to skip-shift several gears at a time. If you prefer to change gears using the stick that is possible too, with pull back for upshift and forwards for downshift. This is not only a personal preference, it’s handy if you need to change gear with a full turn of lock on where paddles that turn with the wheel (the worst kind) can be clumsy.
 
If you turn DSC completely (long press) the rear differential automatically locks up, which is great for traction out of corners or drifting.  To my eternal regret I am unable to report on how well the 220 drifts, but from the gearing, handling the lockable diff I’d take an educated guess that it does sideways pretty well.  If you want to find our for yourself I can recommend from experience the excellent BMW Driver Training which now includes the M235i, or maybe a bit of snow driving in NZ, although that’s all xDrive.  Still sideways and smiling though.
 
A note to all other car manufacturers – the above is what makes a sports car, not pretentious, cosmetic affectations like flat-bottomed steering wheels.  It is a shame that the average 220 convertible will probably just trundle from inner-city apartment to hole-in-wall coffee shop to cellar door and never be used for the sort of sports driving it is so clearly designed to handle.
 
So, a lot of driving tech.  Is it any good?
 
Absolutely yes.  Even at suburban speeds you can feel the BMW difference, the quickness and directness of feel, the beautifully neutral and balanced handling.  This is why there are BMW fan clubs.  Everything just works; gears, brakes, steering, seats.  It rapid within the limitations of 135kW, a real “catch up in the corners” car where you can maintain surprising pace.  And it’s fun too, as many cars these days are pacey but not all are involving.  It’s not at the level of the best sportmobiles like M-cars or Porsches though. 
 
Improvements?  The engine is very linear, effective but not exciting, and there’s absolutely no noise to go with the fun.  That’s about it.  And while it’s a great drive, it could be better if it was that smidge more involving, leaving that little bit more for the driver to do.  I get the sense that would come at higher speeds and more demanding driving, but public roads are not the place for such play.
 
I’ve also got to invent a new driving dynamics term to describe the 220.  It is  ‘neutral understeer’ – stay with me, it’s not the contradiction it appears.   Every roadcar can be made to understeer, and rear-drive BMWs are no exception.  The difference here is that while I had to use more lock to maintain the desired radius of turn, the car actually tracked neutrally – it didn’t run wide.  I don’t think this is down to anything special on the chassis or suspension, good though they are, I credit it to the electronics doing their thing. Usually I can pick up when the electronics are coming in to help the driver, but this time I couldn’t.  This is actually an important point, because while all cars these days have stability control and traction control, the amount of effort that goes into the design and calibration varies a great deal from manufacturer to manufacturer.  There’s only a few manufacturers of the base electronic systems which are then resold (and rebranded) to the various manufacturers, and I know from working with them that some cars pretty much have the systems slapped on with minimal effort so the maker can claim they’re on, whereas other are considerably more fine-tuned.  I know BMW falls into this latter category.
 
Finally, the 220i has launch control.  It’s easy enough to set up, but the sort of gizmo you use once then never again, at least in a 4-cylinder 135kW car that has no engine note of note.
 
 
bmw-220-side
The metallic paint option ($ 1142 ) changes colour a bit dependent on the lighting. Looks pretty good though. You might consider black wheels to go with the black roof…but with the top down there’s beige up top…decisions, decisions!

Quality

Very few cars are poorly built these days, but vehicles like this raise the bar on quality.  Everything about the BMW is solid, practical and looks set to last the distance.  It is a true premium vehicle.
 

Pricing & Equipment

Our test car is the 220i convertible which is the cheapest in the range at $54,900 plus onroads.  You can step up to the 228 (read our review) with a 2L 180kW engine for a hefty premium to total $68,900 which gets you from 0-100 in 6 seconds as opposed to 7.6.  Beyond that there’s the 3L 6-cylinder M235i, 240kW and 0-100 in 5 seconds for $85,800.  That car is 90kg heavier than the base model, and is not rated for towing, which I suspect will not lose BMW too many customers.
 
BMW has a dizzying array of extras packs and individual options so it’d be wise to budget for some of those according to your preferences, and then look at whether or not you’re better off moving into the next model up.  The more powerful models do come with some extra fruit, not just a bigger engine.  A six-speed manual transmission is available as a no-cost option.
 
Don’t forget the 220 coupe (hardtop).  These are about $4000-$6000 cheaper than the convertibles, and a bit lighter which translates into quicker acceleration, better handling and fuel economy – the 220i coupe does 0-100 in 7.0 seconds and fuel economy s 6.0L/100km, compared to the convertible’s 7.6 and 6.4.  You can also expect a fair bit more boot space in the coupe.
 
I think the 220 is great value – high quality, practical, wonderful dynamics and quick enough to enjoy on public roads.   The value for money equations rapidly gets questionable with the higher spec models because BMW are asking for a lot more coin in return for a distinctly less-that-proportional increase in performance.  If you intend to take your 220 onto the racetrack – and I would strongly suggest you do, the car would be just brilliant – then the higher power models make sense. If on the other hand you intend to stick to public roads then the 220 is quite the bundle of fun and sufficiently powerful to enjoy on any country road within the speed limits, provided you come from the school of thought that true driving pleasure is in the corners more than on the straights.  There may not be an M badge on the car, but don’t think for a moment this little Beemer is anything other than a driver’s car.
 
Our test car had the heated seat option at $750.  I would recommend heated seats for all convertibles in Melbourne.

Safety

The 220 hasn’t been rated by ANCAP, but we expect it’d score 5 stars.  There is no spare, just runflats which means punctures are going to be a problem unless you have replacement tyres near by.
 
There are ISOFIX child restraint points in both rear seats, and normal rear child restraint tethers which are accessed via a zip in the rear seats.  Not that this car is really designed for such work, but it’s as good as any other small two-door.
 
A reversing camera with guidelines that show where the wheels will go is standard, but there is none of the latest safety tech such as active cruise control, AEB or blind-spot warnings on this model.   Essentially, if you buy a BMW you’re paying for the quality and dynamics, and you can’t also expect all the gadgets unless you step up another price point. 
 
There is a roll-over protection system in the convertible so you’re protected by more than just the windscreen frame. 
 
The 220 includes Intelligent Emergency Call which connects to the emergency services in the event of airbag deployment via a phone system independent of your mobile.
 
 
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The 220 is quite at home in this sort of country. It likes corners.

2015 BMW 220i convertible

PRICE : from $54,900  (+ORC) base model (refer below for as-tested)

WARRANTY : 3 years / 150,000 km

SAFETY :  Not rated

ENGINE : 4-cyl 2.0L petrol TWIN-SCROLL turbo

POWER : 135 kW at 5000-6250 rpm

TORQUE : 270 Nm at 1250-4500rpm

0-100km/h :  7.6 seconds

TRANSMISSION : 8-speed automatic with paddle shifts

DRIVE :  Rear wheel drive, eco, normal and two sports modes

BODY :  4432mm (L);  1774mm (W),  1413mm (H)

TURNING CIRCLE :  10.9m

WEIGHT :  1530 kg

SEATS: 4

TOWING : 750kg unbraked, 1200kg braked

FUEL TANK : 52 litres

SPARE : none, runflats

THIRST : 6.4L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle

FUEL : 95 RON recommended.  Can run on 91.  Performance figures valid for 98 RON.

Test car options

  • Metallic paint, $1142
  • Interior trim, Fine-wood ‘Fineline Pure’ with Oxide Silver matt accents, $385
  • Upholstery, Dakota leather with sun reflective technology, $1692
  • Visibility Package, $2500
  • Wind deflector, $438
  • Seat heating, $577
  • Park Distance Control (PDC), front, $269
  • Parking Assistant, $462
  • ConnectedDrive Freedom, $923
TOTAL OPTIONS: $8,338
 
Out of that lot the only ones we’d definitely recommend are the heated seats. 

Total price as tested: $63,288

 
IMG_6925
 

 BMW 220i convertible photo gallery

 
 

 

 

 

 


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Scotty Weir
Scotty Weir
5 years ago

I was an early convert to the 2 series, purchasing a 220D coupe shortly after release. Very happy and I’ll go along with everything you have said. It has been to one “Happy Laps” day and acquitted itself exceptionally well against a 328i and kept a few others honest. I’m not in the market for a convertible but if I was, this would be it. Extras, at least get the front Park Distance Control (PDC) to keep you from beating up high kerbs. Enjoy, I did.

E_Zach
E_Zach
4 years ago

This Bimmer looks sweet, sleek and elegant. Btw my drop top is also mounted with a similar wind deflector named Windblox windscreen to tackle the wind buffeting and wind noise. However, I must confess that this wind blocker has made my top down drives noise-free and enjoyable.

Deepak Eapen
Deepak Eapen
4 years ago

The wind deflector surely renders the rear seats unusable but it’s such an equipment that a roadster owner can’t live without. I have mounted a Windblox windblocker after enduring the wind noise and wind swirls for quite a while. Now my cabin is super quiet even at highway velocities.

Jacobi Seymour
Jacobi Seymour
4 years ago

This Bimmer is no doubt sporty and handsome! But I was under the impression that the wind blocker was automatic, something along the lines of the Airscarf found in Mercs. But this is just like the removable Zefferus wind deflector that I have mounted on my cabrio. But I must admit that after the wind blocker is installed, my cabin has become hush and tranquil even at highway velocities.

Geoff Simpson
Geoff Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Jacobi Seymour

Yeah, a wind deflector is quintessential equipment for every roadster. My ride is affixed with a Windblox windscreen. Now there’s no wind throb to whack my noggin, plus I can enjoy rear stereo speakers in all its fullness.

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper