2022 Audi A3 40 TFSI Quattro vs. 2022 BMW 230i Coupe: Two little bits of fun.
This week: 2022 BMW 230i Coupe
Price: $46,570 as tested. Premium Package added heated seats, LED headlights, and more for $2,650. Blue paint added $550. More noted throughout.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “Turbo six’s really quick acceleration, ride and handling are even better, solid performance value,” but not that there’s “no manual transmission option, no convertible body style, backseat is somehow smaller than it was.”
Marketer’s pitch: “Conquer every corner with a compact sports coupé designed for the driving enthusiast.”
Reality: Quite fun, but able to best the A3?
What’s new: The 2 Series — the 230i plus the M240i — gets a redesign for the 2022 model year, with more powerful engines, improved driving dynamics, and better insides and sound, according to BMW’s marketing literature.
The top-down version of the 2 Series has left the lineup, which is a sad state of affairs.
Up to speed: This is what BMW is all about, and the 2 Series doesn’t disappoint: 2.0-liter turbo four creates 255 horsepower and gets to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, according to BMW.
The M240i comes with a turbo inline six and cuts that number down to 4.1 seconds, but it adds $12,000 to the base price, reaching beyond the realm of the A3 tested.
On the road: The rear-wheel drive 230i tested came with M Sport Package’s variable sport steering ($3,250) and the Dynamic Handling Package ($1,900).
For $5,000, buyers get some real driving delight. Even Comfort mode was pretty good — at least until I got on the straightaway. There, the 2 Series seemed prone to wander, so I switched back to Sport mode and felt more at ease.
Still, the 2 Series with XDrive (what BMW calls its all-wheel drive system) that I drove for 2015 struck me as having much better handling and being much more fun, so it might be worth springing for an all-wheel-drive version.
The Audi A3 was the Quattro, and it did all the road handling far better.
Shifty: The 8-speed Sport Auto transmission gives drivers full shiftability from the lever or from paddles. It works wonderfully in almost any mode, although pairing Sport mode and automatic shift control seemed a little jousty.
Driver’s Seat: Aahh. A comfy place to sit awaits the 2 Series owner. As a coupé, the seat sits way far up, so getting inside in a tight parking space can be uncomfortable.
Friends and stuff: A German word of the day I ran across during test time was wohlstandsverwahrlosung, defined as a state of decay that results from having it too easy for too long, leading you to selfishly compare your own petty grievances and mediocre accomplishments to the pain and struggle of people who know the meaning of real problems.
Complaining about front-seat entry if you have any rear-seat passengers might be a good example of the above word. But, surprisingly, it was not that bad to climb in back.
The seat glides forward after pulling the manual lever to release the seat back. Entry and exit are not the worst I’ve experienced. (I’m glaring at you, Land Rover Defender 90.)
Once there, the seat itself has adequate if snug legroom and foot room, but headroom is poor — Mr. Driver’s Head pressed firmly against the ceiling. Advantage, Audi A3.
Trunk space is 10 cubic feet, and the seat folds down for more space. Slight advantage to the A3.
Play some tunes: The Harman Kardon surround sound ($875) provides very good sound, about an A-. I could hear pieces of songs I normally miss, but it didn’t have that last extra oomph that a great sound system needs.
Advantage, A3 as well.
Keeping warm and cool: Dials control temperature and buttons control everything else. Is nobody going to give us the old Volkswagen three-dial setup anymore? It would appear not. It seems that would save money and energy.
Night shift: I never got to try out the bendy headlights on the real world.
Fuel economy: I averaged about 23 mpg in the fast-paced test mainly on country roads near home.
Where it’s built: San Luis Potosí, Mexico
How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the 2 Series reliability to be a 3 out of 5, a match for the A3.
In the end: Whether the 2 Series with XDrive would match the A3 is immaterial; the Audi provides just a much more memorably joyful experience for a comparatively bargain price.
And the backseat is roomier.