For some though, the replacement for the 1-series coupe and later cabriolet (F23) was viewed as anything but a modern day 2002, although on the other side of the coin, others would dispute this by citing the M235i/M240i and of course the M2 as the pinnacle of the ultimate driving machine.
While said models, as editor Sean Nurse recently found out with the M240i M Performance, represent the very top of the 2-series range, performance is not always the key factor with a comfy, good looking and indeed efficient mile muncher rating as the biggest must have. The 220d, therefore, can be viewed as the sensible man’s 2-series.
Minor changes with an M Sport touch
As with the rest of the 2-series range, the sole oil-burning model was subjected to the mildest of facelifts in mid-2017, with new alloy wheel designs, slightly wider kidney grilles, larger air intakes, bi-LED headlights and new LED tail lamps being the sole changes.
In the case of our rather sinister looking Mineral Grey Metallic tester though, the look was further complimented by the optional M Sport pack that added double-spoke Jet Black 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome detailing, an M Sport specific body kit, M Sport suspension and a subtle M boot spoiler.
An office you want to be in
The interior differences are more prominent and consist of a new instrument cluster, the now familiar protruding iDrive infotainment display and upgraded materials as well as trim.
Speaking of materials, the 220d came fitted with the rather interesting Dakota Cognac leather with brown highlights which not only complimented the gloss black and aluminium detailing beautifully, but also provided an airy feel no doubt helped by the optional sunroof.
As to be expected, faulting the 2-series for quality is hard with a quality tactile feel to the plastics and a simple yet sophisticated look. What is also apparent is how far the previously criticised iDrive system has come as it now rates as one the best and most intuitive systems on the market, with the optional 8.8-inch display featuring the Navigation Professional setup that also adds Apple CarPlay, wireless smartphone charging and BMW ConnectDrive.
Fitted as standard with sport seats, the 220d’s cabin came as surprisingly spacious up front with just enough head and legroom, although those seated in the rear will feel cramped as the sloping roof does have an impact on headroom. Boot space is impressive though, probably as a result of there being no spare wheel as our model came fitted with run-flat tyres
Drivetrain an absolute peach
Press the start button, and you are greeted by a typical diesel clatter that settles down rather quickly, and then proceeds to haul you along rather well. With outputs of 140kW/400Nm, the 2.0-litre four-pot is an undoubted jewel and pulls so strongly from low down, that you would consider the claimed output to be conservative.
Another notable option is the sports optimised ZF-sourced eight-speed Steptronic gearbox, which goes about its business in a seamless fashion and harnesses the engine’s torque perfectly so that you are never left wanting for grunt when cruising or overtaking.
Diesel power means a road trip
As has become a tradition, a road trip into the heart of the country was in order and one which the 220d took without hassle. During the trip, which also included visits to Clarens, the 220d’s four-mode drive selector was left in Comfort mode, but spells in Sport and Sport+ with manual control taken of the gearbox proved surprising as the engine felt willing to rev and keen on not being a diesel.
Despite this, a consumption figure of 5.5-litres/100km was obtained throughout the weekend, which also included extensive use of the climate control and cruise control.
The 220d is certainly the sweet spot within the 2-series line-up by being the most balanced in terms of performance and economy. All this comes at a price though which appears reasonable at R545 800, yet our options loaded example came in at an eye-watering R698 200. Granted, while still cheaper than the equivalent 420d Steptronic, we would advise caution as the most sensible 2-series could easily become anything but rational.