BMW has a reputation for making small, fast cars. The BMW M3 has a reputation worldwide for being one of the best handling and driving sports cars on sale. The M235i is not a proper M car like the M3 or M4, but does handle well and has plenty of power to keep enthusiasts happy.

The 2 Series is the smallest car BMW currently sells in the United States. Both the 228i and M235i are front-engine, rear-wheel drive coupes. Even though the M235i isn’t tuned by BMW’s M division, there are 16 M badges on the car to try to convince you otherwise.

2014 BMW M235i

They don’t have to do too much convincing, the M235i makes 320hp from its turbocharged straight-six engine and is capable of running from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. We think that number is conservative; it wouldn’t surprise us to see it doing in around four seconds.

A buyer can choose from either a 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed automatic. Both are a zero cost option. The one we drove came with the 8-speed and it’s one of the best automatic transmissions we’ve ever driven. When in the Sport+ setting, shifts are lightning quick from the paddles. Launch control is available to help get off the line quickly.

Despite not having the M Performance differential from a proper M car, the M235i handles well on the track. The electric power steering is precise, and applying a bit of extra throttle will cause the back end to break loose. It’s a very capable dance partner on the track or a winding mountain road. We drove the M235i back-to-back with an M5 on Road America, and we enjoyed the M235i more compared to the more powerful M5. The car feels lighter and more balanced.

The M235i has an adaptive suspension that makes the car more comfortable when driving on the street, and stiffens it up when the driving gets curvy. If you are careful, you can get 32 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission.

BMW M235i

The M235i starts at $43,100. For that you get the great engine and transmission, and not much else. If you want leather you’ll need to add $1,450; for navigation, $2,150. If you want an automatically dimming interior rear-view mirror (something standard on most $20,000 cars), you’re looking at the $2,300 Premium Package. The only color that doesn’t require a $550 premium is white.

All in, you can spend $53,660 on the M235i. Our sample had just leather and the cold weather package and was $46,575. It may seem expensive for a small car with two doors, but if you care about the driving experience first and foremost,┬áit’s the best car BMW currently has on sale, and one of the best cars you can buy.

We liked our brief time in the BMW M235i and anxiously await the future. A fully-tuned M2 will be coming next year that should take this already impressive car and make it better. We can’t wait.

Motor Review Fast Facts:
Manufacturer: BMW
Model: M235i
Trim Package: N/A
Fuel Economy: 22mpg city / 32mpg highway / 25mpg combined
Engine: 3.0L Turbo I6 with DoubleVanos
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
Horsepower and Torque: 320hp and 330lbs/ft
Base Price: $43,100
Price as Tested: $46,575
Pros: Fast. Great automatic transmission. Good handling.
Cons: No way you can buy one without spending extra.
Final Thoughts: If you care about driving, this is the best BMW currently on sale.
Vehicle provided by manufacturer for review.