RE: BMW M235i Gran Coupe vs. Hyundai i30 Fastback N

RE: BMW M235i Gran Coupe vs. Hyundai i30 Fastback N

Monday 23rd March

BMW M235i Gran Coupe vs. Hyundai i30 Fastback N

In the bizarre new niche between hot hatch and sports saloon, which is better?



Never let it be said that the average car buyer is short of choice nowadays. Just three years ago there was no Hyundai hot hatch at all, leave alone a riotously fun five-door, this new Fastback and a smaller i20 version on the way. By a similar token, the rise of modular architecture and part sharing means this 2 Series Gran Coupe's B48 engine is used in everything from a Mini GP to a Toyota Supra. There's even a choice of slightly odd, 306hp crossovers, with both Mini Countryman JCW and BMW X2 M35i using ostensibly the same mechanical bits.

All of which means there are new niches springing up almost every week. This i30 N and M235i sit in that coupe-cum-hatchback-cum-saloon segment arguably kicked off by the old Mercedes CLA. Don't expect them to be the last to occupy it, either, given the demand in both North America and Asia for four doors as opposed to the Euro-centric hatchback, even at the entry points to model line-ups.

It would be fair to say that the 2 Series Gran Coupe has had a tough time of it thus far, for reasons evident to anyone with the power of sight. However, it's worth noting from the off a few things that may have passed the casual observer/derider by. It's spookily close in size to an old 3 Series, for one. As the 3 Series has grown larger and more luxurious, it has left a space below for a more compact car to fill. And, let's be honest, did anyone need much more saloon than an E90 335i? This 2 Series matches its output to the horsepower (306), is just 6mm longer, 20mm narrower and exactly the same height; the new car isn't even a million miles away on kerb weight, at 1,570kg against 1,510.



So it's a rebooted old 3 Series for the 2020s, right? Well, not exactly. The missing cylinders and additional driven wheels see to that notion. But the point stands that the 2 GC should sit in quite a sweet spot for the UK in terms of performance, size and space. As a long distance device it's very respectable indeed, its driver surrounded by vivid displays and expensive materials while being appropriately isolated from the outside world. BMW's iDrive remains probably the best way of navigating modern infotainment, the driving position is spot-on and there's so much space compared to the old 1 and 2 Series that sharing a name does it a disservice - tell people this was a 3 Series interior and most probably wouldn't contest it.

As a more serious driving device, it's key to separate what the M235i Gran Coupe is billed as and what we expect of it. When even something like an M2 Competition has only around 20 per cent take up on its (standard) manual transmission option, it's clear that the traditional concept of a driver's car is even less appealing to the buying public than some wizened enthusiasts might think. The success of cars like the Golf R and Audi S3 hasn't escaped BMW's attention; cars that deliver more than adequately across the board and require a minimum of skill, effort or attention to get quite startling performance from.

So that's what the 35i does. It doesn't dazzle anywhere, instead delivering predictably and consistently from throttle pedal to turn in, brake feel to chassis balance. It will never bewitch with its immersive tactility or adroitness, but nor will it ever catch its driver out either. Come rain or shine, rough road or smooth, track hand or 90 year-old Grandad, little will impact the speed across ground of an M235i. It's impressive in its own way. And a bit too Audi-ish for its own good.



Given the quality of the powertrain, that's a shame. While the 2.0-litre turbo makes a fairly odd, synthesised growl, its effortlessness from low revs and willingness even beyond its power peak make for a wide powerband and punchy performance. Gear choice from the eight ratios is largely a secondary concern (not a luxury afforded to the manual Hyundai), even if the automatic shifts up and down really smartly. Though perhaps that's just the point, making the task of piloting the Gran Coupe simpler still.

The Hyundai, on the other hand, could hardly seem more different - despite the obvious similarities. The interior feels immediately older, cheaper and less stylish; the driver sitting higher in a less comfortable seat, with the integration of technology less cohesive. That impression continues on the road. Both cars use four-cylinder turbos, matched on size to the cubic centimetre, but the differences are even more stark than the respective outputs suggest. The i30's engine is coarser and less willing, taking longer to get going than the 235's and never pulling as hard, even allowing for the accelerative differences of a six-speed manual car against an eight-speed auto.

Predictably, the i30 isn't quite as fast when the road becomes twisty either. Naturally there's the traction disadvantage of being front-wheel drive - even with an admirable job done by the locking diff - but also less composure in its control of wheel and body movements. Not to the point of being ragged, by any means, though to an appreciable degree because the BMW is flustered by so very little. That despite a nominal weight advantage for the i30, too.



There's an appropriate irony, actually, in the Hyundai harbouring a few old, not-necessarily-good BMW M traits; or what should be called the Biermann influence. So there's a whole smorgasbord of configuration choices through Eco, Normal, Sport and N, altering everything from differential behaviour to steering weight, where it needs far fewer; between Normal and your bespoke mode, every single base is covered. Much like any M car with that button on the wheel, in fact. The steering only gains unwelcome resistance with the racier modes, alongside suspension that becomes unbearably tough and noise that's just silly - remind you of anything? The tribute act even extends to simple, clear, attractive dials - an old feature modern BMWs could well do with reinstating if this 2 is indicative of progress.

By comparison, the Gran Coupe shows the next stage in development for its maker. The car is passively suspended, with drivers choosing between just two settings for throttle response, steering and gearbox behaviour. And that's it, perhaps an admission there is such a thing as too much choice. Furthermore, while still no arbiter for steering greatness, the BMW's system is better than recent efforts and never afflicted with Hyundai's gratuitous weight and friction.

All that said, there's one very significant saving grace for the Hyundai. Where the BMW is as much fun as waiting in for a broadband engineer, the i30 N is boisterous and brilliantly entertaining. Get it set up correctly - ignore the pre-set modes, and make the powertrain aggressive (including the diff) and the suspension accommodating - and the i30 N is wickedly enjoyable. So while you bemoan it for not being as plush around town or at a cruise as the BMW, throw it at some bends and the situation is steadily reversed. Sure, it's slower across the ground, but it's still more than quick enough, and - this is the crucial bit - the N seeks to involve and engage the driver in the process, as opposed to almost consciously distancing them as in the BMW.



With the Hyundai's steering at its least obtrusive, there's some feel coming back through the wheel, with greater agility on turn in as well; the brake pedal is firmer and easier to gauge; there's less grip overall but more ways of adjusting how you corner. Furthermore, this is a more progressive, less snappy i30 than it once was, the Fastback chassis alterations (now also featuring in the hatch) taking the edge off the ride and leaving the overall feel a little less feisty.

That all this comes with a decent manual gearbox and an engine that, while feeling a bit old hat, sounds way more interesting than the BMW unit, makes the i30 the one for enthusiasts. That's a small, 300hp BMW coming off second best to a cheaper Hyundai - the world may well have come to a halt right now, but wonders will never cease.

Of course, the rigours of objectivity demand we stand back a bit, and it's impossible to disregard the fact that the BMW is faster, more efficient, more capable, more luxurious, more refined and at least comparable on practicality grounds. For all that people will want to dismiss it on aesthetics alone, the M235i is the superior vehicle. As well it might be, for such a significant amount more money.



Neither car is beyond improvement: the BMW could do with a shot of the Hyundai's excitement and energy, the i30 would on occasion benefit from the 2 Series' additional maturity and finesse. As they are, however, and given what we care about in assessing fast cars, the i30 N Fastback is the victor in this comparison. As well as being the more entertaining car to drive, it's substantially cheaper and, surely, the better resolved piece of design - faint praise though it might seem.

While the BMW has its patent (and desirable) advantages, they're not persuasive enough to offset the Hyundai's small wins elsewhere, nor to compensate for a disappointing lack of personality. By the same token, the Korean's deficiencies aren't notable enough to deny it a triumph. If this latest automotive niche is one that fits your bill, the advice from this encounter is clear: the best driver's car doesn't come with a BMW badge anymore.


SPECIFICATION | BMW M235I GRAN COUPE
Engine:
1,998cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 306@6,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@1,750-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,570kg (with driver)
CO2: 153-162g/km
MPG: 39.8-42.2
Price: from Β£37,255 (Β£43,545 as tested)

SPECIFICATION | HYUNDAI i30 FASTBACK N
Engine:
1,998cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 275@ 6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 260@1,450-4,700rpm
0-60mph: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,516kg (including 95 per cent fuel and a 75kg driver)
MPG: 34.0
CO2: 178g/km
Price: Β£29,995 (Β£30,580 as tested)












Photos | Dafydd Wood

Author
Discussion

drpep

Original Poster:

1,306 posts

120 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Also, what on earth is going on with the aesthetic of that BMW?! That is a very sad looking vehicle. Back looks like an MPV, front looks like a melted F22 2 series.

Also I hear the BM sends a max 50% to the rear. Not really stacking up well. With £40k burning a whole, there are many finer a place to put it than either of these IMHO.

aston addict

256 posts

110 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Both look ste. But the Hyundai looks less ste and is cheaper. Maybe BMW will sack its designers and start producing pretty cars again.

horsemeatscandal

549 posts

56 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Only realised this week that the second fastest 2 series didn't keep the 6 cylinder. My neighbour is on their third in as many years and has just picked up a new M235i to replace an M240i. My word it is ugly. The old 2 series wasn't exactly pretty but it was BMWs least ugly car, the proportions at least were good. I don't even think the new looks are subjective, there can't be anyone who thinks that looks nice in any way? Without looking in to it, I assume it's slower (in-gear), heavier and more expensive, too? Why bother?

Can you still get a WRX new? I'd have one of them.

JRaj

12 posts

25 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
The rear end of that BM... 🤮

Miserablegit

1,368 posts

61 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
I’m always bemused by road tests that compare two cars where one is 50% more expensive than the other. I can’t imagine anyone with £44k to spend considering the Hyundai. Likewise I can’t imagine them buying the bmw either... Or is this another where headline price is not the true picture , the subsidised lease rates being what are being compared?


whp1983

258 posts

91 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Didn’t think I’d say this but the BMW looks like a bad copy of the Hyundai..... not a pretty fight either way!

Dale487

1,092 posts

75 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Without even reading the review - purely based on looks and the 25% lower as test price - it has to be the Hyundai for me.

Numeric

504 posts

103 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
I can't get beyond the utterly horrible instrument cluster on teh BMW. Is it an option that can be deleted - drove a very (very) good 320d the other day and it had lovely traditional BMW instruments.

Please tell me this is a delete option?

SidewaysSi

6,728 posts

186 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
BMW deserve a kicking. I wouldn't care if CV makes them go bust.

Augustus Windsock

1,968 posts

107 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Who would ever have thunked it, Hyundai making a car that is more aesthetically pleasing than that old Bavarian stalwart?
Kudos to Hyundai, but BMW should sack their design team.

Triumph Man

6,299 posts

120 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Numeric said:
I can't get beyond the utterly horrible instrument cluster on teh BMW. Is it an option that can be deleted - drove a very (very) good 320d the other day and it had lovely traditional BMW instruments.

Please tell me this is a delete option?
Yeah I hate them too. I've said this before, but given we are in the age of customisable screens, I'm surprised that you can't chose which dials you have. I'd have BMW dials circa 1995, where the economy gauge does that little swing on start up.

GTiWILL

303 posts

30 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
I think BMW are being conservative with their power claim looking at the torque output. It wouldn’t surprise me if these were more like 320bhp-330bhp.

Limpet

3,703 posts

113 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
The back end of that BMW looks like it's been in an accident!

2smoke

86 posts

63 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Dear PH,
I think it has been established now that this BMW 235i is generally not liked, or well received on these pages. Therefore, please stop featuring it here. My eyes cannot handle anymore pictures of this car!!
Many thanks

Iamnotkloot

309 posts

99 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Man, they’re ugly.

But especially the BMW, what is going on with their design team lately?

cerb4.5lee

14,146 posts

132 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
aston addict said:
Both look ste.
Agree and both are a terrible colour as well. These two cars make me question why I'm actually interested in cars at all. I hope that they are much more exciting to drive than they are to look at for sure.

Triumph Man

6,299 posts

120 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
cerb4.5lee said:
aston addict said:
Both look ste.
Agree and both are a terrible colour as well. These two cars make me question why I'm actually interested in cars at all. I hope that they are much more exciting to drive than they are to look at for sure.
Coming to a high street, farting and popping, near you soon.

Black S2K

976 posts

201 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
Triumph Man said:
cerb4.5lee said:
aston addict said:
Both look ste.
Agree and both are a terrible colour as well. These two cars make me question why I'm actually interested in cars at all. I hope that they are much more exciting to drive than they are to look at for sure.
Coming to a high street, farting and popping, near you soon.
Nicely explains why I don't like most modern cars.

I probably only keep reading about them for a laugh. And in forlorn hope that fashions change.

Augustus Windsock

1,968 posts

107 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
I’ll revise what I said earlier, the BMW exterior looks fine. When you’re sat inside it and can’t see the outside. Just don’t drive past any full-length shop windows...

DaveyBoyWonder

535 posts

126 months

Monday 23rd March
quotequote all
aston addict said:
Both look ste. But the Hyundai looks less ste and is cheaper. Maybe BMW will sack its designers and start producing pretty cars again.
Second response in and spot on. I clicked on the link expecting to just respond "BMW every time". Then I saw it. Jesus christ... I know the front ends on these new BMWs are gopping but what the hell is going on with the rear? I suppose you don't get to look at it whilst you're driving which is a good thing but think of all the kids you'll make cry as you drive past.

The Hyundai isn't much better in the looks department. Usual middle of the road nothing-too-flash, nothing-too-out-of-this-world, seamlessly melt into a Tesco car park without anyone batting an eyelid.

Surely this can't be the pinnacle of what £40k buys you? Surely?