Rev-happy: the new BMW M235i convertible

The M235i has power you can use without killing yourself, says Jamie Merrill

Price: £39.225
Engine capacity: 3.0-litre turbo, petrol
Power output (PS @ RPM): 322 @ 5,800
Top speed (MPH): 155
Fuel economy (MPG): 35.8
CO2 emissions (g/km): 184

If you're not a car nut, it's unlikely you'll have heard of BMW's "M" division. Based, one assumes, inside an evil lair on the edge of BMW headquarters near Stuttgart, it churns out improbably fast versions of the German behemoth's excellent saloons: the ultimate "stealth wagons" because – aside from some body kit extension, the "M" badge and a lower ride height – they look very similar to the normal models that dominate the edges of suburbia. It's the turbocharged engines on the inside that count.

On the road, they are anything but normal, offering in excess of 600bhp and the sort of performance that excites traffic police looking to hit end-of-year targets. This also means that, if you pull up at a traffic light in a Ford Focus ST, the pedestrian looking BMW next to you might give your hot hatch a run for its money.

Now, though, BMW has broadened its horizons and is offering this black magic treatment to SUVs and small coupés. Recently I drove the vast and equally bonkers X6 M off-roader but this week it's been the turn of the dinky 2 Series coupé, in its convertible form. For some reason they have given this tiny supercar challenger a rather odd name; the M235i. Really it should be "punisher" or "tornado" because this is more fun than a Ferrari.

That's a pretty bold claim for a car with 300 less bhp than the slowest of Italian stallions and I can hear the ghosts of Top Gear laughing, but the M235i has power you can use without killing yourself. In fact, it has 311 bhp of power, which is plenty.

It is more fun to drive than anything that currently wears an "M" badge, and more entertaining than several of its supposed superiors; I'm looking at you Mr M4 convertible. Sure, it's heavy, loud on the motorway with the roof up, and the ride is overly firm. But this little convertible hoon machine is so rev-happy that a grin came to my face every time I maxed out the 3.0-litre to over-power the rear tyres. Most importantly, there is an actual stick-like object between the driver and passenger. Better, there is a third pedal. In an age of flappy paddle gearboxes, a proper gearbox is a joy, especially when charging down a country lane on a summer day. At £40,000 it's still a car to dream of in retirement.

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