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Do you think the BMW drop top is miles ahead?

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BMW has a strong track record when it comes to desirable drop tops and the latest 2 Series Convertible looks set to keep that streak going.

With an economical diesel and punchy petrol powerplants that are also strong on efficiency, this Convertible looks good and poses a challenge its rivals will find very hard to level with.

The engines available in the Convertible are a direct carry-over from the coupe range and this, as anyone who’s ever driven the two-door tin top will tell you, is a very good thing.

Proceedings open with the 181bhp petrol powerplant used in the 220i variant. This version will record 7.5 seconds for the sprint to 62mph and hit 144mph. Drive is directed to the back wheels and you get to choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or the quite brilliant eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.

Diesel options include the 150bhp 218d, the 190bhp 220d and the 224bhp 225d. The 220d diesel offers a good combination of virtues, delivering a tall stack of torque, with 295lb/ft available from just 1,750rpm.

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The mid-ranger is the 2.0-litre 228i, which packs a 245bhp wallop that’ll see it get to 62mph in six seconds flat with the auto box before running onto an electronically limited 155mph. If you’re of the belief that a BMW sounds best with six cylinders, you’ll probably gravitate to the M235i Convertible.

With 326bhp, this one has some senior performance credentials. If you specify it with the eight-speed automatic transmission, it’ll get to 62mph in a mere 5.2 seconds.

Press the Sport button and the steering weight up and the throttle response sharpens. Press the button once more and you’ll find Sport+, which partially disengages the stability control and offers an even spikier throttle pedal.

The old 1 Series Convertible was an odd thing. Convertibles are all about looking cool, but the drop top One, if specified in the wrong colour, looked like a bit of a bathtub.

Fortunately its successor is a good deal slinkier. The dimensions tell much of the story. The 2 Series Convertible is longer (by 72mm) and wider (by 26mm) and has a wheelbase which has been elongated by 30mm. The electrically operated folding soft top lowers or raises in just 20 seconds at the touch of a button and can be carried out at speeds of just over 30mph.

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Once folded, the soft top disappears fully into the boot and luggage capacity is rated at a fairly generous 335 litres, making it the largest boot in its class. A through-loading system is optionally available to increase versatility.

The front end features a broader kidney grille and more aggressive air intakes. Moving back, you’ll find swept up side skirts, some deeply-surfaced flanks and tight overhangs.

The rear-wheel drive bias of this car is emphasised by the fact that the widest part of the design is the rear wheel arch area: the track widths of the 2 Series Convertible are larger than those of its predecessor by 41mm at the front and 43mm at the rear.

Inside, it’s much as you’d expect, with improved build quality, with more substantial plastics used throughout. BMW’s much improved iDrive system now features a higher definition 6.5in flat screen.

BMW couldn’t really have delivered much more when briefed with turning 2 Series Coupe into a Convertible. Clearly there’s only so much sleekness you can build into a four-seater drop-top that’s only a few millimetres longer than a Ford Focus and the stylists have done a good job of giving the car a coupe-like silhouette with the roof up.

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Roof-down, BMW’s designers have given the car a clean deck and flanks that hold enough shape to prevent the car looking dull and blocky.

Compared to its predecessor, weight has decreased while torsional stiffness has been improved by 20%, pointing to better handling and ride. The engine selection draws no complaints from us and the pricing looks to be fair. The class benchmark from day one? That looks as if it may well be the case.

THE FACTS

Model: BMW 2 Series Convertible

Price: £26,730-£38,400

Performance: 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, top speed 155mph (M235i)

Economy: 61.4mpg (220d)

CO2 rating: 121-199g/km

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