Best friends

The BMW 230i convertible is the car for enjoying summer with friends, says our creative director Gino Campagnaro.

I want to enjoy summer with my friends. They make me happy, they challenge me, they make me more creative and they help me define my priorities. For me, nothing’s better than spending weekends hanging out with my wife and friends in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

So when cars were being assigned for review for this issue of the mag, the choice for me was easy. I passed on the Porsche 718 Boxster GTS (previous page), with its two seats and $200K plus pricetag, for a convertible that’s a bit more subtle, way more affordable and perfect for enjoying drives with friends.

I’m talking about the BMW 230i Convertible. This little beauty brings you all the benefits of top-down motoring, but without many of the downsides. That’s because at heart, it’s the same car as the BMW 2 Series coupe, with all the advanced tech, driving dynamics and interior space which that entails. You can fit five people into it easily, and there’s still around 280 litres of boot space left when the roof is down.

It’s as practical a car as any, but on the weekends you drop the roof, load it up with friends and hit the road. I probably had more fun driving the 230i around Watson’s Bay and Bondi than I’ve had all year in my Audi A4. Why? Because until you drive a convertible, you forget how insulating modern sedans and SUVs have become. Their whole point is to cut you off from the noise and discomfort of the road, but it essentially means you go from A to B in land submarines.

The BMW 230i Convertible was a standout in its Seaside Blue metallic paint and tan interior.

In a convertible, your senses are magnified and you notice everything around you, including other drivers. I’m actually convinced that if everyone drove a convertible, road rage would plummet because you often end up talking at traffic lights to fellow drivers who appreciate the rarity of a good-looking convertible and wind down their windows to chat.

Downsides? There are some, like when you’re behind a truck and it spews diesel exhaust directly at you. In that case you just have to hold your breath and try to change lanes as quickly as possible.

Gino appreciating the 230i’s shapely lines, as a creative director would.

The 230i with its LCI mid-life refresh costs $81,300 drive away. Powered by a 2-litre turbocharged engine, it was much zippier than I expected. Another surprise was how quickly the roof opens and closes. You can hop out and it will shut within a few seconds.

Many enthusiasts regard the 2 Series as the perfect-sized BMW, which gives the best expression of the marque’s driving dynamics and balance. The only bad thing about this machine was that I had to give it back.