Mercedes-Benz may have been first to the modern four-door coupé market in the shape of the CLS, but that hasn’t stopped BMW from making the body style its own. Munich currently has Gran Coupé versions of the 4 and 8 Series, and it has now fleshed out the range with the entry-level F44 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé.

Aside from the rather long name, this new model also complicates the 2 Series lineup still further. While the 2 Series proper, a small two-door coupé, is rear-wheel drive, the GC – together with the Active Tourer and Gran Tourer MPVs – is front-wheel drive, using the same front-wheel drive architecture (FAAR) as the latest 1 Series. So, not for purists, then – this is more a competitor to the ultra-fashionable Mercedes CLA.

It is quite a bit smaller than its Stuttgart rival, however. Measuring 4,526 mm long, 1,800 mm wide and 1,420 mm tall, the Gran Coupé is 162 mm shorter, 30 mm narrower and 19 mm lower, and its 2,670 mm wheelbase is also 59 mm shorter. The boot is also less commodious, at 430 litres versus 460 litres.

But enough about comparisons, because the GC has a style all of its own. It’s sleek and low-slung with a fastback-like rear end, and the frameless six-window glasshouse – featuring a rather diluted version of the Hofmeister kink – adds to the graceful silhouette. Better yet, the 2 Series version thankfully sidesteps the huge bucktoothed kidney grilles that are set to blight the 4 Series, if the Concept 4 is anything to go by.

Here, the grilles are still sizeable, but they don’t take up the entire height of the front end. As with the 8 Series, Z4 and X2, they are conjoined in the middle and take the form of a trapezoid, with three-dimensional vertical bars. They are flanked by angled LED headlights that give the car the typical BMW “four-eyed” look, equipped with hexagonal daytime running lights and “eyebrow” indicators.

Along the side, the variety of lines and surfaces play with the light and shadow, and a second shoulder line above the rear wheels provide added definition. The rear haunches are emphasised still further by the glasshouse that tapers towards the rump, where you’ll find slim L-shaped LED tail lights joined together by a gloss black strip, along with a bumper-mounted number plate recess for a more minimalist look.

Inside, the Gran Coupé shares the same basic design as the 1 Series, incorporating the angular look and silvered controls seen on other new BMW models. Just like the 1er, the trim strips that stretch across the dashboard and door cards can be optioned with integrated ambient lighting, while the instrument and touch-sensitive infotainment displays run the latest BMW Operating System 7.0 and measure up to 10.25 inches.

With the benefit of a larger body, four doors and the use of a front-drive architecture, the Gran Coupé is obviously more practical than the two-door coupé. The company claims 33 mm of extra rear knee room, and despite rear passengers sitting 12 mm higher, there is 14 mm more headroom – even with the optional panoramic roof. The boot is also 40 litres larger, expanded further by folding the 40:20:40-split rear seats.

Of course, the Gran Coupé comes with a whole host of added gadgetry, including the Intelligent Personal Assistant voice control and the Digital Key that allows you to use selected Samsung smartphones to unlock and start the car. Safety-wise, the car comes as standard in Europe with autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning (watch as these get dropped for our market).

On the options list is the Driving Assistant package with lane keeping assist, rear collision warning and crossing traffic warning, as well as adaptive cruise control with stop and go and the Parking Assistant. The latter comes with the reversing assistant that allows the car to reverse exactly the way you came in.

Under the skin, the Gran Coupé is constructed from a mix of high-strength steels and aluminium body panels to reduce weight while maintaining a high level of torsional stiffness. This is aided by added bracing such as a boomerang-shaped strut at the rear of the car. Suspension options include a passive setup in standard and M Sport forms – the latter being 10 mm lower – as well as adaptive dampers.

As with the 1 Series, the Gran Coupé gets the near-actuator wheel slip limitation (ARB) system, an advanced traction control that made its debut on the electric i3s. With a slip controller positioned directly in the ECU, rather than being integrated into the stability control, the system allows for swifter, more precise wheel slip control. Together with the stability control, ARB is claimed to significantly reduce power understeer.

Also fitted is the BMW Performance Control torque vectoring by braking, as well as Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC) that also uses the brakes to simulate a limited-slip differential. The xDrive all-wheel drive system is also fitted as standard on certain models.

The Gran Coupé gets the usual range of BMW turbocharged engines, with four of them available at launch. The base petrol mill is the latest version of the B38 1.5 litre three-cylinder in the 218i, now five kilograms lighter and delivering four more horsepower, with outputs sitting at 140 hp at 4,600 to 6,500 rpm and 220 Nm of torque from 1,480 to 4,200 rpm. An extra 10 Nm of overboost is delivered in fourth gear and higher.

As such, the 218i is able to get from zero to 100 km/h in 8.7 seconds before hitting a top speed of 215 km/h. Fuel consumption is rated at between 5.0 and 5.7 litres per 100 km, while carbon dioxide emissions are said to be 29 grams per kilometre with the new engine, at 114 to 131 grams per kilometre. It is the only model in the range to come with a six-speed manual gearbox, with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission optional.

Exclusive to the United States is the 228i xDrive, utilising a 231 hp/350 Nm 2.0 litre four-pot. On the diesel side, the 220d gets a 190 hp/400 Nm 2.0 litre twin-turbo unit, delivering a zero-to-100 km/h time of 7.5 seconds, a top speed of 235 km/h, fuel consumption of between 4.2 to 4.5 litres per 100 km and CO2 emissions of 110 to 119 grams per kilometre. Both engines get an eight-speed torque converter automatic.

At the top of the range is the mid-range M Performance variant, the M235i xDrive. This uses BMW’s most powerful four-cylinder engine yet – an uprated B48 2.0 litre unit that also sees service in the X2 M35i and M135i. With 306 hp between 5,000 and 6,250 rpm and 450 Nm from 1,750 to 4,500 rpm, it races to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds before hitting the limiter at 250 km/h. It also offers a fuel consumption figure of 6.7 to 7.1 litres per 100 km and CO2 emissions of 153 to 162 grams per kilometre.

Unique features for the M235i are a sport version of the auto gearbox, a mechanical Torsen limited-slip differential, a strut tower brace, additional strengthening around the front subframe and centre tunnel, and standard M Sport steering, brakes and suspension. Visually, the high-performance model is differentiated by the standard M Sport package, a mesh grille, larger air intakes and Cerium Grey exterior highlights.