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When talking about BMW in 2023, the first vehicles that come to mind are probably its luxury SUVs, the crop of phenomenal EVs, or even high-powered M Performance cars. But at the other end of the spectrum, the cheapest new BMW is a decent-enough four-door sedan. Sorry…“Gran Coupe”. But there’s a problem. The BMW 2 Series four-door isn’t actually a BMW at all.

The cheapest BMW is actually a Mini in disguise

The cheapest new BMW 2 Series sedan
2023 BMW 2 Series | BMW

For decades, BMW built its cars based on rear-wheel drive architecture. Even xDrive models and SUVs had a rear-focused layout. That hearkens back to the brand’s sporting heritage, with models like the BMW 2002 and early 3 Series offered as sports cars with a side of luxury. All of that makes the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe stick out like a sore thumb. A look deeper reveals why: The 2 Series four-door isn’t actually a BMW – It’s a Mini.

Shared platforms aren’t exactly a new concept, but a front-wheel-drive BMW is. The 2 Series Gran Coupe exists because it needs to, not because it’s a genuine BMW product. The front-wheel drive architecture and shared platform made it cheap to develop, and therefore cheap to sell. In 2023, the cheapest BMW costs just $38,400 before taxes and fees. In contrast, the cheapest BMW 3 Series kicks off at $44,500.

Why is the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe front-wheel drive?

Cheapest BMW 2 Series engine
BMW 2 Series transverse four-cylinder engine | BMW

Sure, the 2023 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is based on a Mini, but does it have to be front-wheel-drive? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes, and there’s no easy way around it. Platform-based car construction means each model has to adhere to certain hard points. These are points on the vehicle that are impossible to move, such as suspension mounts, wheelbase, and yes, engine mounts.

A longitudinally-mounted engine, like what you’ll find in BMW’s other models aside from the related X1, places the transmission behind the engine, pointed toward the rear axle. But that arrangement takes up considerably more space, limiting cabin room and cargo space.

The cheapest new BMW and all new Mini models sit on BMW’s UKL platform. Designed to maximize cabin space in small vehicles, it requires a compact engine bay, conducive only to transverse-mounted three or four-cylinder engines.

And because the Mini platform calls for a transverse-mounted engine and transmission layout, it is inherently a front-wheel drive platform. Even the xDrive BMW 2 Series Gran Coupes have this front-wheels-first setup, just like the Mini All4 models they’re based on.

Is the cheapest 2023 BMW worth your time?

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe interior
2023 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe | BMW
Related The BMW 2 Series Coupe and Gran Coupe are Not the Same

The BMW 2 Series Coupe and Gran Coupe are Not the Same

If you’re a longtime BMW fan, the answer is likely no. But as a luxury sedan, ignoring the BMW brand heritage altogether, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is a quality drive. The UKL platform does its job, allowing for the same front and rear legroom as the larger 3 Series sedan despite a considerably shorter wheelbase.

Cargo space is there too, offering 15.2 cubic feet in a car that’s smaller than a Honda Civic. The cheapest new BMW isn’t a sports car, by any stretch. But it hits all of its luxury cues at a reasonable price point. The quality is still there, even if the heritage isn’t. And that makes the 2 Series Gran Coupe a worthwhile luxury car.