BMW 220i CONVERTIBLE :Blend of poise and power

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Price: $220,800 with COE

Engine: 1,997cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual override

Power: 184bhp at 5,000rpm

Torque: 270Nm at 1,250-4,500rpm

0-100kmh: 7.6 seconds

Top speed: 226kmh

Fuel consumption: 6.5 litres/100km

It is easy to love a car like the BMW 220i Convertible. And not just because it is a BMW and a convertible, although the two words by themselves hold sweet promises.

The car is compact, endowed with BMW's good sense of balance (so you can chuck it around with ease) and has a 2-litre engine that offers stirring performance and reasonable distance between refills.

At the same time, it is not too compact, so you can still have two more people at the back if you wish. It is, well, a convertible, so you are actually having two cars for the price of one.

You must be thinking now, there are lots of cars that fit that description. Actually, there are not. The individual traits are not uncommon, but it is hard to find a car that embodies all of them.

For instance, being compact. Tonnes of cars are compact, but so what? In this context, the dimensions of the 220i Convertible actually play a big part in making it the most agile, manoeuvrable and playful model in BMW's current line-up.

You get behind the wheel and feel plugged into a car that is "plugged" into the world around you. It moves in every way that you feel it should be moving, with a centredness that makes you think it is a mid-engined two-seater.

At the same time, it is not tiny or cramped. A bigger driver might disagree, but for compact drivers like myself, the cabin is snug and comfy. The sporty front seats that hug your hips and lower rib cage are nice touches, especially for a car that takes to corners like a fish to water.

Because it is so compact, any loss of body rigidity owing to its convertible construction is not perceptible.

Being compact also means being light. Well, relatively speaking, of course. The 220i is not exactly a featherweight at 1,605kg, but it is 145kg lighter than its bigger cousin, the 420i Convertible.

That is worth the weight of two people which, in automotive terms, is really a big deal.

The 220i Convertible's relative lightness allows its relatively modest 2-litre four-cylinder engine to shine. Even at a lower state of tune than the 245bhp 228i, its 184 horses propel the car to 100kmh in

7.6 seconds - which is as brisk in real life as it appears on paper.

And, of course, we are talking about a BMW four-cylinder here, probably the best that money can buy. It feels and sounds so good when delivering torque to the rear axle that you think it is something more complex.

Yes, that drive shaft going from engine to axle is also shorter, resulting in less inertia loss as well as sweeter and punchier responses to throttle inputs.

Most times, the car is adequate in just Normal drive mode. Unlike many other cars though, it remains usable in the city even when you switch to Sport.

The car's somewhat squat disposition again explains its dexterity on the tarmac. It is nimble and unshakeable, even when driven with heavy jabs of your right foot (which it responds to with more than ample verve).

Despite its effervescence, it is not a fidgety drive. Except for dampers that are a tad too hard and abrupt for my liking, the car is as relaxing at the helm as you want it to be. Its eight-speed autobox contributes to this, as does its ample spread of torque - with 270Nm accessible from 1,250rpm to 4,500rpm.

Having a retractable canopy is pretty relaxing too. With the roof down, the 220i is what you would imagine a topless car to be, except its engine and exhaust notes remain fairly subdued. Most times, they are completely masked by the wind.

Still, it is a loveable car. For all the reasons stated, and one more - its perfect blend of poise and power. Too little or too much of either will be irrelevant for most drivers here.

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