BMW makes aspirational cars – and they come at a price that not everybody is willing to or able to afford. And while we all know “that person” who simply wants to buy a BMW for appearances’ sake, some of the cheapest BMW offerings boast a pretty impressive value. While you may be able to find vehicles that offer more extensive driver assistance or infotainment options in some areas, today’s cheapest BMWs are a far cry from the rattly 320i penalty box of yesteryear. In fact, the cheapest BMW you can get today might even be the most fun: the 2 Series.

Is the Cheapest BMW the Best BMW?

Well, let’s not get carried away. The 2 Series Gran Coupe is technically the least expensive BMW on sale today, with an MSRP of just $38,795. If that doesn’t sound particularly cheap, you’re not wrong; you might just remember that the 2015 320i started at $33,945. But the 2 Series Gran Coupe offers a lot of standard equipment that the starter 3 Series couldn’t dream of. Of course, it’s slightly less dynamic due to its front-wheel drive architecture.

How to Get the Most Out of the 228i Gran Coupe

Standard equipment on the 228i Gran Coupe is formidable. Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a one-year SiriusXM subscription, and a navigation system are complimentary. That puts it right in line with most competitors like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. It beats its contemporaries handily when it comes to power, though – besting the Merc by 20 horsepower and almost 40 pound-feet of torque and the Audi by considerably more. Plus, the BMW gets a better automatic transmission and, though understeery, is still less sterile to drive.

If I was to build a 228i Gran Coupe, I’d opt for the $1,650 Convenience Package and not much more. Keyless entry and a moonroof are all you need to make this entry-level BMW feel as premium as the badge suggests. Even if it drives like a wet shoe when compared to some other BMWs. Of course, there is another way…

The Other Cheapest BMW

230i - the other cheapest BMW

Another, slightly more expensive BMW 2 Series exists. For just $400 more than you’d spend on the 228i Gran Coupe, you can get the authentic BMW experience: rear-wheel drive, classic proportions, and an almost usable backseat. The 230i Coupe bundles old-school BMW fun with modern technology at a price that isn’t entirely unattainable. You’ll see mostly the same equipment you get in the 228i Gran Coupe, and the newest 230i Coupe receives iDrive 8 and the neat curved display.

The only options you really need on the 230i Coupe come included with the $1,500 Convenience Package, once again to get keyless entry and a moonroof, along with some other goodies that actually come standard on the Gran Coupe. As long as you can live with a back seat, the 230i Coupe vastly outperforms its more bloated badge-mate from a driving enjoyment perspective.

Honorable Mentions and Closing Thoughts

Though I haven’t yet driven it, the new BMW X1 looks like a commensurate upgrade from the previous generation and would definitely be the cheapest BMW SAV on sale. The important takeaway is that even entry-level BMW vehicles feature modern tech standard; gone are the days of needing to pay extra just to have power seats.

Many purists will look for any reason to degrade a front-wheel drive BMW like the 228i Gran Coupe, but the reality is that it’s a much better car than the old bargain-barrel 320i and its ilk for the people that are actually buying them. If you’re looking for the cheapest BMW, you might just be surprised by how good it is.