LAS VEGAS – The least-expensive luxury car one could buy in the U.S. used to be a midsize sedan.

But then premium manufacturers smartly realized there was a growing number of people who would love to purchase one of their vehicles but couldn’t afford to.

Enter the compact luxury car.

When BMW began offering the 1-Series here in 2008, many industry-watchers gave it the side-eye. Would Americans spring for the not-a-3-Series?

But in that first year out, 12,018 of the coupes were delivered, WardsAuto data shows. Two years later, deliveries reached their pinnacle (13,132).

While demand slumped in recent years, every sale still represents added volume for the German luxury automaker. The car hasn’t seemed to cannibalize the 3-Series, whose volume has grown.

Now, BMW is back with the second generation of its entry-level 2-door, albeit with a new name.

The 2-Series replaces the 1-Series moniker, in keeping with the German automaker’s new odd-number-sedan, even-number-coupe naming scheme.

The 2-Series is a well-equipped, inexpensive-for-what-you-get sport coupe and not at all a comedown for those unable to afford the larger 4-Series 2-door, which recently replaced the 3-Series coupe.

In fact, the 2-Series has a roomier backseat than the 4-Series, plus its electric power steering provides a direct, more-connected-to-the-road feel.

The 2-Series, on sale now, is available in just two variants in the U.S.: the 228i, with BMW’s fine 2.0L turbocharged I-4 engine making 240 hp, and the M235i, which carries over the departing 135is’ excellent 3.0L turbocharged I-6 N55 engine, a 3-time Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner.

The M235i, fitted with an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddles, is the grade we drove last month in Las Vegas.

In the 2-Series, the N55 maintains the 320-hp peak of the 135is but now produces more torque: 330 lb.-ft. (447 Nm), up from 317 lb.-ft. (430 Nm).

Simply put, the N55 is powertrain perfection, even more so in the M235i due to that monster amount of torque, which comes in as low as 1,300 rpm.

But while the engine can propel an automatic-equipped car from 0-60 mph (100 km/h) in an impressive 4.8 seconds, the N55 easily is reined in for street driving, thanks to the standard Adaptive M suspension, that features a Comfort mode with a tame tip-in and leisurely shifting.

Other mode selections, which also will firm up or soften the suspension, include Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro.

Sport and Sport+ prove perfect here at the Las Vegas Speedway, giving the M235i the classic BMW fun-to-drive character of fast and fling-able.

The Eco Pro mode may have the most restrictive tip-in of any similar mode we’ve tested; not fun, but fine for those times of heavy, plodding traffic. With Eco Pro on, BMW says coasting is possible between 30 and 100 mph (50 and 160 km/h) when the accelerator is released. With the optional navigation system, an active-driving assistant coaches the driver when to take his foot off the gas for maximum fuel efficiency. Nifty.

The M235i rides on BMW’s familiar double-pivot spring-and-strut front suspension and 5-link rear suspension for a characteristically firm ride, even in Comfort mode.

BMW says to expect the M235i to return 22/32 mpg city/highway (10.7-7.4 L/100 km). Our real-world fuel economy during periods of heavy street traffic is 23.8 mpg (9.9 L/100 km).