What is it? The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is the Bavarian company’s first MPV
Key features: Front-wheel-drive, large space for compact size
Our view: The Active Tourer marks a sea change in philosophy for BMW
In today’s competitive market many long-held definitions are being broken, and in no car is this more true than in the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.
Traditionally, BMW has been regarded as a maker of premium cars, always of rear-wheel-drive and generally sporty. Even the X range of SUVs have been performance pitched.
The launch of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, however, not only marks the company’s first foray into the MPV market, but also a sea change in powertrains, being a front-wheel-drive car.
This third member of the 2 Series range owes its existence to sister brand MINI, which in its mass success has provided BMW with plenty of front-wheel-drive provenance. And the Active Tourer is built on the same platform as the latest MINI, but a longer version with the emphasis on passenger space.
And the space is certainly impressive. The Active Tourer measures up at 4,342mm in length, which is only 15mm longer than the 1 Series – the nearest thing the brand has to a supermini. Yet the rear legroom is close to that of the 7 Series, BMW’s largest saloon.
Practicality extends to the boot. At 468 litres it is large, but drop the back seats and it becomes 1,510 litres – matching the distinctly larger and estate-bodied 3 Series Touring.
The rear of the car is flexible too – the rear bench seat slides and reclines, and offers 40:20:40 split reclining for a combination of people and luggage, while there is more hidden storage under the boot floor. The tailgate opens and closes automatically or you can have it open by waving a foot under it.
The typical bulky visual profile of an MPV is not something that sits happily in the BMW line-up. And the stylists have tried hard to ensure the Active Tourer looks more BMW than people-carrier. A bonnet sloping sharply down to a narrow front, and distinctly creased side panels, give the car a purposeful look, more muscled-up coupe than slab-like MPV.
Inside the car the recipe is typical BMW fare – but very good BMW fare. Panel fit is tight, the switchgear and surfaces of very high quality. The driving position is high, some 110mm above that of a 1 Series, which gives one plenty of visibility – in short it’s an engaging environment.
Two engines are on offer from launch – both new and comprising a three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol with 134bhp in the 218i and a four cylinder 2-litre diesel of 148bhp in the 218d. They won’t be the only ones for long – from November two more powerful petrol and smaller and larger diesels will join the range, the 220d and 225i also offering all-wheel-drive.
Of the current pairing BMW expects the diesel to attract most customers, mainly due to official fuel economy close to 70mpg and emissions of 109g/km putting it in band B road tax territory of a mere £20 per year.
The diesel is certainly tempting not just in terms of economy but also pace – it’s enthusiastic and hustles the car along in the efficient manner one expects of a BMW. But it is not as refined as its petrol sibling, which is a very smooth unit.
This is not that surprising, as while this may be BMW’s first three-cylinder, it is an engine familiar to many thousands of MINI Cooper owners. With its price more than £2,000 under the diesel for a loss of only 11mpg and £10 a year in road tax, it becomes the more attractive proposition of the two.
On the road the Active Tourer belies its accommodation capacity. It rides in great comfort, corners confidently with no excessive body roll and only at motorway limit speeds does the wind noise become noticeable.
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is certainly a major new contender in its market. Some rivals, such as Mercedes’ B-Class, might offer more space, but they also look much more like people carriers. This car rides like a BMW, performs like a BMW and can be specified with all the technology familiar to BMW owners, right up to such niceties as a head-up display. It is just a BMW with rather a lot of practicality.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer – key specifications
Model Tested: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
On Sale: September 2014
Range price (at launch): £22,125-,£27,205
Insurance group: TBC
Engines: 1.5 petrol, 2.0 diesel
Power (bhp): 134, 148
Torque (lb/ft): 162, 243
0-62mph (sec): 9.3, 8.9
Top speed (mph): 124, 127
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 57.6, 68.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 115, 109
Key rivals: Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Ford C-Max
Test Date: October 2014