BMW is hoping to plug another gap in the market with its 2 Series multi-purpose vehicle, a car that boasts a number of firsts for the German manufacturer. It’s the first front-wheel drive Bimmer ever and also the first to be powered solely by a three-cylinder engine line-up.
On the surface the 2 Series Active Tourer spits in the face of everything the company stands for, but is it actually any good?
The 2 Series Active Tourer is a cross between the BMW 1 Series, 3 Series Touring and X1. It is, in fact, 20mm longer than the 1 Series and 10mm taller than the X1 sports utility vehicle.
Far from being a Frankenstein-type creation, it appears to take the best bits from each of its siblings. OK, it won’t make the opposite sex swoon, but at least there’s nothing awkward about the design, which is more than can be said of some of BMW’s creations.
Inside, the boxy nature and high roof line really come into their own. If the standard 2 Series interior is a kitchen in terms of space, the 2 Series Active Tourer is a banquet hall. Adults can easily sit in the front or back and not lose the feeling in their legs or mess up their hair.
The well thought out interior makes the 2 Series Active Tourer easy to live with. The iDrive button and display combination is as useful and simple to operate as ever, while the build quality and styling is top-notch. Buttons are not too plentiful and feel good to press.
Practicality is a highlight of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, thanks to its ability to seat five in comfort and a wide rear loading area. The 468-litre boot is beaten by the less exciting Mercedes B-Class and the VW Golf SV, though. Even so, fold the rear seats down and you have 1,510 litres to play with.
It’s easy to fold those seats, too; there are two buttons that, when pressed, send their respective section of the rear seats flying forward. This saves you from having to practically climb into the boot or go around to the passenger door if you want to try and squeeze more things in.
Another plus is the sliding bench rear seat, which lets you free up even more space.
Lazier owners will appreciate the automatic tailgate, which comes as standard. Just wave your foot under the rear bumper to open it if your hands are full.
An optional folding front passenger seat is available, which is ideal for those instances when you need to fit longer objects in the region of 2.4 metres in length – great for surfboards or kitchen work surfaces. Elsewhere there are cup holders, large door bins in the front and rear doors, various storage places and – if you ignore the optional spare wheel – a luggage compartment in the boot under the main boot area that adds another 70-odd litres of space.
Performance & handling
You’ll feel like the king of the road in the 2 Series Active Tourer, thanks to a high seating position (20mm higher than the X1) and the very comfortable optional front Sport seats (£395). The windows are large, too, which helps you keep an eye on what’s going on around you.
The 2 Series Active Tourer is a doddle to drive despite its size. The handling is a less composed than the ‘Sport Activity Coupe’ X4, but you can really throw it into corners and it will grip hard. It reacts quickly to steering input and body roll is minimal, or at least it was with the optional M Sports suspension fitted to our test car.
The 2 Series Active Tourer’s handling is, in fact, at odds with how it looks. Drive in sprited fashion and you can really enjoy an A or B road blast, even if your entire family ends up car sick over the interior.
We were able to drive the 1.5-litre turbo 218i as well as the 218d diesel options. A further five engines will become available as well as the option of xDrive four-wheel drive on the range-topping 225i petrol.
The 136hp 218i has 220Nm of torque and can hit 0 to 62mph in 9.3 seconds, compared with the diesel’s 8.9 seconds. The 150hp diesel offers a healthy 330Nm of torque so it pulls hard when it needs to. Top speed is 124mph and 127mph for the petrol and diesel, respectively.
The six-speed manual gearbox fitted to the 218i is faultless, feeling solid without being too mechanical or heavy when changing gears.
Our 218d was fitted with a Sport six-speed automatic (an extra £1,685), which makes barely perceivable gear changes. There’s only Eco+, Comfort and Sport driving modes (no Sport+ or Eco here) to choose between using a button on the centre console and each one alters the feel of the car noticeably. Comfort was our preferred option as it suits the laid back family-oriented character of the car.
It’s a tough call between the two launch engines. The 218i has a nicer engine note that made us want to push a little harder when the roads cleared up and it’s almost inaudible at low revs. The 218d is, however, faster – owing to 50 per cent more torque – and better on fuel. Given the cost of family life, we would be inclined to go for the diesel unless you really crave a little extra refinement.
Economy & environment
The 2 Series Active Tourer 218d boasts a mere 109g/km of CO2 emissions (you can partly thank Stop and Start for that) and 68.9mpg combined. That’s impressive for such a big car. Slightly less frugal is the 218i, which manages CO2 emissions of 115g/km and 57.6mpg.
BMW says the Eco+ mode can improve fuel economy by up to 20 per cent. While we were unable to test that claim thoroughly, you can definitely feel the more leisurely gear changes and weaker throttle response helping the engine sip fuel.
A display on the instrument cluster for encouraging smooth driving helps eke out the miles, especially when the 2 Series Active Tourer benefits from Brake Energy Regeneration, a feature that only recharges the battery during braking or coasting.
A 2.0-litre TDI VW Golf SV comes in at 64.2mpg and 115g/km of CO2 so the BMW can hold its own. Those who crave even cheaper motoring may be served by the the 216d model coming at a later date.
Equipment & value
Our 218d test car cost £34,535 – a long way from its £25,975 starting price. That means a VW Golf SV is about £4,000 cheaper while the Mercedes B-Class is about £3,000 less. The Golf SV’s interior is not a patch on either of its fellow Germans, mind you.
A few mod-cons help you forget about the financial hit you just took, including an automatic tailgate, two-zone automatic air conditioning, rear park distance control and 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats.
There’s also a 6.5-inch display for all your infotainment needs with DAB digital radio as standard, although it lacks navigation functionality. You will need to part with a few extra quid for just A to B guidance or get a load of other extras as part of the £2,095 Navigation Plus package.
Our test car came in Luxury trim, which sits above Sport and below the forthcoming M. The extra £2,000 required for Sport gets you a nicer interior, 17-inch alloy wheels, Dakota leather upholstery, Sport front seats and LED ambient lighting.
We also had electric front seats (£650), Technology Package with Adaptive LED headlights and a Reversing Assist camera (£1,095) and the Loudspeaker system (£295). Oh, and a Driver comfort package, which comes with cruise control with brake function (£590), and heated front seats (£295).
A head-up display was another notable extra. Unlike your typical system that projects the display onto the windscreen, you get a screen that pops up when the 2 Series Active Tourer is running. This gives useful information without requiring you to take your eyes off the road.
The 2 Series Active Tourer is yet to undergo a Euro NCAP crash test, but your chances of crashing are reduced thanks to a Pedestrian Warning system with City braking. In the event an obstacle is detected, the brakes are primed and you get a warning. Fail to react and the car applies the brakes for you.
German build quality and various airbags should see you and your family in the best of hands in the event of a collision.
The 2 Series Active Tourer may seem odd at first, but makes perfect sense. It has an element of SUV about it — minus the image problem — is highly practical and handles surprisingly well.
It’ll never win any car beauty pageants, but it’s far more likable than a Ford C-Max or Golf SV. As boxes on wheels go, it’s pretty appealing.
For transporting your family in luxury without big fuel bills, you can’t go wrong.