BMW 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in hybrid review

11 Mar, 2016 4:00pm Richard Ingram

Four-wheel drive plug-in hybrid premium MPV carves a niche of its own, but it doesn't come cheap

Verdict

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For various reasons, the 225xe feels less resolved than the 330e we tried on Page 8. It’s not as good to drive as the standard 2 Series Active Tourer, costs considerably more to buy and for most, the inclusion of four-wheel drive won’t be enough to seal the deal. That said, it sits in a niche of its own, and is currently the only premium-badged five-seat plug-in hybrid MPV.

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer was a long time coming. Mercedes had already been in the premium small MPV sector for almost ten years with the B-Class before BMW finally launched its own five-seat people-carrier. The 2 Series Active is available with a range of small petrol and diesel options, a choice of front or four-wheel drive, and there's even a seven-seat Gran Tourer available.

But, moving with the times, BMW has launched a new 2 Series Active Tourer - the plug-in hybrid 225xe. Although it's based on the same platform as the standard Active Tourer, it uses a detuned version of the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine and electric motor combination from the BMW i8 supercar.

The result is a four-wheel-drive MPV that claims to return 141.2mpg in mixed motoring, while emitting 46g/km of CO2.

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As with the 330e it’ll do around 25 miles on battery power alone, and features three separate drive modes for the engine and electric motor. Max eDrive makes use of the charged battery, Auto eDrive employs the petrol engine as and when necessary, while Save Battery mode maintains the current level of charge. This last mode can even boost the batteries up to 50 per cent full with help from the combustion engine.

From the outside, it looks like any other 2 Series Active Tourer. There’s no eco grille or taped off shut lines, nor has the suspension been lowered for improved aerodynamics. The only tell-tale signs are the badges on the back and the charge port by the front left wheel. Just like the 330e, the interior is identical, too, apart from a discreet eDrive button on the centre console.

Unfortunately, unlike the plug-in 3 Series, it doesn’t drive as well as the standard car. The 225xe feels both cumbersome and heavy. The steering is somewhat numb, too, losing the precise edge of its conventionally powered sibling.

That may have something to do with the deep-walled winter tyres fitted to our test car – made redundant by the mild winter weather on our German test route – but we’ll have to wait until we get the car in the UK to pass final judgement on that one.

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It doesn’t feel as urgent, either. A claimed 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds is impressive – even matching the much more fun MINI Cooper S with which it shares its chassis. However, in reality this feels optimistic, and even in Auto eDrive the 2 Series PHEV felt more sluggish than a diesel-fuelled 220d.

While there is an obvious trade-off in driver fun, you won’t resent its performance around town. It’s silent in Max eDrive, and can creep around city streets without emitting an ounce of CO2. If your commute is less than 25 miles and focuses on mainly urban roads, then the 225xe isn’t without merit.

The ride is fine and it’s as easy to manoeuvre as the standard car. There’s little trade-off in practicality, either, as unlike in the 3 Series, the engineers have managed to mount the batteries under the rear seats – leaving the boot almost untouched. Overall boot capacity is down by 68 litres (to 400 litres), but the seats still fold flat to reveal a sizeable load area.

As a result of the cleverly placed batteries, the rear seats are 30mm higher. It doesn’t dramatically cut headroom, though, and the high roofline means there’s enough space for six-foot passengers to sit in comfort.

The biggest problem for the BMW 225xe is price. Our pick of the range – the 218d – costs £6,015 less spec-for-spec, even after deducting the £2,500 Government grant buyers of plug-in vehicles will be eligible for when it goes on sale in April. That’s a significant difference considering how much better the diesel is to drive.

If you really need the reassurance of all-wheel drive – and most UK buyers will happily do without – the fast but frugal 220d comes with a 4x4 option, yet still undercuts the hybrid by more than £1,500.

That car isn’t tax-exempt, mind, but it’ll still return 60mpg and feel better suited to longer motorway journeys. The seven-seat Gran Tourer isn’t available with the hybrid powertrain.

Unlike the rest of the range, if you want a 225xe, you’ll have to make do with Sport or Luxury specifications, as the entry-level SE and racier M Sport aren’t even an option. That said, all models boast 17-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav, cruise control, parking sensors and dual-zone climate control. A reversing camera is optional, along with a glass sunroof and adaptive LED lights.

Key specs

  • Model: BMW 225xe Sport
  • Price: £32,655 (after govt. grant)
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl petrol plus electric motor
  • Power: 221bhp
  • Torque: 420Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 126mph
  • Economy: 141.2mpg
  • CO2: 46g/km
  • On sale: April