BMW 2 Series Active Tourer review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2014 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The 2 Series Active Tourer is BMW’s first people carrier, but does it cut the mustard?

For: 
Well-finished interior, efficient engines, build quality
Against: 
Less fun than most BMWs, noisy diesels, limited practicality

The front-wheel-drive small MPV may not feel like natural BMW territory for some enthusiasts of the marque, but there’s no doubt the 2 Series Active Tourer provides an interesting alternative in the sector.

Its major selling point – aside from the premium badge on its nose – is a well-appointed, upmarket interior that beats most MPV rivals into a cocked hat for design flair, material specs and overall build quality.

Handling is OK, if somewhat lacking in engagement for sporty drivers (it may be a BMW, but it’s an MPV first), while practicality is less of a focus than in other – typically cheaper – rivals.

The engines are efficient, though the diesel is a little noisy for our tastes. Still, high spec levels and that premium feel help to justify the Active Tourer’s high prices.

Our Choice: 
218d Sport

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer marks a huge change for the German manufacturer. Not only was it the marque’s first MPV but it is also front-wheel drive. Never before had BMW developed a front-wheel drive car, but the success of its MINI brand has given it the perfect opportunity to explore new markets.

The 2 Series Active Tourer uses the same UKL1 front-wheel drive architecture as the latest MINI but it has been stretched to increase passenger space inside – and also tweaked to accept BMW’s xDrive 4x4 system for certain models. 

From launch, engines available in the 2 Series Active Tourer were also carried over from the MINI. They included the 218i which uses the new 138bhp three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo, and the 218d powered by the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel from the Cooper D.

BMW rightly predicted the latter would make up the bulk of sales, but four other variants including the 220i, 216d, 220d and 220d xDrive are also now available to buyers.

The 2 Series Active Tourer only comes in a five-seat body style, but BMW has also introduced the 2 Series Gran Tourer on the same platform with a stretched seven-seater body.

The most recent arrival in the Active Tourer range is a plug-in hybrid version. The recently launched eco-model is called the 225xe, and features a lower-powered version of the i8 sportscar’s 1.5-litre three-pot, coupled to an electric motor. It also has four-wheel-drive, with the front wheels powered by electric motors.

The BMW2 Series Active Tourer arrived in a market that was already seeing decreasing sales as buyers began to shun boxy MPV’s and move into chunky crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot 2008 – a trend that’s still ongoing.

However, competition in the sector remains stiff, and the Active Tourer doesn’t get an easy ride, having to fend off MPV opposition in the shape of the Mercedes B-Class, VW Golf SV and Ford C-Max.

Trim levels in the Active Tourer range start with the SE, moving up through Sport and Luxury versions to the range-topping M Sport. Most engines are available across all trim grades except the entry-spec SE which is only offered on 218 and 216 models, while the new 225xe is only available with Sport or Luxury trim.

Engines, performance and drive

4
A noisy diesel doesn’t help refinement, but the handling is good and the ride supple

Like the design, an MPV’s driving dynamics can be limited due to the shape and size of the vehicle. But the 2 Series Active Tourer is rather agile for its size and manages body control well. The steering is well weighted and accurate but select sport mode and it becomes artificially heavy.

Turn into a bend and you’ll notice some movement in the body but even through quick changes in direction the Active Tourer never feels unsettled. It’s only when you really hurl it in into a corner you’ll notice excess body roll but that’s always going to be the case with a car of this size and height.

At higher speeds intrusive engine noise from the best-selling 2.0 diesel is drowned out by excessive wind noise kicked up by the tall A-pillars and wing mirrors. The ride is always supple, though, even on larger 18-inch alloy wheels, so it’s comfortable on the move if you can ignore the slight lack in refinement.

Engines

The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is badged as the 218d, and is the most popular model among buyers. The same engine is also available with 188bhp in the 220d model.

In use, it’s gruff on start up and it never really settles into a soothing thrum. There’s plenty of shove on offer, with 330Nm of torque in its lowest-performing guise helping complete the 0-62mph sprint in 8.9 seconds. Power delivery is always smooth too, even if the engine sounds a little lumpy. The 220d will do 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds, or a couple of tenths quicker if you have 4x4 with auto gears.

The entry-model across all trim levels is the 218i petrol. It uses the three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine from the MINI Cooper and solves the refinement issues associated with the 2.0 diesel. It's hushed at start up and well isolated from the cabin at speed, managing 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds.

Jump to the 2.0-litre petrol in the 220i, and 0-62mph is delivered in 7.5 seconds, while the 228bhp version of the same engine in the 225i xDrive does it in 6.3 seconds.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.5
Economy is a strength for both diesel and petrol Active Tourers. Depreciation less so

Efficiency is definitely a strong point for the 2 Series Active Tourer. The 216d returns 74.3mpg on the official combined test cycle with CO2 emissions at 99g/km, while the 218d manages 68.9mpg and 109g/km. That’s better than the Golf SV which can only manage 65.7mpg and 112g/km of CO2, with an engine of exactly the same power and displacement.

Naturally fuel and emissions efficiency worsen as more energy is directed to performance, but even the punchy 220d will do 64.2mpg on BMW’s official combined test figures, with CO2 at 115g/km.

The lighter and smoother 1.5-litre Turbo engine from the new MINI could also be a genuine alternative to the diesel, as economy figures don’t fall too far behind. BMW claims 57.6mpg and 115g/km of CO2, which is highly impressive for a petrol engine powering a car of this size.

Another incentive for the 218i model would be the saving you make on the purchase price. Although slightly less economical, the petrol variant costs almost £2,000 less than the 218d.

The least efficient Active Tourer from a cost perspective is the 225i xDrive M Sport. It returns a claimed test figure of 44.1mpg and emissions of 148g/km.

Insurance groups

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer shares its engine line-up with the 2 Series Gran Tourer (7 seater), so the insurance groups are the same. That means group 10 to 21, depending on your chosen model.

Depreciation

In general terms the Series 2 Active Tourer’s depreciation is nothing to shout about – by BMW standards it’s pretty poor. Our valuation experts reckon the range will retain between 42 and 44 percent of its new cost over three years and 36,000 miles. As it’s a relatively level playing field across the line-up, you can safely assume the more expensive models will lose you the most. So the £32k+ 225i xDrive M Sport is predicted to cost you £19,000 in depreciation over three years, while the £22,530 218i SE will cost you £13,230.

Interior, design and technology

4.5
A little boring on the outside, but the Active Tourer’s cabin is the place to be

The criteria which an MPV needs to meet, in order to be successful, limits how stylish and visually engaging the design can be. With slab-sided bodies and squared off panels, MPVs are arguably the least visually dynamic segment in the market. However, BMW has attempted to inject some life into an unloved class with a car that features styling cues borrowed from coupe models.

The trademark kidney grille is narrow and rests just below the headlamps, a feature you’ll see on BMWs such as the 4 Series and 6 Series. In an attempt mask the car’s bulky exterior, each panel wears a subtle crease or kink to help break up the lines of the bodywork. Still, it’s not the most eye-catching of machines, and in truth can’t be said to do much for BMW’s cherished ‘sporty executive’ image – but then again at least it’s not as boxy as the seven-seat Gran Tourer version.

Once you’ve stepped inside though, you can forget such negativity. The interior is one of the finest and most lavish in its class. Lashings of leather and sporty red stitching make it a truly inviting place. Aluminium inserts in the dash and centre console give a premium feel, with every twist and prod of the controls affirming the well-engineered design. 

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All versions of the 2 Series Active Tourer feature Bluetooth connectivity for the infotainment system, as well as BMW Navigation, a single CD player, DAB tuner and BMW Online Services.

Optional packages include the Tech Pack which adds a reversing camera, and Navigation Plus with an 8.8-inch display with real time traffic updates. You can also upgrade to a Harman Kardon sound system, full internet connectivity and a head-up display that puts navigation and vehicle information right in the driver’s line of sight.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4
The Active Tourer isn’t the most spacious in its class, but it’s got loads of the feel good factor

The 2 Series Active Tourer may not be as spacious as the Golf SV or Mercedes B-Class but the build quality and beautiful cabin means we can forgive it that.

It’s also only got space for five passengers, so if you want to carry more you’ll need to look at the larger Gran Tourer version.

Up front, numerous storage bins and a handy armrest that doubles up as storage to charge your phone are nice touches. There’s also a huge amount of adjustment in the driving position so a driver of any size can get comfortable behind the wheel. The forward visibility is good too thanks to a high driving position, but many owners will welcome the option of a reversing camera.

Engine noise from the diesel engines and wind noise mar the interior ambience a little at higher cruising speeds, so the cabin isn’t quite as relaxing over long distances as we’d like.

All models have separate climate controls for driver and passenger though, and there are all sorts of practical accessories to support your active lifestyle, including ski bags, bicycle racks and luggage nets.

Size

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer measures-up at 4,342mm long and 1,586mm high. That makes it almost identical to the Golf SV. The seven-seat 2 Series Gran Tourer is 4,556mm long.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Unlike the Citroen C4 Picasso, the Active Tourer doesn’t have three individual rear seats. It’s a conventional bench arrangement and as the BMW is a little shorter than both the Golf SV and B-Class there’s slightly less knee room. There’s still enough space to fit three adults and the high roofline means there is a good amount of headroom, though.

Boot

The automatic tailgate is standard across the range and opens up 468 litres of space. The electrically folding rear seats can be dropped at the flick of a switch and increase capacity to 1,510 litres.

Reliability and Safety

4
Driver Power Survey reliability scores for BMW aren’t the best, but the Active Tourer has five star safety

Although badged as a BMW, the 2 Series Active Tourer shares little in common with the rest of the BMW line-up – apart from its bigger brother the Gran Tourer.

It’s based on a stretched version of the MINI platform and is front-wheel drive, so it’s not a combination we’ve seen before from the German manufacturer. However, while the format is unusual for BMW, there’s not much new on the engineering/technology front and individual components are pretty well tried and tested – whether by MINI or elsewhere in the BMW range.

BMW as a manufacturer came 14th overall in our Driver Power customer satisfaction in 2105. That’s a mid-table result, but its reliability ranking of 22nd out of 32 is a bit less impressive. Still it beat Audi, Mercedes and VW amongst others.

Independently crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2014, the 2 Series Active Tourer predictably managed a top five star score. That said, its percentage scores weren’t exceptional, with NCAP awarding 85 percent for both adult occupant safety and child occupant safety, 60 percent for pedestrian safety and 70 percent for its electronic assistance systems. The Golf SV scored 87, 85, 62 and 73 percent across the same areas.

Safety kit on the Active Tourer is pretty comprehensive and includes pedestrian warning with city braking function as standard. These features significantly improve pedestrian safety in busy urban environments by automatically applying the brakes if a driver fails to respond to an obstacle in front of the car. 

Warranty

The Active Tourer, like all BMWs, comes with the manufacturer’s standard three-year/unlimited mileage warranty. It matches the cover from Mercedes and Volkswagen.

Servicing

With servicing ‘schedules’ rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and on-board systems defining when you need a check-up based on how your vehicle is used, it’s hard to predict when the service warning will appear on the 2 Series.

At least service costs can be predictable though, with BMW offering a Service Inclusive pack that will cover five years routine maintenance for less than £500 – which sounds cheap.

Last updated: 8 Sep, 2014
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