BMW 2 Series Active Tourer review
The 2 Series Active Tourer is a ground-breaking car for BMW but is it any good?
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer marks a huge change for the German manufacturer. Not only is it the marque’s first MPV but it is also front-wheel drive. Never before has BMW developed a front-wheel drive car but the success of MINI 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 new MINI but has been stretched to increase passenger space inside.
From launch, engines available in the 2 Series Active Tourer have also been carried over from the MINI, so there’s the 218i which uses the new 138bhp three-cylinder 1.5-lire turbo as well as the 218d powered by the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel from the Cooper D. BMW predicts the latter will make up the bulk of sales but later this year four other variants including the 220i, 216d, 220d and 220d xDrive will be made available to buyers.
The new BMW arrives in a market, which is seeing ever decreasing sales as buyers continue to shun boxy MPV’s and move into chunky crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot 2008. However, the 2 Series Active Tourer won’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.
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.
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.
Only two engines will be offered from launch, and we've driven them both. The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel will be badged as the 218d, and is expected to be the most popular model among buyers. The main reason lies with efficiency, which stands at 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km.
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.
The biggest issue with the Active Tourer is the engine. It’s gruff on start up and it never really settles into smooth thrum. There’s plenty of shove on offer, with 330Nm of torque helping complete the 0-62mph sprint in 8.9 seconds and power delivery is always smooth, even if the engine sounds a little lumpy.
At higher speeds engine noise is eradicated 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.
The other offering from launch is the 218i model. It uses the three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine from the MINI Cooper and solves those refinement issues associated with the diesel model. It's hushed at start up and well isolated from the cabin at speed ut as a consequence it isn't as efficient as the diesel, managing 58mpg and 115g/km of CO2.
Although badged as a BMW, the 2 Series Active Tourer shares little in common with the rest of the BMW lineup. 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, the 2.0-litre diesel engine is a little more familiar as it is shared with MINI, so it should be reliable.
Yet to be Euro NCAP crash tested, the 2 Series Active Tourer should score well as it comes fitted with 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.
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. 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.
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 head room, though.
Up front, numerous storage bins and a handy armrest that doubles up as storage to charge your phone are nice touches. There’s also huge amounts of adjustment in the driving position so a driver of any size can get comfortable behind the wheel.
Efficiency is also a strong point for the 2 Series Active Tourer. The 2.0-litre diesel we tested returns 68.9mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions at 109g/km. That’s better than the new Golf SV which can only manages 65.7mpg and 112g/km of CO2, with an engine of exactly the same power and displacement.
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.