The BMW Concept Active Tourer (CAT) was the centrepiece of BMW’s Paris Motor Show stand. While it’s a concept in name, the CAT previews the first front-wheel-drive BMW production cars, which will arrive in late 2014.
The Concept Active Tourer is aimed straight at the Mercedes B-Class - it’s a five-seater and almost the same size as the Mercedes, at 4,353mm long, 1,834mm wide and 1,560mm tall.
Importantly, the CAT is designed so that, despite using the same platform and engines, it won’t steal sales from the all-new MINI, which debuts at the end of 2013.
The new engine layout means there’s no need for a long bonnet, and it's also brought about some careful rethinking of the traditional BMW design language for the Concept Active Tourer.
To give the car a sporty stance, the BMW kidney grille is tilted forward, while the headlights are swept back and flow out to the flared wheelarches, which cover 20-inch wheels.
The glasshouse has been moved forward, to give more interior space, but the traditional upswept windowline and kink are present. Tail-lights reminiscent of those on the 6 Series and a short overhang complete the look.
Inside, the dash is still angled towards the driver, but the area ahead of the front-seat passenger is curved up to the windscreen, allowing more light in. The front seats are mounted high for good all-round visibility, while the rears split 40:20:40 for maximum practicality.
Neat tech touches include a full-colour head-up display, black panel dials from the 7 Series and a central 10.25-inch multifunction display screen.
A novel concept idea is the ‘cool shade’ panoramic roof. This is made of two sheets of glass with a particle film suspended between them. It can be switched from opaque to clear at the touch of a button.
BMW is easing purists into the switch to front-wheel drive by showing the CAT with a plug-in hybrid powertrain as seen in the i8 supercar concept. The 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine drives the front wheels, while the rears are boosted by a 67bhp electric motor.
The system switches automatically between petrol power, electric power alone – which gives a range of around 19 miles – or both in tandem, for 200Nm of torque and quick acceleration.
This allows the CAT to sprint from 0-62mph in less than eight seconds and hit a top speed of more than 120mph, while also returning a claimed average of 113mpg and emitting less than 60g/km of CO2.
Economy is further boosted by the hybrid system getting information from the sat-nav, automatically switching to the most efficient drive source for the planned route.
The concept features three driving modes – Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro. In the latter mode, the sat-nav also includes preview assistant, which gives the driver tips such as “remove foot from accelerator” if a tight bend or speed limit is approaching.
The CAT will form the basis of BMW’s first front-wheel-drive car, which will be available with petrol, diesel and hybrid engines. A five-seat model will arrive first, followed by a seven-seater.
The car’s name is currently being decided, with 1 Series GT a possibility. However, as the CAT breaks from the BMW norm so much, an all-new naming structure is also being considered.