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New BMW 223i Active Tourer 2022 review

For a sensible, practical machine like this, we can’t see much need to stretch to the 223i - the cheaper 220i will be more than good enough for most buyers

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

BMW says that the Active Tourer is great for bringing new buyers to the brand. On this encounter, they will be left with a strong first impression; the tech is fantastic, the driving experience is polished and there’s plenty of space inside.

Who could have predicted during the heyday of the people carrier that, once the popularity of these sensible, practical machines diminished, that two manufacturers still persevering with them would be BMW and Mercedes

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That’s exactly what has happened, because Mercedes has the B-Class, and its Bavarian rival has this: the new 2 Series Active Tourer.

While it might not seem an unusual choice for premium brands to continue plugging away in this shrinking segment, BMW would argue that it’s a great way of introducing new buyers to the brand; of the 430,000 units of the first-generation Active Tourer sold, 80 per cent of them went to first-time customers.

The old car’s basic silhouette remains, BMW has tried hard to give it an identity that aligns with the rest of the family. At the front, that means a huge interpretation of the brand’s kidney grilles, which are flanked by slim, sharp headlights. The sides get the sleeker faired-in door handles first used on the 4 Series and i4, while at the rear the roofline adopts a conventional MPV shape. 

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The overall proportions look more chunky than its predecessor, even though it’s only grown a modest amount in each direction - 32mm longer, 24mm wider and 21mm taller, to be precise. It’s also more aerodynamically efficient, as BMW claims a drag coefficient of 0.26cd for some models, which has the potential to benefit fuel economy and refinement thanks to less wind noise.

What’ll be key to making this model desirable to premium buyers, however, is that the Active Tourer is one of the first models in BMW’s range to benefit from the brand’s latest iDrive OS 8 infotainment tech. It’s made up of a pair of widescreen curved displays that look stunning. Like the set-ups already fitted in the all-electric i4 and iX, the loading times are rapid and the interface is as slick as they come. It’s just a shame that BMW has finally turned its back on the physical iDrive control; the little clickwheel was great for making minor settings adjustments on the move. It would have made an excellent system pretty much perfect. 

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The dashboard design looks minimalist, with a clean sweep of air vents sitting below those screens, and a floating centre console which houses many of the drive functions - though the shelf below is exposed, so there’s not much hidden storage space for valuables. Build quality feels as solid as we’ve come to expect from BMW. 

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But buyers in this segment don’t just want cosmetic appeal, they need practicality, too. To that end, there’s a deep space large enough to hold two smartphones up front, just ahead of a pair of cupholders. Further back, there’s more space for passengers than in the previous model. Rear passengers’ knees are the biggest beneficiary of the car’s lengthened wheelbase - there’s loads of space ahead, plus plenty of space for feet under the front seats. Only a slightly narrow centre seat lets the side down. Unlike the last model, however, there’s no plans for a seven-seat Grand Tourer model.

If those sitting in the back don’t quite need all of that space and are willing to contribute to boot space, then the rear bench can slide forward by as much as 130mm. The backrest, folds in a 40:20:40 split, is adjustable, too - two measures which can boost the loading capacity by 90 litres.

Open the standard powered tailgate and with the rear bench in its standard position there’s a total capacity of 470 litres, expanding to up to 1,455 when the back row is folded flat. However, that’s in just the single diesel option available - go for either the 220i or the 223i petrol we’re driving here, and that number drops to a less impressive 415 litres. 

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That reduction is a result of accommodating the mild-hybrid tech that’s fitted to the petrols - an introduction that’s made possible thanks to the latest Active Tourer riding on BMW’s FAAR platform. It also enables the possibility of full plug-in hybrid technology, and the pair of PHEVs set to join the line-up this summer are predicted to make up 48 per cent of Active Tourer sales. 

In the case of the 223i, the mild hybrid system provides a 14bhp and 40Nm boost to the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. The motor itself is mounted within the gearbox to minimise transmission losses, and it takes energy from a 1kWh battery, which is fed by energy recovered from the motor when slowing down. 

Combined with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that delivers smoother, more refined shifts than in the previous Active Tourer, plus new engine and gearbox mounts designed to isolate vibration, the result is a car that moves away smoothly at low speeds and remains hushed at higher speeds. Road noise in particular is less intrusive than in its key rival, the Mercedes B-Class

It’s more fun to drive than the Mercedes, too. It’s no hot hatchback, but the Active Tourer handles more sharply than you’d expect from looking at it. Body control is composed, it turns into corners keenly, and there’s plenty of grip. The steering is precise enough even if it’s not loaded with feedback. The ride remains reasonably smooth on 17-inch wheels too, so your passengers won’t feel unduly thrown about. 

With a combined 215bhp from petrol and electric assistance, the 223i feels quick. A 0-62mph time of 7.0 seconds is more than fast enough for a car like this; in fact we’d suggest the lesser 220i, which still has 168bhp, will be fine for most buyers.

Prices for the 220i start from £31,285, which is a nominal £190 less than the entry-level Mercedes, which all but matches it for performance. There’s no more potent option available in the Mercedes line-up though, so from £33,810 in base Sport trim, this 223i has no direct competition. Our test car’s Luxury trim adds open-pored wood inlays, light coloured Vernasca leather and aluminium trim highlights, and costs £35,630.

Model:

BMW 223i Active Tourer Luxury

Price:£35,630
Engine:

2.0 4cyl turbo petrol MHEV

Power:215bhp/360Nm
Transmission:

Seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

0-62mph:7.0 seconds
Top Speed:149 mph
Economy/CO2:

42.8mpg / 149g/km

On sale:Now
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Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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