For a brand that used to pride itself on building cars with 50:50 weight distribution and rear-wheel-drive, the embodiment of “the ultimate driving machine”, it would have been unimaginable in the past if we told you BMW was going to produce a front-wheel drive vehicle. But, here it is – the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer – the brand’s first model driven by the front wheels!
That’s not all, it’s also BWM’s first minivan, despite the fancy name given to it by the Munich-based manufacturer. Based on the Active Tourer Concept first unveiled in 2012, the family-friendly 2 Series has seating for five and measures 4,342mm long, 1,800mm wide, 1,555mm in height and has a 2,670mm wheelbase.
It’s BMW’s take at the city car concept and a direct rival to the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
The 2 Series Active Tourer is available in four variants, based on the four different engines. The entry level 218i Active Tourer is priced from $44,400 plus on-road costs, while the mid-range 218d and 220i Active Tourer cost $47,800 and $50,900 respectively. The top-of-the-range 225i Active Tourer gets a sticker price of $54,900 (tested).
Design and Comfort
Dreadful is a common word to describe the looks of a tall and practical wagon. Not in this case. The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer looks attractive and suitably proportioned from all angles. With a harmonious blend of contoured surfaces, sharp creases and short front overhang (despite being a front-wheel-drive), the design is unmistakably BMW.
It’s the same story inside. The compact cabin is inviting and elegantly designed. In fact, we find the interior feels more BMW-ish than many other models in the current BMW range. It just looks traditionally BMW – neat, functional and luxurious. But, most importantly, it’s spacious and comfortable.
There is ample of leg and headroom for both front and rear occupants, though the rear bench can be quite tight when accommodating three adults. The rear middle seat is, ideally, only suitable for small children.
Complementing the spaciousness are clever designs such as the forward/backward sliding 40/20/40 split folding rear seats, allowing you to trade some legroom for extra space in the boot. They tumble with a press of a button.
There’s also a strap on the side of the front passenger footwell, which has enough elastic to secure a 1L water bottle.
Boot space is a healthy 468-litre, with additional covered storage under the boot floor to keep things tidy.
All-round visibility is excellent thanks to the vast glasshouse. You sit slightly higher than other passenger cars, so the view ahead is good. Visibility out of junctions is aided by the front quarter window.
Performance and Handling
The 2 Series Active Tourer is offered with a choice of four fuel-efficient turbocharged three and four-cylinder drive units that form part of a new generation of engines.
The three-cylinder petrol unit – the first ever three-cylinder for BMW – is found in the 218i variant. Mated to a six speed automatic transmission, the 1.5-litre turbocharged engine generates 100kW and 220Nm, with fuel consumption rated at 5.2L/100km.
The 220i is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine producing 141kW and 280Nm, with a claimed fuel consumption figure of 5.9L/100km.
The top-spec 225i features the same 2.0 turbo four petrol unit but with a higher output of 170kW and 350Nm, while still remaining frugal at 6.1L/100 km.
The 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo diesel found in the 218d develops 110kW and 330Nm. It’s the thriftiest in the range with a fuel consumption figure of 4.2L/100km.
All models except the three-pot 218i make use of the excellent ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.
On test, our 225i has a strong and linear power delivery with a chubby midrange. It offers effortless day-to-day driving, though it can struggle slightly putting its power down on full throttle. It dashes from rest to 100km/h in a hot hatch beating 6.6 seconds, but in real world conditions, you are more likely to see the times hover around the 7.0 seconds mark.
All models get three driving modes – Eco, Comfort and Sport – the 225i ups the ante with damper control for Sport mode for even tighter handling.
Indeed, the 225i we drove is as nimble as a city hatchback can get. It’s far from engaging – don’t expect to get the same kind of driving experience from BMW’s usual rear-wheel-drive offerings – but it’s no doubt one of the best handling non sport-focused front-drivers we have come across.
The newly developed chassis comprises a single-joint spring strut axle at the front and a multi-link rear axle.
Turn in is sharp, with excellent grip from the standard Bridgestone rubbers. The body doesn’t lean much in corners and there’s virtually no torque steer – impressive.
Around town, the ride is generally supple except for some low-speed harshness, a common encounter with most small and light city runabouts. The cabin is well insulated from road noise, but the lower profile tyres from the 18-inchers in the 225i can get a tad vocal on rough country bitumen.
Despite its tall dimension, the 2 Series Active Tourer remains tautly planted on corrugated roads, without being too wallow.
As one would come to expect from a BMW, the 2 Series Active Tourer’s built quality and fit and finish are top notch. Most contact areas are made of soft touch plastics, while the seats are covered in high quality leather.
The typically modern cabin gets a further touch of class with a generous application of brushed aluminium and wood trims on the dash, centre console and doors.
At night, the interior mood lighting (standard in 225i), of which colour is changeable, is cosily soothing, while giving a sense of warmth.
On paper, the new range of turbocharged engines from BMW is capable of impressive fuel-economy.
All engines come with fuel-saving tech such as auto idle start/start, Direct Injection and Brake Energy Regeneration, which charges the battery when the car is braking, coasting or decelerating so that the engine doesn’t have to spare some of its power driving the alternator.
How do they fair in the real world? Against BMW’s claimed average fuel consumption figure of 6.1L/100km, the 225i we drove for a week covering an equal split between freeway and urban commute recorded 8.1L/100km on its trip computer. That’s 2L/100km more than the claimed figure.
For the best balance between performance and economy, the 218d is your best bet.
Equipment and Features
The 2 Series Active Tourer is not cheap but you do get loads of standard equipment. All variants get lane departure warning, pedestrian and collision warnings, and light city braking function.
Also standard are power tailgate, self-parking, satellite navigation, reversing camera and parking sensors.
The 225i we tested further adds leather sports seats, variable speed steering, surround view, LED headlights, 18-inch wheels and interior lights package.
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer’s front-wheel-drive layout might upset the brand’s Audi teasing loyalists, but it is sure to find a flock of new buyers to the brand.
For those who want a practical and versatile small car with a quality finish, they can now consider another alternative to the Mercedes B-Class. Though more expensive, the 2 Series Active Tourer is much better equipped, drives sharper and looks miles better.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Price and Specification
|Price (Excluding On-Roads):||$44,400 – 218i|
|$47,800 – 218d|
|$50,900 – 220i|
|$54,900 – 225i (tested)|
|Warranty:||3-year or 100,000km|
|Engine:||1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo petrol 100kW / 220Nm – 218i|
|2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel 110kW / 330Nm – 218d|
|2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol 141kW / 280Nm – 220i|
|2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol 170kW / 350Nm – 225i|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic or 6-speed automatic (218i only)|
|0-100km/h||218i – 9.2s|
|218d – 8.9s|
|220i – 7.4s|
|225i – 6.6s (tested: 7.2s)|
|Fuel Consumption (Combined):||218i: 5.2L/100km (claimed)|
|218d: 4.2L/100km (claimed)|
|220i: 5.9L/100km (claimed)|
|225i: 6.1L/100km (claimed); 8.1L/100km (tested)|
|Body:||5-door coupe; 5-seat hatchback|
|Dimensions:||Length: 4342mm, Width: 1800mm, Height: 1555mm, Wheelbase: 2670mm|
Competitor: Mercedes-Benz B-Class