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First drive - Against all odds… While the MPV sector might be struggling, BMW is bucking the trend with its popular 2 Series Active and Gran Tourers models. Matt Robinson reports on the latest LCI variants. Photos: BMW UK.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationPacking an Active Tourer to the gunwales with the Harper family should prove a stern test of the mini MPV’s mettle. Words and photography: Bob Harper. #BMW-220d-Active-Tourer . Alpine Adventure Can a 220d xDrive Active Tourer cope with the demands of a family skiing holiday?
Since its launch back in 2014 the 2 Series Active Tourer has been given a lot of stick from what you might term ‘BMW traditionalists’. One gets the feeling that even if the Active Tourer was the world’s best #MPV it would still be lambasted to a certain extent for its transverse-engined front-wheel drive layout – it’s just not very BMW is it? If you look at it from BMW’s perspective though, why should it be left behind? Other manufacturers – we’re looking mainly at Mercedes here – have been doing it for years and it doesn’t seem to have done it any harm. And one just has to look at our roads today to see that things have changed significantly from the days when the three-box saloon ruled the roost. Like it or not the motoring climate is changing with consumers wanting increasingly more versatile cars.
And machines like the 2 Series Active Tourer are bringing that versatility to the BMW brand. Research demonstrated that the number one reason for customers to leave the BMW fold was that the company didn’t make the type of car the customer wanted, and given it has most other niches filled already the type of machine that was missing was an MPV. Personally I’ve never really felt the need for one, and owning a Fiat Multipla for a while did little to convince me otherwise. It did convince me that Italian electrics are just as bad as urban legend would suggest… but that’s a story for another day.
Having been reasonably impressed with the Active Tourer on the launch I decided it was time for a sterner test, and they don’t come much tougher than ferrying the Harpers about on their holidays. My sister has been on at us for years to accompany her to the slopes for the annual half-term skiing trip and despite concerns about how my dodgy back and worn out knees would cope we finally relented. When this plan was hatched I wasn’t sure if I’d still have my VW company car so a call to the chaps in the BMW press office saw an #Active-Tourer being booked for the trip in 220d xDrive form.
With 190hp and 295lb ft of torque on tap it should have more than enough mumbo to haul the Harpers and all their associated clobber to the slopes and once emptied of passengers and belongings the surefooted xDrive system should help to make it an entertaining companion on the twisty mountain roads. The first task though was to shoehorn the unfeasibly large number of bags sitting in the hall into the Active Tourer’s boot and on first appearance it looked very much like I was going to be trying to fit a quart into a pint pot. Perhaps I should have asked for a Gran Tourer instead…
The ‘AT’ has a boot capacity of 468-litres whereas the ‘GT’ (seems so wrong applying that epithet to a people carrier!) can accommodate 560-litres and both cars have a clever rear seat whose backrest’s rake can adjust while the whole rear seat can be slid forward slightly to increase boot capacity at the expense of rear seat legroom. As our boys are getting rather lanky I opted to leave the seats be and by dint of some careful packing I did manage to fi t everything in. We’d packed with soft bags which did make this easier, but I still had to unpack most of the skiing gear and stow it in the compartment under the boot floor – it’s quite large but not a very bag friendly shape. Once everything was in two points came to mind. Firstly, having an electric tailgate (all ATs do) might be nice when you’re approaching the car with your hands full of clobber but it does make shoehorning the final items into the boot tricky as if the tailgate senses it won’t shut properly it bounces back up. With a manual tailgate it would have been easier to ‘persuade’ it to shut. Secondly, a BMW Touring, with its split folding tailgate, would have been far easier to load, and it’s a feature that I’ve always thought was brilliant for a load-lugger and was sorely missed when brimming the AT’s boot to the gunwales.
Travelling during school half-terms can be fraught with traffic-induced disasters but as we’d elected to travel out on Sunday morning we seemed to have avoided the worst of the madness and our run down to Flumet (in the Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France) was more or less trouble-free. One small motorway hold up on the approach to Geneva was the only problem and while the péages did relieve us of around €80 for the privilege of using the lightly-trafficked motorways, it’s a price worth paying when one has 650 miles to knock off in a day.
Observations on the car were generally very favourable. It never felt wanting for power and the simple to operate cruise control made light work of the motorway boredom. The normal BMW excellent phone integration meant we could listen to audiobooks to while away the hours and the comfortable sports seats (thankfully with optional heating to stop my back from seizing up!) and excellent ride (even on 18-inch M Sport spec wheels) with the adaptive dampers set on comfort made it a very relaxing trip.
There were a couple of minor niggles… the glass and A-pillar arrangement at the base of the windscreen does create a couple of blind spots, but having had a look at most other vehicles of this ilk over the intervening week demonstrates that this is endemic to this breed of vehicle. Of more concern when doing big distances was a fuel tank capacity of just 51-litres which does mean stopping more frequently than you would in something like a 3 Series Touring. I also noticed that the engine seems a little noisier when mounted transversely – this is something I’ve also found when testing the new X1 (which shares the basic platform with the AT) but Mrs H thought it was perfectly acceptable when compared to her E84-generation X1 so perhaps I’m just being overly picky. What did come as a little bit of a surprise, and is linked to that small fuel tank, was overall economy for the trip down of just 37mpg. I know it was fully laden and I was cruising at a (hopefully police-friendly) smidgen under 90mph but given the car’s official combined consumption is 60mpg I was hoping for better.
Once we’d hared up a few alpine passes during our week away and including the run back to London and we’d averaged 36.9mpg over 1415 miles. Back in Blighty, a more sedate, unladen journey saw a perhaps more representative economy figure of 52.4mpg over a 50 mile mixed journey, so maybe I was simply expecting too much when cruising at high-speed fully laden?
Once we’d unpacked and enjoyed a welldeserved sherbet or two it was time to equip ourselves with skis for the following week’s exertions on the slopes and fortunately my brother-in-law’s main hobby seems to be buying up skiing equipment in end of season sales. Thus us four Harpers were soon fitted up with skis of varying lengths based on our perceived abilities along with helmets and other bits and bobs we’d neglected to buy before leaving England. Sadly my sister’s family seem to be blessed with below average-sized feet so a trip to the hire shop was in order the following morning to find something suitable for my oddly shaped feet. Fitting the skis and boots in the AT was a doddle and the 40-20-40 split folding rear seats made poking the skis through from the boot into the rear seat area (suitably covered in plastic sheeting I might add) very easy indeed and drew admiring glances from my brother-in-law whose Nissan just has a 40-60 split rear seat.
I did nearly pass out on my first day on the slopes not due to skiing exertions – but from the price of the lift passes! We’ve not been skiing for around eight years but by golly they’re expensive. Once up in the mountains though the cost was soon forgotten – it’s a glorious feeling being on the top of a mountain with beautifully manicured slopes to cruise down. I’m not one for off-piste or any of that fancy jazz and avoid black runs like the plague but by the end of the week red runs were being dispatched pretty regularly and I was pleased to find I wasn’t the slowest member of our party, although my boys were happy to oblige with plenty of slow old man jokes each time we gathered at the chair lift at the bottom of a run.
As is usual when away enjoying oneself on holiday the week seemed to rocket by at double speed and I only really had one opportunity to go and tackle some Alpine roads without the family on board. You might not think that a mini-MPV is going to be a particularly thrilling steer but the 2 Series did make a pretty good fist of entertaining up the twisties. The Alps have been chronically short of snow and even higher up on my test route the roads were completely devoid of the white stuff , although many of them were pretty wet thanks to lots of melt water coming down the mountains.
In these conditions the xDrive was a boon, really clinging on tenaciously which was handy given some of the stomach-churning drops just a couple of feet from the car. The four-pot diesel was plenty punchy enough to haul the 220d’s 1585kg up and down the hills and the sport auto transmission with its steering wheel-mounted paddles was very effective when additional engine braking was required.
Shoehorning the luggage back in for the journey home was slightly less of a trial and tribulation than it was on the way out (mainly as I’d drunk some of it!) but I still sorely missed a split folding tailgate for squeezing in the last few bits and bobs. Another Sunday dash to the Channel was on the cards and as luck would have it the 220d’s fuel tank was empty by the time we reached the famous ‘chicken services’ – Le Poulet de Bresse on the A39 between Dijon and Bourg-en-Bresse. I’ve always wanted to stop here after having seen Heston Blumenthal stop there on one of his TV programmes and enjoy a slap up chicken dinner… sadly for us its only just gone 9am and a gourmet chicken meal isn’t on the cards but we stock up with chicken-based Scooby snacks to keep us going. And take a quick snap of the car in front of the famous chicken.
The return leg is more or less a facsimile of the run out through France – there’s little traffic and the 220d is an amiable companion. During the week we were away I’d been receiving a series of texts from Eurotunnel warning that we would be returning to the UK on one of the busiest days of the year, and how it was vital that we checked in on time or risk missing our train and a consequentially long wait for the next one. When coming from 600 miles away it’s difficult to judge arrival times all that accurately so I went on-line and upgraded to FlexiPlus for the not insignificant sum of £80. Arriving in Coquelles it proved to be just about the best 80 quid I’ve ever spent as the queues were monumental. We whizzed past in our FlexiPlus lane and were on a train 20 minutes after checking in. If you’re travelling at a busy time I’d recommend the FlexiPlus upgrade as the last thing you want after a eight-hour drive is to be sat in the car going nowhere for a couple of hours waiting to get your car on a train!
Once home it was time to reflect of the Active Tourer. The boot was a little tight, but then again skiing trips do necessitate a huge amount of bulky clobber as puff y jackets don’t fold down very small. Economy was disappointing on the trip, but I’m prepared to put that down to my lead foot, but one certainly couldn’t fault the car for its ride or comfort or general refinement levels. Even those chunky 18s didn’t create too much road noise. The cockpit’s well-designed and hugely commodious storage pockets in the doors hold all the inevitable detritus accumulated on a lengthy road trip. It might not be a machine to excite a dyed-in-the-wool BMW fan, but as a tool for lugging people and luggage around it does an admirable job. The fact that it’s actually good to drive is an added bonus and makes it worthy of carrying the #BMW roundel.
The xDrive was a boon, really clinging on tenaciously which was handy given some of the stomach-churning drops just a couple of feet from the car.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE 2017 / #BMW-F45 / #BMW-220d-xDrive / #BMW-220d-xDrive-F45 / #BMW-220d-F45 / #BMW / #2017 / #BMW-2-Series-F45 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-220d
ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve, diesel
MAX POWER: 190hp @ 4000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
0-62mp h: 7.3 seconds
TOP SPEED: 138mph
ECONOMY ON TEST: 39.8mpg
EMISSIONS (CO²): 124g/km
WEIGHT (EU): 1585kg
PRICE (OTR): £33,350Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationThe Supercar People Carrier #2016
Behind the Wheel This month we sample the latest plug-in hybrid, the 225xe, and discover it’s rather good. BMW drops the i8’s drivetrain into the #BMW-2-Series #Active-Tourer for a new plug-in hybrid model and the resulting MPV is probably one of the most exciting ways to ferry the kids about. Words: Matt Robinson. Photography: BMW.
BMW has been doing eco-motors for a lot longer than most. Back in 1983 it created an E28 525e, the ‘e’ standing for ‘eta’. Taking an M20 straight-six and fitting a different crank for a longer stroke, the 525e focused on fuel-saving over power. Obviously, this being the 1980s, we’re probably talking about the difference between 20mpg and 22mpg, but the point remains valid.
However, it was in 2000 that the company really focused on improving its fleet-wide green credentials, with Munich working on the #EfficientDynamics (ED) suite of ecological technologies. By 2007, the first cars with ED standards were launched and today all BMWs use the measures. It was only a year later when the ActiveHybrids appeared, BMWs with mild electrification to eke out their fuel reserves. Clever and unobtrusive tech, indeed, but really a company with BMW’s engineering genius could do better. Cue the i-brand. Stunning the world with the i3 batteryelectric city car and the absolutely incredible i8 plugin hybrid ( #PHEV ) supercar, these two vehicles weren’t just vanity projects designed to show what electric heights BMW could scale: they also heralded the wider electrification of the mainstream range. The models subsequently chosen for #BMW-PHEV treatment show Munich’s crafty intelligence. First up was the mighty X5, a sales phenomenon and a vehicle that could only benefit from an official 85.6mpg and 77g/km of CO² emissions as the xDrive40e. Then BMW announced the gadget-laden 7 Series will be hybridised, although we won’t actually see the 740e (badge TBC) until later this year. Finally, the absolute essence of Munich, the 3 Series, was graced with the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrolelectric drivetrain of the X5, albeit slightly detuned for the 330e to 252hp and 310lb ft.
We drove the 330e on the same launch event as this car, the 225xe Active Tourer, which completes a wave of four plug-in vehicles in the space of nine months. Clearly, #BMW felt that, for family buyers who liked the idea of a PHEV but were against an SUV like the X5, then the 2 Series MPV would be a more acceptable choice. What’s most intriguing is that the 225xe has the i8’s drivetrain… Oh, all right, that’s not strictly true; there are differences. For a start, it has been flipped through 180 degrees compared to the i8, so in the 225xe the petrol engine drives the front axle while the electric motor controls the rear; and, yes, that means the 2 Series PHEV can be a front-, rear- and ultimately four-wheel drive BMW, hence the ‘x’ in its model name.
Furthermore, the 225xe doesn’t have the twospeed reduction gear for the electric motor, instead making do with a single-speed item like the i3, while the system’s overall output is scaled back from the i8’s 362hp/421lb ft muscle. Instead, the 1.5-litre turbocharged triple delivers 136hp and 162lb ft (it’s the engine from the MINI Cooper) while its electric motor adds 88hp and 122lb ft.
Unlike other BMW PHEVs, here the overall peak numbers are the sum of their parts. With both motors the 225xe kicks out 224hp and 284lb ft – rudely healthy data for a compact MPV. Coupled to all-wheel drive traction and a kerb weight of 1660kg (heavy, but not ludicrously so), the 225xe is rapid: 0-62mph takes 6.7 seconds and the top speed is 126mph. And it feels every bit as punchy as that on the roads, the 2 Series dispatching questionable overtakes with ease. The three-pot motor is a gem, too, making a great noise in this application, if not quite up to the melody it makes in the i8.
From the inside there’s little to distinguish that this is a Hybrid version of the 2 Series Active Tourer, although the underfloor boot space is less generous than in a conventionally-powered version.
The fuel economy is pretty impressive, too, although it needs to be couched in terms of reality, rather than on-paper stats. The 141.2mpg economy with 46g/km CO² are figures attainable only by citybased users who spend maybe 80 or 90 per cent of their time commuting on electric power alone, with the odd weekend out-of-town jaunt. Use the petrol engine regularly and those figures will inevitably tumble. So let us give you both sides of the coin: on a 50-mile route, overall it returned 54.3mpg at an average of 28.9mph, which is excellent for a powerful, tall, petrol-drinking, four-wheel drive MPV like this, but just 38 per cent of its quoted average; however, for the first 12.5 miles of the trip, through some of Munich’s stickiest traffic, it majored on the electric motor and delivered an utterly remarkable 149.6mpg instead.
If you do use the electric motor a lot (in the Max eDrive mode), then you have a range of 26 miles and a limited top speed of 78mph, slightly higher than other BMW PHEVs. It is, of course, so much quieter and smoother when whipping about town in zero-emissions running than any other 2 Series would be, so it’s a shame that the ride is overly firm and the tyres emit a loud rumble. We will concede the 225xe we drove was on winter rubber, so maybe it’ll be less noisey on regular tyres.
Yet that stiff ride translates into the sort of handling that shames any comparable-sized MPV going. Based on front-wheel drive architecture it may be, but the 225xe is unquestionably a BMW in its dynamic makeup. Lift the throttle mid-bend and it will cleanly tuck its nose in as the tail goes light, while the steering is (by the standards of its rivals) great. The six-speed Steptronic automatic is flawless and the brakes – still required to do two jobs, namely harvesting kinetic energy and stopping the car – feel a little better modulated than those on the 330e. In short, while it might not be an i8 in a stovepipe hat, it feels like a little of the dihedral-doored sports car’s DNA has rubbed off onto the sensible Active Tourer.
So it’s yet another hugely impressive PHEV from BMW, with the main two stumbling blocks being the ride and its price. If you can live with the former (and many will), the 225xe starts at £35,155 excluding the government’s £5000 plug-in car grant… which reduces to £2500 from 1 March. That means the 2 AT PHEV currently costs at least £30,155, rising to £32,655 in spring, compared to the 225i xDrive’s £32,010 ticket. That doesn’t exactly make this 2 Series Active Tourer cheap but it remains a practical, spacious family car that might just be the answer to rising fuel costs for many urbanites. And as it really has no direct rivals (go on, name another premium AWD electric MPV) then BMW’s long-running obsession with eco-vehicles looks like it is finally paying off handsomely.
TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-225xe-Active-Tourer / #BMW-225xe / #BMW-225xe-F45 / #BMW-F45 / #BMW-225xe-Active-Tourer-F45 /
ENGINE: 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol with synchronous electric motor, six-speed #Steptronic auto (petrol) plus reduction gear (electric), four-wheel drive
MAX POWER: Petrol: 136hp @ 4400rpm; electric: 88hp @ 4000rpm; combined peak output 224hp
MAX TORQUE: Petrol 162lb ft @ 1250-4300rpm; electric 122lb ft @ 0-3000rpm; combined peak output 284lb ft
0-62MPH: 6.7 seconds
TOP SPEED: 126mph
PRICE: From £30,155 including government’s £5000 grant (until March 1, see copy)Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBMW 2 SERIES ACTIVE TOURER 2015
The Shape of Things to Come We get behind the wheel of a 2 Series Active Tourer in the UK for the first time. Put your prejudices aside and step into the new front-wheel drive BMW mini-MPV. It’s actually really rather good Words: Bob Harper /// Photography: #BMW /// #BMW-218i-Active-Tourer-F45 /// #BMW-218i-Active-Tourer /// #BMW-218i-F45 /// #BMW-F45 /// #BMW-218d-Active-Tourer-F45 /// #BMW-218d-F45 /// #BMW-218d
Having attended the UK media launch of the 2 Series Active Tourer I was actually feeling pretty upbeat about the car’s prospects. Despite reading our scribe’s positive thoughts on the car on its international launch it was with some trepidation that I approached the car as it is sometimes possible to get slightly carried away on the big media launches especially as time in the car can be a little limited and the type of roads you end up driving on can be pretty far removed from what we’re used to at home. I had some inevitable question marks over how the company’s first front-wheel drive vehicle would feel from the driver’s seat – I have nothing against frontwheel drive as a concept but for the car to feel like a BMW the company’s chassis engineers will have needed to have been pretty clever.
On leaving the launch I remembered somewhat belatedly that we’re meant to be all social media these days so I posted a quick snap of the 2 Series Active Tourer to our Facebook page and was genuinely surprised at some of the comments the image generated. ‘A dark day for BMW and for driving in general,’ said one. ‘It's just another bloody Picasso. BMW has sold its soul,’ said another; the general consensus was that this wasn’t BMW’s finest hour.
Several of the comments did seem to centre around the way the Active Tourer looks and I guess I would tend to agree with them; it’s not exactly a looker, although there aren’t really many machines in this class that you look at and think, ‘I really rather like that’. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and first and foremost this is a mini-MPV but does it have to look quite so bland? It is a little colour sensitive and the blue machine pictured here does look better than the silver car I posted to Facebook but at the end of the day it’s not a design you’re going to fall in love with. Couldn’t the car’s designers have been a little bit more avant-garde or quirky in their thinking? Put it this way, I thought I’d seen one parked up as I was driving to work the other day… turned out it was a Kia Ceed!
But, hey, it’s not the first time we’ve had to judge a new BMW that’s never going to get past the first round of a beauty contest so instead of writing it off as rubbish on looks alone we need to dig a little deeper. Before we get onto driving let’s first immerse ourselves in the interior as, let’s face it, that’s the most important facet of a car in this class. Is the boot big enough? Does the interior offer flexible accommodation? Will the kids be comfy? As many parents will attest that last question is one of the most important as if the kids are happy in the back it will mean less complaints and on a long journey that makes a huge difference.
When BMW took us for a walk around the car on the launch there was one particular stat that really hit home: it’s a scant few centimetres longer than a 1 Series yet offers the boot space of a 3 Series Touring and the rear legroom of a 7 Series. When you put it like that the benefits of front-wheel drive packaging really make themselves starkly felt. With this in mind we start off with the rear seats and even with the driver’s seat adjusted for someone six-foot tall there’s acres of space in the rear – perhaps not quite up to Skoda Superb levels but you would have thought that it must be a class-leading amount of space. Never mind the kids, fully-grown adults will be happy to while away the hours back here.
In order to allow for maximum flexibility the rear seats move fore and aft to give less legroom and more luggage space or vice versa and the angle of the backrests can also be altered. You could be forgiven for thinking that the floor in the rear would be completely flat as there’s no need for a transmission tunnel but as there will be xDrive models that channel drive to the rear wheels as well there’s a little bit of a hump in the middle of the floor but it’s not too intrusive.
At first the luggage space doesn’t look as voluminous as a 3 Series Touring and if you look at the stats that impression will be backed-up by the figures. The 2 Series Active Tourer has between 468- 1510 litres of capacity to the Touring’s 495-1500 litres, so with the seats all folded flat the Active Tourer wins; with all the seats in place the Touring shades it.
There’s also the fact that a significant portion of the Active Tourer’s luggage capacity is to be found below the boot floor as there’s a very large compartment there – fine if you pack with soft bags but less so if you’re a hard shell suitcase kind of family. In fact, that under-floor compartment measures 70 litres so if you didn’t use it effectively the boot space drops to 398 litres or, to put it another way, it’s only just bigger than a 1 Series hatch. There are a couple of neat facets to the Active Tourer, though. The tailgate is electrically operated (an unusual feature for this class of car) which means you can open the boot from the key if you’re approaching the car with your hands full and secondly the rear seat backs fold flat at the pull of a toggle switch in the luggage compartment, which is a nice touch.
If we move up to the front of the passenger compartment, though, there’s a fairly familiar BMW dash layout with a slightly different twist to some of the switchgear. The car uses the same ‘layering’ principles that BMW is so keen on at the moment and it does make for a fairly attractive look but the centre section of the dash looks slightly less integrated than the rest of the range as BMW has squeezed in a storage cubby-hole between the radio and the heating and air-con controls. The centre console area around the gear lever is a little smaller than on most BMWs and does look a little cluttered and as a result the Sport/Comfort/Eco Pro switch has been redesigned and placed in front of the gear lever which does initially look and feel a little odd. Having said that most owners will almost certainly leave it in the middle Comfort setting for 99 per cent of the time so it’s probably of little consequence.
The driving position itself seems pretty good and there’s plenty of adjustment to the seats that will keep even the most oddly-shaped individuals comfortable. The Active Tourer offers plenty of storage space with large door bins and various cubby-holes although the one under the armrest isn’t covered which means its contents can be viewed from outside the car. As we’ve come to expect from launch press cars these examples have been kitted-out with a huge array of extras showing just what’s possible in way of personalisation so we’ve got the Navigation Plus package which also brings a Head-up display although this is of the type used on the MINI which means a screen popping up from the top of the dash binnacle rather than the information being projected onto the windscreen. It’s nowhere near as well resolved as the pukka system found on all other BMWs and on our test-drive we found that the information was projected in the same line of sight as where the wipers park and the trailing edge of the bonnet which made it harder to read, too.
As most of us should now be aware, the Active Tourer is based on a stretched MINI platform and as a result it features a transverse engine driving the front wheels and, popping the bonnet, it does look somewhat incongruous to see this type of arrangement in an BMW. The two engines on offer for us to sample today are the 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol 218i and the four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel in the 218d. As this is the first time we’ve had the chance to sample the new three-pot in a BMW it’s this car we spent most time in. Vital stats are: 136hp at 4400rpm, 162lb ft from 1250-4300rpm, 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. The advantages of that three-cylinder become immediately apparent when you look at a combined economy figure of 57.6mpg and emissions of just 115g/km. Impressive on paper, but does this translate into a decent realworld driving experience?
Our test route consists of a little bit of town work, some flowing country roads and a stint on the motorway so we have a variety of situations to try it on and when you’re pottering around normally it’s really rather good. The engine’s plenty responsive enough providing you stay away from the Eco Pro mode in which it feels a little bit like the car’s having to wade through glue. Obviously you’re not expecting rocket-ship performance but it feels peppy enough even on the motorway, although you do find yourself dropping down a cog if rapid acceleration into the outside lane is required. And you do wonder quite how it will feel when loaded to the gunwales with a family and all their kit. Using the gear lever isn’t a chore, though, as the gearbox itself is fine, even if it if does have an ever so slightly rubbery feel to its change quality. The ride’s fine at speed, and around town for that matter, and wind and road noise are perfectly acceptable, too. What’s less acceptable is the visibility in some directions. The A-pillar is pretty chunky as it splits into two at its base and despite the addition of another section of glass here it does create a bit of a blind spot, as does the chunky C-pillar at the back. It’s not disastrous but will take a little getting used to if you’re coming to the car from one with thinner pillars.
When you start pushing on the back roads the limitations of the car’s performance do become apparent but it would be unfair to really mark the 218i down for this; if you want to travel faster buy one with a more powerful engine. Grip levels are pretty high, though, and the steering is fine despite putting the power down as well as doing directional changes but as is the way with an electrically-assisted setup it’s not full of feel. There’s not really enough power to worry about torque steer but in extremis you can just feel the steering wheel being tugged this way and that, as is typical of a front-wheel drive vehicle.
The 218d uses the new B47 four-pot diesel and the new unit really is excellent. Headline stats are 150hp, 243lb ft of torque and a 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds and while that might not sound hugely faster than the petrol version, on the road it feels significantly stronger, especially in the mid-range. It’s mightily refined, too – there’s still a bit of a diesel thrum if you sit at idle with the window open but bar that it’s much quieter and with less vibration than the old N47 that’s served so well in recent years.
Our test car comes with the optional eight-speed automatic (the petrol makes do with a six-speeder if you opt for the auto) and it’s a very good combo. Where the 218i started to feel a little breathless and out of its comfort zone when extended the 218d feels much brisker when pushing on and while its no M235i you can imagine it serving enough delights when being driven without the family on board to satisfy the keen driver. The newfound verve reveals that as speeds rise it’s a very tidy handler and despite the raised body (you sit as high as you do in an X1) it can be thrown around without it losing composure.
Typical front-wheel drive traits are there – it’ll tighten its line nicely in a corner with a little lift but at the same time lift-off oversteer is happily absent. Driven more sensibly and it’s quiet, composed, refined and pretty economical, too. Not quite sure if it’ll do anywhere near the claimed nigh-on 70mpg, but realistically 50 would be achievable so long as you’re not trying to extract the last drop of performance. Overall I was pretty impressed with the car, even if our Facebook followers were less than complimentary. I have to agree with them on the styling – I know most machines in this segment are designed to be bland but if Citroën can make an MPV look good (witness the C4 Picasso) then I’m disappointed that BMW has designed something so dull to look at.
Despite this, that it will sell, and sell well, is a given. The interior really is excellent (even if I did have a couple of curmudgeonly moans) and offers a flexible environment that should suit even the most demanding family. The clincher will be the cost though: a 218d SE has an on-the-road price of £24,205 whereas a 318d Touring (with less legroom and less performance will set you back £28,975 – a saving of nearly £5k. It might be no oil painting but that makes the 2 Series Active Tourer stunning value for money.
It’s a scant few centimetres longer than a 1 Series yet offers the boot space of a 3 Series Touring and the rear legroom of a 7 Series.
TECH DATA BMW F45 2 Series Active Tourer: #BMW-218i & #BMW-218d
218i SE 218d SE
ENGINE: Three-cylinder, 12-valve turbo petrol Four-cylinder, 16-valve turbodiesel
CAPACITY: 1499cc 1995cc
MAX POWER: 136hp @ 4400rpm 150hp @ 4000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 162lb ft @ 1250-4300rpm 243lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
0-62MPH: 9.2 seconds 8.9 seconds
TOP SPEED: 127mph 129mph
ECONOMY 57.6mpg 68.9mpg
EMISSIONS: 115g/km 109g/km
WEIGHT(EU): 1395kg 1450kg
PRICE: £22,125 £24,205
Interior is very flexible with rear seats that slide fore/aft and have adjustable backrests, too; boot space is excellent when the seats are folded flat. Sport/Eco Pro switch has been relocated and redesigned; transverse engine looks odd in a BMW; interior roomy and well designed; auto ’box really suits diesel engine.
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