- Packing 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): £33,350