First Drive: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
Sector: MPV Price: £22,125–£28,755 Fuel: 53.4–68.9mpg CO2: 109–124g/km
Two kids under two and a half. That’s my reality, and that of many others. It has quite a dramatic impact on your transportation needs, too. That 420d you hankered after, forget it. A 3 Series Touring might just do. But, admit it, you need an MPV.
Perusing my wife’s company car list had us select a Ford Grand C-Max three years and the question after a test drive was telling: ‘Does BMW do something like this?’.
It didn’t then, but does now. The 2 Series Active Tourer. The 2 Series bit is confusing as that bundles it in with the two-door range and the Active Tourer is marketing subterfuge to soften the blow of familial defeatism.
It’s a compact MPV in the mould of a slightly more useful hatchback. No sliding doors here, nor is the interior outstandingly versatile, it is merely more spacious and offers a few more options than a standard BMW in the back seats. They are 40/20/40 pews that slide and fold, the good-sized, easily accessed boot, and an automatically opening and closing tailgate. That’s something drivers will appreciate when juggling babies and Bugaboos after less sleep than is recommended.
Achieving all that interior space is a paradigm shift for BMW, as the 2 Series Active Tourer is the first BMW to have drive sent to the front wheels. While that will have the purists spitting out coffee from their M Sport mugs, the majority of buyers simply won’t care. Nor should they. Sure, BMW has long traded on its sporty, dynamic image, and the Active Tourer is in many ways the antithesis of that, but as family-friendly, premium-badged transport goes, it’s the sharpest to drive.
The steering is quick and accurate, the suspension finely judged to deliver some agility and control, without being so firm as to potentially wake up those kids. Fertility here doesn’t mean a driving fun bypass, though inevitably it’s not going to thrill like that 420d might. What will is the cabin, which is among BMW’s best. The dash is a multi-layer, richly surfaced, neatly styled affair containing an easily read and operated info and entertainment system. It’s all very appealing, and a grown up, executive-feeling car up front, with space in the back for the nippers (or a couple of adults).
Direct, premium-badged rivals are scarce. Mercedes-Benz offers the B-Class, but otherwise for similar, often greater, practicality you’ll need to dip into the mainstream. Volkswagen’s Golf SV, Ford’s C-Max and the big-selling Citroën C4 Picasso all offering similar, read better, family-hauling ability, if not the BMW’s prestige and driving appeal. Prices currently place it at the top end of the mainstream spectrum too, though certain high residual values will inevitably mean sensible running costs over a typical three-year ownership.
At launch BMW is offering it with its new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, badged in 150hp guise as a 218d, while a 1.5-litre turbo triple cylinder petrol, though the bulk of sales are to go to the 218d. Good reason too, not just because of its 109g/km CO2 emissions and 68.9mpg combined consumption figure, but its refinement, smoothness and effortless mid-range urgency. It comes as standard as a manual six-speeder, but optioning the eight-speed auto does nothing to dent the efficiency and economy, only increasing the ease further. Four-wheel drive and a pair of further diesels badged 216d and 220d will join the line-up, as will 220i and 225i petrols. They’ll be tiny bit players in the UK, except that smaller diesel.
Trims follow the usual BMW choice of SE, Luxury and M Sport, SEs coming with dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels, park distance control, Bluetooth, USB and DAB radio. So yes, BMW does do something like this, and it’s good.
For a lot of people at a certain point in their lives the 2 Active Tourer is not so much a choice as a necessity. It’s not the fertility-enforced enjoyment void you might imagine, either. Indeed, it’s rather good, for the three years or so you’ll really need and appreciate it.