£22,640 - £35,465 Price range
43 - 141 MPG
It’s unusual for manufacturers to use the launch of a new vehicle into a new market to take an abrupt turn away from their well-thumbed blue prints.
However, the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer is just such a car – it sports a new front-wheel drive chassis, powered by BMW’s radical three-cylinder petrol and a more traditional four-cylinder diesel engine.
The Active Tourer is already praised for its smooth economy combined with trademark handling, but has BMW missed the point of making a practical vehicle?
If the Active Tourer is too small for you, then why not have a look at the 2 Series Gran Tourer with its seven seats and bigger boot.
A solid feel from a dashboard constructed of pleasant, soft-touch plastics, combined with glimpses of red stitching on the leather trim make the 2-Series cabin one of the highlights.
The Active Tourer has BMW’s iDrive rotary controller and a 6.5-inch colour screen as standard, and this is one of the most highly rated infotainment systems available.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer passenger space
Hop in the back and you’ll find the Active Tourer doesn’t have three individual rear seats unlike rivals such as the Citroen C4 Picasso, which means that headroom and legroom remain generous. Shoulder space with three passengers is cramped on longer journeys, and because there’s a central tunnel rather than a flat floor, the middle seat is only really useful for short runs.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer boot space
Also, at 468 litres the boot is smaller than rivals, although this can be improved by folding the three rear seats completely flat using two buttons on either side of the boot.
The sudden change to a front-wheel drive set-up has certainly not had a negative effect on handling.
The Active Tourer is nimble and precise, with well-weighted steering, and fast corners are handled in a flat and composed manner considering the height and size of the body.
The firmer suspension that enables the Active Tourer to excel in the corners does mean that more bumps are felt inside than in softer competitors like the Citroen C4 Picasso.
However, passenger comfort is treated by BMW as seriously as road-handling so the ride is generally supple, and road imperfections are dealt with quietly and without much intrusion. Engine noise is rarely an issue, but critics report that a draw-back of the Active Tourer’s taller design, especially on larger wheels, is excessive road and wind-noise.
Wide pillars at the front and back cause issues at junctions and when trying to park, although rear parking sensors go some way to rectifying that problem.
The cheapest engine for the Active Tourer is a newly developed three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol turbocharged unit, badged as 218i, which develops a healthy 136hp and has decent pulling power from very low down in the rev-range. It’s so refined you’re hard-pressed to notice it only has three cylinders, and it can achieve nearly 58mpg – truly remarkable for a car this size.
The diesel option at launch is a 2.0-litre turbo diesel badged as a 218d that has 148hp and much more torque than the petrol unit, resulting in impressive performance and nearly 70mpg.
More options are available, in the form of the 216d and 220d diesel units, and 220i and 225i petrol units. The 225i promises to offer high-performance practicality, with up to 227hp coupled to the eight-speed automatic gearbox and BMW’s excellent and popular four-wheel drive xDrive system.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer hybrid
The 225xe uses the same combination of a petrol engine powering the front wheels and an electric one powering the rear like the i3 and effectively is four-wheel-drive on demand. The batteries situated under the floor provide up to 25 miles of emission-free range, but they take up some of the boot space so you’ll have to make do with 400 litres of capacity.
What you lose in boot space you gain in no London Congestion Charge and a very respectable 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds.
The Active Tourer has plenty of safety kit available, including the BMW Emergency Call system that notifies local emergency services if any of the car’s air-bags are deployed.
Active Guard and Driver Assist monitor the position of the Active Tourer in its lane and prevent the car drifting around. The systems will also detect objects and people in the car’s path and bring the car to a stop if the driver doesn’t react in time.
Adaptive Cruise Control maintains a safe distance from the car in front and will adjust speed automatically should it begin closing the gap, bringing the car to a standstill if necessary.
Prices start at a reasonable point, so the Active Tourer appears at first to be nestled competitively next to the Citroen C4 Picasso, Ford C-Max and VW Golf SV.
When some reasonable extras are ticked, such as leather trim, 17-inch wheels and lumbar support for the driver and front passenger, the bill quickly rises, and the BMW starts looking pricey compared with a rival such as the Ford C-Max, where the same amount of money can get you a top-spec model powered by the flagship 160hp diesel engine.
That’s not to say the Active Tourer is poorly equipped, however, and few people will find themselves feeling really cheated with a base model.
BMW clearly wanted to ensure their first front-wheel drive model was still recognisable as a BMW on a country road blast, and it really does – handling remains top-notch.
When other elements are compared to non-premium rivals that have been around in the same market for longer, the Active Tourer begins to falter.
There is no denying that a sharp, confident drive is important, but a new entrant should show innovation and have class-leading practicality, which is where the Active Tourer slightly loses out to rivals.
It’s by no means a bad choice to make should you be in the market for a cheap-to-run compact people carrier, which has a nice interior and can put a smile on your face.
But the steep prices and average luggage space will mean you have to really like the badge on the bonnet to justify a top-specification model.