First Drive: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

When it comes to developing cars for new segments BMW is developing quite a knack at making something for everyone. The Bavarian firm may often come in for harsh criticism in this regard but in the case of its new 2 Series Active Tourer it looks set to win over plenty of new customers.

Built on an entirely new platform, the second model to make up the 2 Series range is BMW’s first front-wheel drive offering and given both the levels of investment and the versatility of the new platform, it certainly won’t be the last.

Aesthetically the Active Tourer might not convince the BMW purists, but it falls right into line with the majority of its direct competition. As you would expect there are plenty of the usual BMW styling cues such as the kidney grille and corona daytime running lights, but seeing them in a shape such as this still seems slightly odd. In fact, were you to hide these features the Active Tourer could wear almost any badge on its sloping bonnet and get away with it.

Designers were keen to keep the dimensions as compact as possible, and at 4.34 metres in length, it’s barely longer than a 1 Series. Like many of BMW’s smaller cars, short overhangs are the order of the day while the high roofline helps to make it feel more spacious inside which is what the majority of potential buyers are going to be most concerned with.

The cabin is very much in keeping with BMW’s layout while the fit and finish of the unique design is as good as any in the current range. The layered centre console design is home to a 6.5-inch free-standing colour screen which can be controlled via the iDrive rotary dial. When it comes to standard equipment BMW hasn’t scrimped either – with DAB radio, dual-zone climate control, multi-function steering wheel as well as a front centre armrest and rear parking sensors featuring in every car.

On the practical side of things, the front seat in addition to being able to fold virtually flat, also features an ISOFIX point, while the rear seats which can be adjusted for increased legroom offer two further ISOFIX points. Conveniently, the rear seats can also be electronically dropped flat from the boot area and do so in a 40:20:40 split. The bootspace itself is a useful 398 litres in volume and features an additional 70 litres by way of a separate storage compartment under the boot floor. Fold the seats down and this then grows to an IKEA-tackling 1,510 litres of space.

From launch buyers will have a choice of a 134bhp 1.5-litre petrol or a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel both of which will be available with either manual or automatic transmissions. The petrol is a three-cylinder turbocharged unit similar to what is in the latest MINI and delivers a nippy enough drive while still returning a combined figure of 57.6mpg. At slow speeds and around town there is a nice, weighty feel to the steering that reinforces the impression that you’re driving a well-engineered piece of kit.

Poorer surfaces do result in a reasonable amount of road noise being transmitted into the cabin but overall, given the compact nature of the Active Tourer, BMW has done a pretty good job at making it feel as refined as possible – it certainly beats many others in the segment. More importantly it’s economical, even in petrol form. The lure to diesel engine may be strong for some but if most of your driving is short trips and school runs then the petrol will prove more than adequate.

The Active Tourer may represent new ground for BMW to cover but for a first attempt it has come pretty close to nailing the brief – so much so that it is more than capable of stealing away BMW X1 business. As an overall package it works very well combining generous levels of standard equipment, a positive driving experience and an interior that is not only practical but still feels very much like a BMW.

Model Tested: BMW 218i SE Active Tourer
Price: £21,345
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 127 mph
0-62 mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 136 PS (134 bhp)
Torque: 220 Nm (162 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 57.6 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 115 g/km
Car tax band: C / £30 per year
Insurance group: 15E
Kerb weight: 1,395 kg

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