This BWW 2-Series Active Tourer is BMW’s first go at a front-wheel drive model. It’s an important car as BMW plans to launch a whole bunch of new products off of this front-wheel drive platform. Expect to see the new X1 and new 1-Series hatchback roll on this chassis, as well as some other models BMW has secretly pencilled in. We spent a week with the 218i Active Tourer auto getting to grips with a very different BMW than we’re used to.
Where does it fit in?The Active Tourer is an MPV with five seats and a large boot, the driver’s seat is slightly elevated to give a bit of an SUV feel and in typical BMW fashion, it’s said to have a sporty feel to the ride. This particular Active Tourer is fitted with the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine that we tested in the Mini Cooper last year. It’s transversely mounted in order to fit the front-wheel drive system snuggly, and also to make room for people and things behind it. Pursuing the MPV route, however, is a strange choice as much of that segment has been eaten into by the more popular compact SUV. Despite the compact SUV sales going well, Mercedes-Benz has shown there's money to be made and the B-Class is selling in respectable.
Interior fit for kids?One of the things an MPV needs to withstand is a constant battering from fluids like melted chocolate, ice cream, yoghurt, mud and child. BMW has taken this into account and hardened things up inside making use of firmer plastics that feel a bit less upmarket compared with its other models, but should be entirely durable. The boot is particularly large at 468-litres and space can be increased or decreased by sliding the rear seats forward and backwards, which also helps rear legroom accommodation.
A fully automatic bootlid comes standard and that’s a neat bonus. Also handy is the fact that the rear seats can be flattened at the push of a button in the boot, meaning you don’t have to walk around the car to flop the seats down. The driver setup is as per just about every BMW at the moment with the iDrive system controlling the infotainment system. The new look controls for the climate control is a neat improvement for the Active Tourer. Tick enough boxes on the options list and you can get every gadget your heart desires.
Engine copes just fineThe three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo petrol in the Active Tourer copes just fine with the extra load of an MPV. With 100 kW and 220 Nm of torque, the engine has more than enough pull and it punches a good amount of power low down the rev range so it never feels laboured. Zero to 100kph is claimed at 9.2 seconds and that’s quick for an MPV.
The automatic gearbox fitted to this Active Tourer on the other hand, makes life at slow speeds particularly jerky. Creeping along in traffic, the brakes feel catchy and it can be bouncy when trying to be smooth in bumper to bumper situations. Fuel economy, as you’d expect from the three-cylinder, is good at a claimed 5.2L/100km. During its week with us it managed 7L/100km, but you can almost certainly expect to beat that figure in the long term.
Ride and DriveBMW has prided itself on fun to drive and sporty handling in everything it makes. It has carried similar DNA into the Active Tourer and it may be a bit misguided in this segment. The ride is firm and there’s not much roll in the corners. If you get a move on the Active Tourer responds well to steering inputs and defies the MPV stigmatism of sloppy handling soccer mom’s cars.
I’m not totally sure that the rear passengers would enjoy the sort of ride BMW is offering here. On straight roads or corners with bumps along them the firm ride and tall seating positions combine for a head-bobbing journey. Maybe something more comfortable and less sporty would have suited better, but this stands the brand in good stead if it intends on revealing a 2-Series Active Tourer M235i.
BMW 2-Series Active Tourer - VerdictThe Active Tourer is a different take on the MPV. BMW has gone down the sporty route in order to attract a different kind of buyer. Unfortunately the ride is a bit stiff for those likely to be lugging a family around and it's jerky at low speed. The biggest problem that I can think of is the SUV market as buyers are choosing the higher ride and perceived lifestyle over the practicality of MPVs. That said, as the popularity of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class has proven, there are a significant number of buyers out there looking for a premium-badged vehicle that offers this type of packaging.
Pricing also comes into it and BMW is offering the Active Tourer range at a starting point of R378 000 before options. There are some nice SUVs you can get at that price, like a well specced Ford Kuga or Nissan X-Trail that don’t carry the badge appeal, but certainly do everything else and more. Don't forget, you can always opt for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class as a direct competitor and there's an MPV product from Volkswagen which is coming in April 2015.
Second OpinionThe BMW 2-Series Active Tourer is the vehicle to take BMW into new segments. Those who express doubt over the brand's ability to make quality front-wheel drive products clearly don't know what they're talking about as the Mini Cooper is a good offering. Despite the firm ride and steep price tag, the Active Tourer is a solid product. Personally I think you're better off with a front-wheel drive diesel X1. -David Taylor
Active Tourer PricingThe range starts at R378 000 for a 218i manual and goes right up to R485 800 for a 220d with an M Sports pack added to it. After options our 218i Auto's price climbed from R396 205 to R513 200 thanks to upgrades like a rear view camera, 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, parking assistance and a sliding panoramic sun roof to name just a few.
We Like: Impressive space, good engine and sporty ride
We Don't Like: Sporty ride, jerky at low speeds
Also Consider: Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Peugeot 3008
See a comparison between the Active Tourer, B-Class and 3008 here