- Good quality
- Very practical by BMW standards
- Good potential fuel economy
- Even BMW can’t make an MPV look stylish
- Not as much space inside as some rivals
- Not usual BMW driving fun
For more than 50 years BMW has built its image on sporting models with near 50:50 front to rear weight distribution and rear wheel drive for balanced handling.
So, it’s a huge change of direction to build a front-wheel drive MPV to rival cars like the Renault Scenic, which created this type of car in 1996, the Citroen C4 Picasso, Ford C-Max and Peugeot 3008.
It’s very competent for a first effort but the Citroen and Renault are more comfortable and despite BMW’s fancy name, the C-Max handles better.
On The Road
The front wheel drive assembly of the new Mini has been stretched for the 2-Series Active Tourer to provide better passenger space. Some of the engines come from the Mini too.
The 218i test car was powered by the new 138bhp turbocharged three-cylinder 1.5 litre from the Mini and the 218d uses the 148bhp 2-litre diesel from the Cooper D.
More powerful engines are becoming available, including a diesel with four-wheel drive rather than just two-wheel drive.
If it is a hushed drive you are looking for it has to be the petrol. The diesel is harsh when cold and though it provides a strong 243lbs ft of torque, at 1750rpm, to push the car from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds it is rarely quiet enough.
You have to keep the revs up more than usual with a diesel and tall gears (for fuel economy) mean quite a few gear changes too. Top speed is 131mph.
The smoother petrol takes 9.2 seconds to 62mph and has a 127mph top speed. To make the most of the engine you need to change gear quickly so it’s a pity the shift action is notchy in the lower gears.
If you could drive the 2-Series blindfolded you would never think you were in a BMW because the steering lacks the responses which, until now, has meant so much to the sporty drivers BMW strives to attract.
The reason is that BMW is softening its ultimate driving machine mantra and in a bid to sell more cars has built its first model with front wheel drive rather than rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
The Tourer still drives well, but differently, and a Ford C-Max delivers more driver enjoyment and feeling of connection with the road. General stability is fine despite the car’s height and weight.
Select sport mode and the steering becomes artificially heavy but does not increase feedback of road grip to the driver.
The ride is firm but with some suppleness and even on 18 inch alloy wheels it’s comfortable for cruising.
There’s not much body lean unless you really throw the car into a bend and the car is quite agile though I think Ford’s C-Max is even better.
It’s just that lovely balance you get with rear-wheel drive and neutral front to rear weight balance has gone.
General road refinement when cruising could be better it seems based on the experience of the test car which suffered a lot of wind noise around the door mirrors and the front windscreen pillars.
The engines are subdued at cruising speeds in the main though the diesel drones at some cruising speeds.
The petrol engine though is much quieter than the diesel during urban driving.
The diesel also suffers from a notchy six-speed manual gearbox while the turbo petrol was fine.
The ride is firm and lumpy over broken surfaces but never deteriorates enough to be called uncomfortable.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
The cabin is typical BMW and made of good quality materials.
Good seats are an important part of the 2-Series package along with clear instruments and a large screen on top of the dashboard.
The driver’s seat has plenty of adjustment but unless you opt for electric operation is fiddly to adjust so if you often share the car beware.
The usual iDrive rotary control selects most of the car’s functions and buttons alongside make it easier to use than originally.
You sit relatively high so forward vision is good but the wide windscreen pillars mean you need care to spot crossing traffic at road junctions.
Over the shoulder visibility is similarly impeded by the rear roof pillars. Rear parking sensors are standard but you need extra care.
The front seats feel spacious yet the car is narrower than you think and fine on narrower city streets.
An accountant would tell you the entry-level SE model makes the most sense financially when you consider standard equipment levels. It comes with alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, digital radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone connection, rain sensing wipers and those vital rear parking sensors.
Space & Practicality
Having the engine and other drive train components all up front leaves more space for people and bags as cars like Renault’s Scenic and Grand Scenic have long proved.
There are other cars with more space inside than BMW has managed to find, such as the Mercedes-Benz B Class though the standard electric rear tailgate and low boot height makes luggage loading easy.
You can trade luggage space for passenger legroom thanks to sliding the 60:40 split rear seats which move in two sections. The rear seats have space for two adults or three children but knee room could be better.
A high roofline means there is plenty of head room. Electric tailgate is a luxury touch.
There’s storage under the boot floor but the cover doesn’t come out or fix in an upright position.
The boot is small (468 litres) compared to most rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf SV. Folding the rear seats increases volume to 1,510 litres. The load area is completely flat.
MPVs are supposed to be about carrying convenience but the front door pockets aren’t very big and there isn’t much stowage in the centre armrest though there is a pair of cup holders.
BMW’s Active Tourer is more expensive than cars like the Ford C-Max or Volkswagen Golf SV but is well built and uses low CO2 engines which help running costs.
SE trim represents the best value but beware the cost of options packages as you don’t get much of your money back when you trade in for a new car.
Buying the 218d rather than the 218i will cost you about £2,000 more so make sure you will cover enough miles to make up the extra cost of the diesel engine with superior fuel consumption.
Official economy for the diesel is 68.9mpg with carbon monoxide emissions of 109g/km compared to 57mpg and 115g/km for the petrol.
Our real life consumption for the petrol though was 31.9mpg when we expected 40 -45mpg. You should get 50mpg in the diesel.
Quality & Reliability
But BMW itself has only an average record in the survey. Last year the company finished a poor 13th out of 27 manufacturers in the poll.
That said, the Active Tourer comes with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty which should give you confidence and is better than the 60,000 mile limit offered by many of its rivals.
Safety & Security
The BMW 2-Series achieved the full five stars in the independent Euro NCAP crash tests with 84% for adult protection, 85% for child protection and 60% for pedestrian protection.
There are Isofix child seat mounting point on the front passenger seat as well as the outboard rear seats.
Safety systems available include electronic stability control, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, six airbags, automatic low-speed anti-collision braking if the driver fails to react to an obstacle or pedestrian and a head-up display which projects the car’s speed and any satellite navigation directions on to a see-through panel at the base of the windscreen so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.
Security equipment includes an alarm and an engine immobiliser.