BMW's model diversification continues apace, and now it's the turn of a small MPV to join the growing ranks. The 2 Series Active Tourer is a spacious, fine driving compact people carrier, even if its front-wheel drive and purpose are the chagrin of BMW's most hardcore customers. Everyone else will love it.
In the metal 3.5/5
The 2 Series Active Tourer is a bit of a diversion for the Bavarian firm that usually makes sports saloons and SUVs. A sensible one, in every way, as the marketplace is certain to lap up a BMW-badged machine with a bent on family-friendliness. Its looks are, unsurprisingly, dictated by the need for interior space, so it's a simple, tall hatchback shape, with only the slightest hint of a bonnet. There are BMW styling cues though, integrated relatively successfully; the kidney grille, signature headlamps and body surfacing are all immediately recognisable.
If the outside's obviously BMW then so too is the interior. The cabin's fit and finish is exemplary, the multi-layered, many surfaced dashboard perhaps not the most family friendly as it's full of nooks and crannies for stuff to gather, melt and be lost into - but otherwise it's beautifully executed. The seats are hugely comfortable, though given its MPV status the rears are somewhat limited in movement, the 40/20/40 layout sliding and folding, but not offering the bewildering choice of movement/layout of some rivals. The boot is competitively sized though, access to it and the level floor good. Access to it is eased by the fact all Active Tourers have an automatic opening tailgate.
Driving it 4/5
The Active Tourer shape isn't the only thing defined by the need for space; so too is its drivetrain. It's front-wheel drive, the first BMW to push its drive forward. BMW's most fanatical purists see that as sacrilegious, but nobody else will care. Especially as BMW has managed to produce a compact MPV that drives better than all its competition. There's no corruption to the steering for a start, which is light and decently accurate. It's the Active Tourer's ride and handling that impress the most though, it always surefooted and stable, while the suspension manages to ride decently enough on poorer road surfaces. It'll not thrill like many BMWs, but then it's not supposed to really. Thankfully it doesn't come with an enjoyment bypass on grounds of fertility.
By far and away the biggest anticipated seller will be the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine. That'll be on grounds of economy, its official 68.9mpg and 109g/km CO2 dictating that, and the new 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit is among the finest four-cylinder diesels on the market. It's smooth and it's difficult to imagine why you'd want any other engine. Brisk rather than fast, it's the turbodiesel's ample torque that is key to the Active Tourer's ease, it allowing you to skip gears in the six-speed manual gearbox at will and makes for effortless progress. If it didn't have a BMW badge on its bonnet the Active Tourer would be proclaimed as the finest driving compact MPV you can buy, which it unquestionably is, though it'll be more harshly judged by some by virtue of it not being what they think a BMW should be.
What you get for your money 4/5
The Active Tourer might start where mainstream rivals reach their limit on pricing, but the build and quality reflect this. Performance too, so you might think that BMW would scrimp a bit on specification. It hasn't. Even the lowliest SE entry model comes with dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels, rear park distance control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB radio and an automatic opening tailgate.
The trim line-up includes everything from entry-level SE, through Sport, Luxury and M Sport, the latter gaining more sporting styling and suspension revisions. It comes later in the year and adds Variable Sports Steering. Luxury adds leather and a few other bits and pieces. Launched with just this 2.0-litre diesel and a three-cylinder 218i turbocharged petrol, the line-up will quickly expand to include 220i and 225i petrol choices and further diesels badged 216d and 220d. That 225i will come with xDrive four-wheel drive, the 220d also due to be offered with it optionally.
Haters gonna hate, but the new 2 Series Active Tourer fills a hole in BMW's product range and will sell in big numbers - deservedly so. That its residual values will make it as inexpensive to run as faster depreciating, if cheaper to buy, mainstream rivals will only help too. That it's front-wheel drive has no bearing on anything really, except BMW's bottom line. A bit more versatility and cubby stowage inside wouldn't hurt, but those are small complaints in what's unquestionably the finest driving compact MPV currently available.