Overall rating: 3.5/5
The arrival of the 2 Series Gran Tourer may cause die hard BMW aficionados to cringe and squirm, but it's a whole new type of customer that this all-wheel drive family MPV is directed towards.
In the metal 3.5/5
Seven-seat cars are always going to be limited to some extent as to how stylish they can be. To give BMW some credit it has done a reasonably good job of evolving the existing 2 Series Active Tourer into a more spacious version capable of carrying seven. The front, with its signature kidney grille design, is the only aspect of the new Gran Tourer that makes it stand out as a BMW. It has been given a slightly sportier look though with a lower bumper that is more contoured and features integrated fog lights.
The Gran Tourer gains 53mm in height over the Active Tourer, mainly over the second and third row seating. The higher roof is offset by an overall increase in length of 214mm thanks to an increase in both wheelbase and rear overhang. Design-wise the rear isn't quite as tidy as the Active Tourer's, as that longer and more vertical tailgate means that the rear wiper is no longer neatly hidden away under the rear spoiler.
We're not sure the world (or the company itself) is ready for sliding doors on a BMW-badged car. The larger and longer rear doors swing open far enough to allow for easy access, though. The second row seats lift and slide forward to enable ingress to the optional third row. Doing so isn't the easiest or most elegant of tasks even for this average-sized correspondent. Once in, and with the second row seats folded back into place, the seating position just stops short of being cramped. The extra few millimetres of headroom, thanks to the car's boxier shape, makes all the difference. Kids and teenagers will take less issue with the third row and the integrated arm rests and additional power sockets provide some solace/distraction. The third row of seating will be an optional extra, but when not in use it folds flat and takes away only minimally from the overall boot space.
Up front, the dashboard is well laid out and full of quality details that we've come to expect from BMW. Space is at a bit of a premium but BMW has managed to design the cabin to not look overly busy. The free-standing 6.5-inch iDrive monitor is easy to glance at, while an optional Head-Up Display projects all of the main driving information onto a screen mounted on top of the instrument binnacle.
Driving it 4.5/5
Many prospective buyers in this segment won't be all that concerned by driving dynamics or cornering ability. BMW hasn't considered this and has created a car that easily delivers the best on-road handling in its class. Whether you opt for the standard front-wheel drive setup or the slightly more expensive xDrive version tested here, which drives all four wheels, the 2 Series Gran Tourer impresses. One of the positives of the 'UKL2' architecture that underpins the Gran Tourer is that the additional hardware for its all-wheel drive system doesn't encroach in the interior space and adds just 61kg to the overall weight of the car.
In most driving conditions the xDrive provides equal amounts of drive to the front and rear wheels. In extreme cases it can send 100 per cent of drive to just one wheel. The translation of this into everyday driving is a car that feels incredibly surefooted. Through corners the centre of gravity always feels low, a feature that will place the Gran Tourer in good stead when it's fully loaded with passengers and luggage. Steering comes with well-weighted feel and a degree of feedback that remains higher than many other electromechanical systems on the market.
Driving the Gran Tourer fast does little to unsettle it. Road handling and in particular body control, are far ahead of what other perceived rivals can offer. The 2.0-litre diesel engine powering the 220d offers plenty of low down shove. Its 190hp allows it to clip along at a heathy pace on motorways while the 400Nm of torque arrives at an early 1,750rpm making for effortless progress at all times. Mated to the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, it near-seamlessly changes between gears with the same precision that you would expect to find in a 5 Series.
What you get for your money 3.5/5
If finding transport for occasionally up to seven people is your main priority, there are many less expensive options out there. Though, with BMW Ireland having confirmed that seven-seats will be standard at least you don't have to delve to far into the Gran Tourer's extensive options list. BMW will be offering four trim grades in the Gran Tourer: SE, Sport, Luxury and M Sport. Each trim specification will feature clearly distinct interior and exterior styling cures to suit most tastes. For those wanting the additional security of all-wheel drive, they will have to opt for the range topping petrol or diesel engines. Only the 225i petrol and 220d diesel (as tested here) will be available to order with the xDrive system.
Ford Grand C-Max: new model is noticeably improved, lots of room and after the BMW is the best handling car in the segment.
Kia Carens: improved interior quality, drives well and comes with that 7 year warranty.
Opel Zafira Tourer: now includes improved diesel engines and comfortably seats seven.
As compact seven-seaters go BMW has gone above and beyond the chassis engineering most will expect in such a car. Yes it may prove to be divisive to fans of the blue and white roundel, but with close to 75 per cent of sales going to entirely new customers to the brand BMW won't be losing too much sleep. It is as accomplished as such a car can be, packing in clever storage solutions and well thought-out ergonomics. Add in a solid drive in all conditions and it becomes clear why the 2 Series Gran Tourer is well worth the price premium.