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BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Review: 218i, 218d, 220i, 225i Photo:
 
 
Tony O'Kane | Nov, 20 2014 | 7 Comments

What’s Hot: Comfy and roomy interior, well-rounded standard equipment list.
What’s Not: Needlessly firm suspension.
X-FACTOR: Got an aversion to SUVs but want similar attributes? The 2 Series Active Tourer is well worth checking out.

Vehicle Style: Medium hatchback
Price: $44,400 (218i) to $54,900 (225i)
Engine/trans:
218i: 100kW/220Nm 1.5 petrol 3cyl | 6sp auto
218d: 110kW/330Nm 2.0 diesel 4cyl | 8sp auto
220i: 141kW/280Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl | 8sp auto
225i: 170kW/350Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl | 8sp auto

Fuel Economy claimed: 4.2 l/100km (218d) to 6.1 l/100km (225i)

 

OVERVIEW

Yes, this is BMW’s first ever front-drive passenger car. No, it’s not terrible.

In fact, for its intended purpose of being a compact car with an un-compact interior, the 2 Series Active Tourer hits the mark.

Small on the outside and spacious on the inside, it’s targeted squarely at buyers who don’t want an SUV but do want enough room to cart five people around comfortably.

It's quite like the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, which is an obvious rival. In fact, BMW hopes more than a few B-Class drivers will trade for an Active Tourer.

It is also hoping that buyers who might otherwise have been looking at an SUV, will similarly be enticed to make the switch.

After all, with a starting price of $44,400 for the entry-level 218i, the 2 Series Active Tourer is certainly price competitive with high-grade versions of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Kluger.

So, should you dump your SUV in favour of a 2 Series Active Tourer?

 

THE INTERIOR

  • Standard equipment: Sports seats, power tailgate, electrically-folding rear seatbacks, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, Bluetooth audio/phone integration, cruise control, lane departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps.
  • Synthetic leather standard on all models bar 225i. Wood trim standard on 225i.
  • Cargo capacity: 468 litres minimum, 1510 litres maximum.

BMW expects the 2 Series Active Tourer’s cabin to be its biggest drawcard, and we tend to agree.

It certainly looks premium enough.

In the standard Sport Line trim level of the 218i, 218d and 220i you get synthetic leather that’s a reasonable facsimile of the real thing, along with silver and piano black interior accents.

That changes to real Dakota leather and real wood trim in the Luxury Line-equipped 225i (which is also a $1300 option in the other variants), while also gaining the option of four different interior upholstery colours.

Equipment levels are great. Sat-nav with a 6.5-inch display, high-beam assist, lane-keep assist and an anti-collision warning are all standard, along with staples like Bluetooth integration, BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, parking sensors, reversing camera and dual-zone climate control.

If that’s not sufficient then the 2 Series Active Tourer’s lengthy option list will help satisfy you, with things like a larger infotainment screen, head-up display, power-adjustable and heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and digital radio tuner all available - for a price.

As far as cabin comfort goes, the Active Tourer is great.

With a hip point roughly 2cm higher than an X1, it’s easy to slide in and out of the Active Tourer’s front seats.

The view outside is SUV-like as a result, and the car’s high roof and large windows give the cabin an airy, spacious feel.

The back seats are commodious too, and being able to slide them fore or aft helps liberate either more legroom or more cargo space depending on your needs.

It’s not quite wide enough to comfortably seat three adults in the back, but back seat passengers do get their own cupholders, a fold-down centre armrest and face-level air vents on the rear of the centre console.

Cargo capacity is another plus. Measuring 468 litres with the rear seats up, (including the 100-litre under-floor storage compartment), the Active Tourer’s luggage capacity swells to 1510 litres if you drop the 40/20/40 rear seatbacks.

In-cabin storage includes commodious door bins at front and rear, a deep centre console tray, a smaller compartment in the fold-down centre armrest, a modest glovebox and a lidded compartment above the driver’s right knee.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • 218i: 100kW/220Nm 1.5 turbo petrol 3cyl | 6sp auto
  • 218d: 110kW/330Nm 2.0 turbo diesel 4cyl | 8sp auto
  • 220i: 141kW/280Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 8sp auto
  • 225i: 170kW/350Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 8sp auto
  • Front wheel drive
  • MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension. Electric power steering
  • Disc brakes.

Though this is its first front-drive product, BMW as a company has been building FWD cars for a long time through its MINI sub-brand.

And the 2 Series Active Tourer capitalises on that experience, with platform, engines, gearboxes, and suspension mostly derived from the latest-generation MINI Cooper Hatch range.

As a result, the 2 Series Active Tourer - the range-topping 225i in particular - goes, stops and turns better than we expected a high-bodied mini MPV. But unfortunately it’s nowhere near as dynamically capable as its RWD and AWD brethren.

Its chassis lacks the neutral balance of a 1 Series or 3 Series, and while the steering turns in crisply, the feel and feedback through the wheel is barely there.

But how much of that will matter to the younger family buyers in the target demographic?.

What they will care about is comfort, and it seems that BMW’s efforts to impart some sense of agility and dynamism to the Active Tourer has instead resulted in a car that’s too stiff for its intended purpose.

Granted, none of the cars we drove were equipped with wheels smaller than 18-inches (the 218d and 218i get 17-inch alloys as standard) so some of the brittleness we encountered may be solved by sticking with the smaller standard wheels.

However, on the whole the suspension just seems too firm for an MPV.

The engines are great though. The base 218i uses the MINI Cooper’s 3-cylinder turbo 1.5, and puts out the same 100kW and 220Nm as the MINI.

With a 0-100km/h time of 9.2 seconds the 218i is adequately brisk around town, but the decent mid-range torque of that 'turbo three' gives it better driveability than you might imagine.

The six-speed auto it’s mated to is also a decent unit.

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The 220i won’t arrive until early next year, which leaves the other petrol variant the range-topping 225i.

And this one is quick. With a turbo-charged 170kW and 350Nm from its 2.0 litre engine, the 225i can despatch the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.1 seconds, and, on road, it feels very sprightly.

The 218d, meanwhile, is the pick of the bunch.

The more relaxed nature of the diesel suits the Active Tourer better, and though the 225i has a broader torque band and produces peak torque sooner, the 218d is more than punchy enough for this kind of car.

But it’s the 218d’s fuel consumption that is probably its most appealing attribute. Burning just 4.2 litres per 100km, it’s the thriftiest variant by a wide margin.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: This model has yet to be assessed by ANCAP

Safety features: Six airbags as standard (front, front side, full-length curtain), stability control (switchable), traction control (switchable), ABS, EBD, brake assist, anti-collision warning, lane departure warning, pedestrian warning.

 

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

BMW expects some buyers to come from large SUVs with Korean and Japanese badges, but in terms of a small luxury MPV the 2 Series Active Tourer really only has one rival: the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

The 2 Series Active Tourer knocks the B-Class for six when it comes to interior appointments and standard equipment, and is its equal for spaciousness and usability.

But where it could use some finessing is in its suspension package.

Cars like the Active Tourer don’t need to be sporty, so it’s puzzling why BMW has elected to give it a firm ride. It’s far from tooth-rattlingly stiff, mind you, but our preference would be for a softer tune.

Besides that though, the 2 Series Active Tourer has much to recommend it.

The price is right, the engines are good and the standard equipment levels are equally well-set, even at the lower end of the range. Compared to the aging B-Class.

 

Pricing (excludes on-road costs)

2014 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

  • 218i - $44,400
  • 218d - $47,800
  • 225i - $54,900

MORE: BMW news and reviews

 
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