Like it or not, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer marks a completely new chapter in the brand’s history. Everybody knows by now that it’s the first ever front-wheel drive model to wear the blue and white roundel but the premieres don’t stop there. Apart from that, it’s also the first BMW to use exclusively a new, modular family of engines and the first car in their lines to have a new interior design in ... well, at least a decade.
Using the modular UKL1 platform that will be underpinning an entirely new range of Bimmers in the near future, this 2er is basically a MINI under the body. Needless to say, all future FWD
cars from Munich will also use this architecture: the upcoming X1 (in both 5- and 7-seat configurations), the future 1 Series (hatchback and sedan versions) and a lot more MINIs, to mention just a few.
The 2 Series Active Tourer is, therefore, a small, shy step into the unknown. It wants to penetrate a new market for BMW but one that has been exceptionally profitable for other manufacturers, especially for their eternal rivals, Mercedes-Benz and their B-Class model. That’s the one car they are aiming directly at and even the exterior design makes you feel like there are just too few differences between them.
From the outside, the 2 Series Active Tourer looks way too close to its rival. Basically, from the side you might be surprised to see a lot of resemblances. The A Pillar is styled similarly and the same greenhouse lines are noticeable from front to back. Even the rear taillights resemble each other.
BMW’s trademark front kidney grilles are present as always, even though they’re bigger than we expected.
The headlights are also sporting the usual corona rings and a nice ‘eyebrow’ above them that really makes the car stand out.
Stepping inside, you’ll notice even more differences and how the Germans plan to convince potential customers to become part of their family. Basically, this is the first new interior design in ages. Don’t get too excited though, as some elements might be more familiar than you’d expect.
The instrument cluster is similar to the one used inside the other 2 Series models, no matter if they’re coupes or convertibles. Right above them there’s a new heads-up display that was taken straight from the MINI Mk3 range.
The steering wheel is completely new and we have to admit they hit a homerun with this one. It looks great and has the perfect diameter, while at the same time being neither too thick (as on most M Sport models) nor too thin. It’s just right. Its design is also appealing with a deep concave feel to it. Looking to the right from the driver’s seat you’ll notice the new center console. Its main attraction point is the new gearshift lever if you go for the automatic gearbox.
The slushboxes come from Aisin on the 2 Series Active Tourer and have a different design than those of ZF sourcing. They don’t look bad though, and are easier to operate if you’re not familiar with BMW’s system.
The iDrive controller is the same while the HVAC
panel has a new look that also comes with a ‘SYNC’ button that everyone has been asking for, that allows you to control the temperature in the two climate control zones with one knob. Everything feels new and it’s all more than welcome inside a BMW. It’s something we kind-of missed in recent cars. Our tester was also fitted with the optional wood trims that look good but are not a necessity.
Furthermore, the seats alone raised our tester’s price tag by €2,400 and are supposed to be best you can get, but during our drive we noticed that, while managing to hold us tightly in place, they are a bit on the firm side.
The Canberra perforated leather feels good to the touch but it’s really not that practical. It fits the beige upholstery perfectly but considering the purpose of this car, the kids that will be taken to school in it and the activities performed, we really can’t recommend it. We were rather reticent to step inside when we first picked the car up, looking at those beautiful, immaculate floor mats. You’re better off with black.
The door panels were wearing the same color and God knows we didn’t want to get them dirty either but even so, especially if it’s raining, it’s hard not to touch them when getting in or out of the car. Speaking of the door panels, the big storage spaces have to be mentioned. You’ll be able to get impressively large bottles in there, up to 1 liter or even more, not to mention that they are also well illuminated by ambient lights at night, which creates an even more spacious feeling.
If there's one thing the 2 Series Active Tourer excels at, it's interior space.
BMW claims that using a front-wheel drive setup allows them to offer more room inside the cabin and you can definitely feel it. Both up front and in the back, you really can’t complain about anything in this regard.
The rear seats can slide front and back using a lever and you can also recline them to various angles. This is something the BMW crowd isn't used to.
The rear bench is also foldable as standard in a 40:20:40 format while sliding the seats forward is only possible in a 60:40 design. Three adults can sits abreast easily in the back but the one in the middle won’t be all that comfortable as his or her backseat will be made up of the armrest that is pretty hard.
As far as headroom and legroom go, we felt like you have even more space in the back than in a 7 Series and that says a lot. The rear seats also felt a bit more comfortable than the front ones.
Inside the city, the 2 Series Active Tourer feels big. It’s not an exceptionally wide car at 70.9 inches (1,801 mm), being nearly 2 inches narrower than a 5 Series for example, but it gives you that impression. However, the driving position is commanding, similar to the one you’d get in a crossover or a small SUV
and you do get to benefit from those big windows. The A-Pillar is a bit intrusive but then again, it’s the same with all MPVs. You can’t complain about how this car handles in the city. The Aisin 8-speed automatic gearbox performs flawlessly even though they are not as refined as the ZF solutions.
Due to the transverse fitment of the engines, the 8HP units couldn’t be used for the Active Tourer range so Aisin had to step in. The biggest difference is felt when braking to a complete halt, at a red light, for example. That’s basically the only time when you’ll actually feel the car shifting gears and it’s rather annoying. That doesn’t happen in Eco Pro, as in the most efficient driving mode the car has a coasting function that disconnects the engine from the transmission.
Go into Sport mode and on the top tier 225i model you’ll also get stiffened dampers and steering. All other models only get a different map for the acceleration pedal. That’s also where you’re going to feel some torque steer but only when pulling out from a standstill on damp or wet roads. Otherwise, the whole package feels compact and planted.
Depending on how you drive it, the 2 Series Active Tourer will be more or less thirsty but close to the official ratings.
Our tester was the top-spec 225i model, fitted with the new 2-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine making 231 HP
and 350 Nm (258 lb-ft) of torque. This mill is only available with an automatic 8-speed gearbox.
Around town, BMW claims that it will sip as little as 7.6 l/100 km (30.9 mpg) but during our test, we couldn’t get lower than 8.5 l/100 km (27.6 mpg). That’s really not as far off as you’d expect. Even so, we guess the pick of the range will be the 218d model that uses a new generation 2-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine making 150 HP and 330 Nm (243 lb-ft) of torque and is rated at 4.7 l/100 km (50 mpg) inside cities.
The entire range of engines is made up of beefy plants that won’t let you down. The car’s light on its feet and the heaviest model at the moment doesn’t go above 1.5 tons so you won’t have a problem overtaking or anything, even with the smaller 3-cylinder 1.5-liter plants.
Parking this compact MPV
is also easy because, despite the room it offers inside, it’s really compact on the outside. At 170.9 inches (4.341 mm) in length you’ll have to look for parking spot for a bit longer but BMW has that covered too.
Our tester was fitted with what BMW calls “Parking Assistant”. Basically, it’s a small radar installed in the car’s front right fender that scans for parking spaces when driving next to other parked cars. When one is found, a message is displayed on your iDrive screen. If you want to park, all you have to do is get the car in reverse and the computers take over the steering, with the braking and accelerating left up to you.
We were surprised to learn that even with you having to press the pedals, the system worked flawlessly. Be careful though, don’t follow the car’s instructions blindly or you might end up scraping a wall or another car.