In my short time writing car reviews, I’ve featured mainly hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs and the odd supercar. It wasn’t until BMW invited me to test drive their latest compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) that I realised I hadn’t written about a family-focused car in a really long time, but considering I’m now on the wrong side of 35 years, it seemed pointless to argue that I cannot identify with this car’s target demographic.
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is now in its second generation, having undergone significant changes to its design to make the proportions of this compact MPV more striking and dynamic. This includes the enlarging of the iconic kidney grilles to bring it up-to-date with the brand’s design system. The slim, contoured headlights flanking the grilles come with adaptive LEDs as standard with intelligent, driver-friendly features for illuminating the path ahead. From certain angles, one might mistake it for a 1 Series hatchback, which probably isn’t a bad thing for most people.
Around the side, the A-pillars are more heavily raked than before, contributing to a stretched side window outline. Flush-fitting door handles provide an uninterrupted side profile, although I found myself habitually reaching my fingers downward when opening the door from the outside. That said, the handles seemed well-built and were nice to use.
Car geeks might be interested to know that the 2 Series Active Tourer’s vehicle architecture is designed to accommodate both combustion engines and electrified drive systems. That may be one of the reasons the exhaust tailpipes have been integrated into the rear apron, creating a more consistent look regardless of the propulsion of choice.
Overall, the 2 Series Active Tourer’s more modest intentions are masked by its sportier appearance, although its rear heft seems most obvious from the ¾ front view. Behind the wheel, however, I was scarcely bothered by its proportions.
Featuring a redesigned interior with BMW’s Curved Display, which was first seen in the fully-electric iX, the 10.7-inch control display is joined to the 10.25-inch information display that sits behind the steering wheel. There are no physical buttons on the panel at all, and the rotary controller has become a thing of the past; I found myself alternating my attention between the display panel and the road ahead to operate the new iDrive system on the go as I jabbed my non-dominant hand’s index finger against the touchscreen.
The 2 Series Active Tourer comes with a lot of equipment as standard. The 218i M Sport Launch Edition I drove had Park Assist features with Reversing Assist Camera, helpful in parking situations for a car that already offers very respectable all-round visibility. Other helpful, family-friendly features include the array of storage areas—I had enough space to store my snapback cap under the ‘floating’ armrest between the front occupants—and multi-adjustable rear seats that can also slide forward by up to 13 cm to increase the boot capacity by as much as 90 litres. The automatic tailgate, which comes standard with this model, gives access to anywhere between 470 and 1,455 litres of cargo capacity – probably plenty for the entire family’s belongings or errands.
The seats are sporty but comfortable and supportive enough for longer journeys, and legroom for folks in the back is more than adequate even for taller passengers. The car now seats only five people, so larger households are going to have to shop elsewhere for their people hauler. Everyone gets to enjoy the panoramic sunroof though.
This being the variant with the M Sport package, the car has adaptive suspension that provides frequency-selective damping and sport steering. The exterior trim elements on the front and rear aprons also get a sportier treatment. As surprising as it may be for me to opine, I felt they made the car a little too chatty through the seats. But those considering this family vehicle who still want to feel engaged in their daily drives will be relieved to know the lowered ride height (-15 mm compared to the standard package) did not pose any problems going down the tighter and steeper ramps of older multi-storey car parks in certain HDB estates.
I would’ve liked the brakes to have a higher biting point, particularly in creeping traffic. The car seemed to take a little longer to engage first gear when the engine is restarted by the auto start/stop feature, although the gap to the vehicle ahead can easily be closed with the zippy acceleration.
The pleasantly surprising and characterful acoustic qualities of the inline 3-cylinder engine might give some owners the impression of having a sportier ride, even if it puts out a modest but willing 136 hp and 230 Nm of torque through its 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It’s plenty enough for family-friendly driving and the odd bit of fun after dropping the kids off at school.
For what it’s worth, the five-seater 2 Series Active Tourer handles well for its class – I know some people moan that it isn’t as much driving pleasure as a typical BMW because of its height and raised centre of gravity, but if you compare it with rivals in the same category of cars, the Beemer will probably still be the better drive available.
Are there other cars in the same category that handle better? Let me know in the comments below.
Special thanks to Performance Motors and BMW Asia for this opportunity.
The original version of this article can be read at Eat.Fly.Drive.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer puts the family (of five) first, but that doesn’t mean it’s a boring car to drive.
Handling - 7/10
Performance - 7/10
Design - 7/10
Comfort - 8/10
Practicality - 9/10
Value - 7/10