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Refined, polished, pleasant – with a few dynamic foibles. The Active Tourer to buy if you’re buying right now

Our Verdict

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
The BMW 2-series Active Tourer goes up against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf SV and Ford C-Max

BMW dips its toe into front-wheel drive with an upmarket MPV

What is it?

BMW’s first-ever front-driver, the 2-series Active Tourer has arrived onto British roads, signalling our first opportunity to sample the new premium hatchback in three-cylinder petrol and right-hand drive form. 

The 218i represents the bottom rung of the Active Tourer model ladder for now, with prices on entry-trim SE-spec cars starting from just a smidge over £22k. And in most important ways, it’s a much smarter buy than the diesel-fuelled 218d that company drivers might instinctively gravitate towards.

What's it like?

Emitting just 115g/km of CO2, the 218i attracts company car tax at a lower rate than the 218d anyway – but even if it didn’t, it’d be worth paying a premium for the petrol version’s balance of performance flexibility, refinement and economy. 

Earlier tests in the 218d picked it up for disappointing mechanical refinement in particular, but the 218i is quiet at idle and at cruising crankspeeds, sending the gentlest of three-cylinder shimmies into the cabin and through the gearlever under load.

Low-end torque is balanced against higher-range power in a perfectly linear compromise, with the engine producing enough acceleration between 3000- and 5000rpm to feel quietly athletic.

The petrol version doesn’t suffer the same notchiness of shift quality of the standard six-speed manual gearbox that we found in the diesel, either. This is still a BMW, mind - and BMWs tend to have springy, mechanical levers by preference.

Real-world economy should be expected to be around 45mpg, with the diesel capable of just over 50-to-the-gallon in identical circumstances.

Ride and handling is certainly good enough that Munich needn’t worry about denting its dynamic reputation with its first foray into what it would once have dismissed as ‘non-standard’ drive – but it’s not without flaws.

Even with ‘Comfort’ mode selected on the Drive Performance Control and electronic damper control optioned, our test car rode quietly but firmly, and jostled cabin occupants over poorer surfaces. You wouldn’t call the result luxurious - though it’s preferable to the more crashy, abrupt ride of a Mercedes B-class

The steering is well-paced and precise, but starts off heavy just off-centre and gets heavler as you add lock. ‘Hefty’ was evidently considered a synonym for ‘sporty’ during the tuning process where, in a fairly tall but otherwise compact car, fluent and delicate would have been better targets.

Even so, the 2-series Active Tourer handles well, rolling slightly but progressively and gripping soundly at both axles. You wouldn’t call it fun – but in this class, that’s not a big criticism.

Should I buy one?

Not if you want a truly distinguishing driving experience in your front-drive pseudo-MPV – because we suspect that won’t be one of the key selling points of the 2-series Active Tourer. 

As ever from BMW though, this car has myriad other attractions – material quality, intelligently packaged practicality, generous equipment levels and low costs-of-ownership being just a few.

BMW 218i Sport Active Tourer 

Price £23,375; 0-62mph 9.2sec; Top speed 127mph; Economy 57.6mpg; CO2 115g/km; Kerbweight 1395kg; Engine 3cyls, 1499cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 134bhp at 4400-6000rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 1250-4300rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

5 September 2014
Why never any pictures from these first drives? The car is stated as starting at a smidge over £22000. Price on the specs - £23375. And the car pictured has leather upholstery, heads up display, sat nav, fancy trim, harmon Kardon speakers and I'm sure a host of other extras which I've missed. New 3cyl engine sounds good but it leaves the reader wondering if Autocar really have driven this car or is it just a 'cut-n-paste' job from another publication?

5 September 2014
I see BMW are sticking with their nonsense naming. A 1.5l triple badged as a 218i? It doesn't make any sense!

------------------

Never wrestle with a pig. You'll only get muddy, and the pig will enjoy it.

5 September 2014
Not the first 218i which BMW have had their mucky paws on. A touch of wood, a bit of leather and a proud chrome moustache would make this car's Roverisation complete. Oh the sense of loss.

5 September 2014
I specced up a 218i and a Cmax eco boost. Both manuals (No Auto option on the Ford) and with a reasonable package of extras. Leather, navigation, power tailgate etc. The BMW was exactly £1000 more expensive (£25800) than the Ford. Take into account that the service costs would be roughly the same (BMW service intervals are nearly twice as long as the Ford) and BMW residuals are far superior to the Ford and I think that looks like a decent value car with a bit more luxury and the kudos of the badge (if thats your sort of thing) thrown in.

5 September 2014
The Mini Countryman which is the "In house competition?"

6 September 2014
devil's advocate wrote:
How does it compare with the Mini Countryman which is the "In house competition?"
The 218 is inoffensive to the eye, the Mini Countryman is hideous.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

5 September 2014
Wtf are you talking about? Who thinks they want an 'Active Tourer'?


A34

5 September 2014
... vs the Golf SV. Or a posh version of a C4 Picasso / Scenic / CMax. Meanwhile the broker prices for this petrol are pretty much the same as the diesel right now...

6 September 2014
BMW 2 SAT : BMW killer...

6 September 2014
Because of Mercedes' success with its CLA and Audi with the A3, BMW is seriously considering a saloon version of the next-generation 1 Series. Erh, isn't that a 2 Series with two extra doors then? No, the next-gen 1 Series will be FWD. Can't wait for the hatchback version of the 2 Series to make matters even more confusing.

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