The new BMW 2-series Active Tourer is a versatile five-seat MPV which will usher in a new era of front-drive models following its debut at the Geneva motor show this week. The new BMW is due to go on sale in the UK in September at a starting price confirmed to be below £23,000.
The 2-series Active Tourer adopts a transversely mounted engine and standard front-wheel drive. This layout has never been used by a fully fledged BMW series-production model before but it is set to underpin an impressive assembly of new BMW models.
It will also be the first BMW to be offered with three-cylinder power by way of a compact new turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine, as featured in the new Mini hatchback.
The proportions of the 2-series Active Tourer differ greatly from those of traditional rear-drive BMWs, especially around the front end, which receives a comparatively short and heavily angled bonnet. The tall glasshouse also has a distinctive cab-forward influence not usually associated with BMWs.
At 4342mm in length, 1800mm in width and 1555mm in height, the 2-series Active Tourer is 18mm longer, 35mm wider and 134mm taller than BMW’s 1-series hatch. To put it into perspective, the Mercedes-Benz B-class, a similarly conceived front-drive MPV, is 4359m long, 1786mm wide and 1557mm tall.
The new MPV is the first BMW to utilise the company’s high-strength steel entry-level platform, as first unveiled by daughter company Mini in its new third-generation hatch.
The modular structure supports at least three wheelbases and variable track widths. This makes it suitable for a wide range of new models, including a successor to the X1 and a new front-drive, entry-level 1-series saloon, both of which are under intensive development at BMW's Munich engineering HQ right now.
The interior aims to provide more flexibility than traditional BMWs because of the space-saving potential of the transverse engine layout. The front seats are at roughly the same height as those in the X1 but they are more upright to free-up space behind them.
Boot capacity for the initial standard-wheelbase model is 468 litres, rising to 1510 litres when the rear seats, which split 40:20:40, are folded down.
Initially, the 2-series Active Tourer will have a three-pot direct-injection petrol and a four-cylinder common-rail diesel engine that are both shared with the new Mini. Further engines, including a four-cylinder petrol and three-cylinder diesels, are planned from early 2015.
Front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox will be standard, with an eight-speed auto optional. Some variants will get four-wheel drive.
Kicking off proceedings is the 218i Active Tourer, which gets a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol unit with 134bhp and 162lb ft of torque. It will be joined at launch by the 218d, which has a 2.0-litre four-pot turbodiesel with 148bhp, 243lb ft and combined economy of 68.9mpg.
Shortly after launch, the 225i will become the range-topper. It gets a turbo 2.0-litre four-pot with 227bhp and 258lb ft. It covers 0-62mph in 6.8sec.
By this time next year, buyers will also be able to choose between additional front-wheel-drive 220i, 216d and 220d models as well as four-wheel-drive 225i xDrive and 220d xDrive variants.
The lightest of the launch models is the 218i Active Tourer, at 1320kg – 75kg less than the lightest UK-spec B-class.
Underpinning the 2-series Active Tourer is a predominantly aluminium chassis with MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear arrangement. BMW says that this makes it “the most dynamic front-wheel-drive model in its segment, with agile and sporting characteristics”.