Imagine having been a fly on the wall of that meeting room, at BMW headquarters in Munich one day in early 2010, when those infamous customer survey results were given an airing.

You know the ones. “About that hatchback we’ve spent millions on engineering in authentic-BMW ‘standard’ rear-wheel drive. The thing is, Dr Reithofer, four out of five 1 Series owners don’t care.”

“They don’t care. Really? Okay. Let’s give them some front-drivers to get excited about.”

Perhaps not the exact words of BMW's top man, who’s still in charge today, but they might as well have been, given that a whole series of new-wave compact models is now waiting in the wings, all of them front driven and none of them allegedly any less of a true BMW as a result.

The rear-drive 1 Series’ death warrant has been signed. Until now, there had never been a propeller-badged model driven and steered primarily by the same axle.

The new 2 Series Active Tourer is the first of many. It has more to show us about the future of BMW than any RWD saloon the firm has launched, and has already spawned the larger seven-seater 2 Series Gran Tourer.

So does the new front-wheel-drive BMW offer more than established alternatives such as the Volkswagen Golf SV, Mercedes-Benz B-Class or the Citroën C4 Picasso? Let's find out.

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