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

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.

Back to top

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

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
ankie147 17 August 2019

THis works whn we try to find

THis works whn we try to find some new type of the command robux generator this provide you lots of reasons by whcih we can make some difference for the real comands of new games.

fadyady 7 September 2014

The last bastion

The only thing that made me read this article is how BMW's new 3-pot 1.5L petrol performs? Stats on paper are impressive and if the narrative is anything to go by, makes the noisy diesel almost redundant.
Citytiger 6 September 2014

Again Autocar fail to

Again Autocar fail to actually take pictures of the actual car they "allegedly" drove, the one in the pictures even has a big "D" on its boot lid to show its a diesel not the petrol car being reviewed, and as stated in other comments this one appears loaded with extras, why cant you just hold of an entry level one without all the fancy suspension and steering jiggery pokery and tell us how it really compares.