While we continue to harbour some reservations about the less than premium quality reflected by some of the interior fittings, this latest 2-Series Active Tourer model feels remarkably well engineered for something so inherently complex.
Far from being your typical front-wheel-drive hatchback, its ability to run in either front or rear-wheel drive, or a combination of both with a traction-enhancing torque vectoring function, provides it with convincing all-season qualities.
As in more conventional hybrid models introduced by BMW in recent times, the driver gets to choose between three different driving modes: Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery.
The former is the default mode, meaning the 225xe Active Tourer pulls away from standstill on electric power alone. At 1660kg, it’s certainly no lightweight. However, the instant torque provided by the rear-mounted electric motor to the rear wheels endows it with a good turn of speed away from the traffic lights.
A faint whine from the electric motor can be detected under load. Otherwise, the new BMW is nicely refined at typical urban speeds and, without interaction from the petrol engine, it is fully zero-emission compatible. Don’t expect to match the claimed 25 mile electric range too often, though. On anything but ultra-light throttle loads, the battery charge is quickly reduced.
Switching into Max eDrive calls up the full force of the electric motor, allowing you to hit a limited electric top speed of 78mph. When the state of charge of the battery drops below 20%, or on kickdown, the combustion engine fires to provide a combination of petrol-electric power and a considerable increase in performance.
The drive process is also altered, with the 225xe Active Tourer eschewing rear-wheel drive for four-wheel drive. Call up Save Battery, and it will even run in front-wheel drive as the electric motor is spared from the drive process to preserve the charge for use later in your journey.
Despite the complexity of the drivetrain, the dovetailing of the two drive systems is very impressive, providing the new BMW with urgent qualities in lower gears around town and an appealing loping gait in taller ratios out on the open road. BMW claims a 0-62mph time of 6.7sec and a top speed of 126mph.
Dynamically, the new BMW is quite convincing, displaying excellent body control and tenacious purchase, and given its tall stature it is particularly well tied down. You can whip it through corners at impressive speeds without any undue lurch or premature breakaway at the front end, all of which endows the 225xe with more inherently sporting qualities than the 218i on which it is based.
The traction benefits brought by the electric motor's ability to provide drive to the rear wheels really do endow the car with greater ability. And this fact is not lost on BMW, which is planning to use the hybrid system developed for the 225xe in an upcoming X1 xDrive25e LWB model.