What is it?
More than twenty years after BMW built a series of experimental front-wheel-drive 3 Series models, the German premium brand has finally entered the automotive mainstream with the new front-drive 2 Series Active Tourer.
It is firmly positioned as a premium product, but the 2 Series is also firmly planted in the biggest market sector in Europe, that of the ‘C-segment’ hatchback.
BMW, like Mercedes and Audi, is also on a continuous expansion plan and it says it has indentified new trends including the dual habit of downsizing and more people living in cramped urban areas, as well as a distinct new market made up of affluent middle-class couples with a sporting bent.
The ‘semi-command’ driving position is also a big part of the Active Tourer’s make-up, BMW director Ian Robertson told Autocar.
He added that the Active Tourer is not evidence of the brand going downmarket, so much as it reaching down towards to top-end of the mainstream market and encouraging buyers to reach back up to a premium brand. Roberston also said that BMW expects about 70 per cent of Active Tourer buyers to be new to the brand.
The upshot is that the Active Tourer is small enough to park, big enough to carry your expensive mountain bike and priced – in the 218d SE form we drove in Austria – only about £3000 more than the equivalent diesel Ford C-Max Titanium.
To put the car in context, the newest BMW is 4323mm long, making it a touch longer than the 4255mm VW Golf Mk7 and at 1800mm wide, within 1mm of the VW. The BMW’s height of 1555mm is noticeably taller than the 1452mm Golf. The Active Tourer is also very similarly sized to the Mercedes B-Class, which is probably its closest direct rival.
Under the skin is the longer and wider version of BMW’s UKL1 front-drive architecture, which also underpins the new Mini. The Active Tourer’s structure includes the use of expensive ‘tailored blanks’ in its construction and the front and rear suspension systems are also impressively sophisticated.
BMW says the front end of the Active Tourer is ‘exceptionally stiff’ thanks to the high-strength steel subframe and front wishbones. The front struts swivel on aluminium bearings and the anti-roll bar is hollow with variable wall thicknesses. At the rear, the company’s distinctive multi-link rear axle is one feature that BMW would never re-consider.
The new ‘single pinion’ electric steering system is claimed to offer ‘very low friction’ because the servo unit and steering gear are combined into a single component. Even so, BMW doesn’t overclaim for its first front-drive model, saying the set-up is ‘largely torque-steer-free’.