There's a range of powertrain options for the 2 Series Active Tourer, encompassing three- and four-cylinder turbocharged engines, manual and automatic gearboxes and even the option of four-wheel drive.
Diesels range from the three-cylinder 1.5-litre model – badged 216d – to the four-cylinder 2.0-litre 220d, while the petrol range extends from the three-cylinder 1.5-litre 218i to the flagship four-cylinder 2.0-litre 225i xDrive.
Most come with a six-speed manual as standard, while eight-speed automatic and sport automatic options are available for an additional cost – the exceptions being the 216d, which is only available with a six-speed manual, and the eight-speed automatic is the sole choice for the 225i xDrive.
As you might expect from a modern turbocharged petrol engine, it's a refined unit that delivers a good blend of performance, flexibility and economy. It's rarely evident that it's only got three cylinders, too. The four-cylinder petrols are certainly spritely and gutsy compared to the 1.5-litre triple, while the 225xe iPerformance hybrid utilises the same 1.5-litre petrol engine as the 218i but is paired to an electric motor capable of covering 25 miles on its own.
The entry-level diesel, the 216d, isn't quite as competent as the equivalent petrol. It's quiet and smooth, but it lacks keen responses and there's a lot of lag under 1800rpm. This, combined with tall gearing, means the 216d can be quite hesitant and sluggish at lower speeds. You'll have to keep changing gears to keep it from labouring.
It's the 218d that, on the diesel front, seems like the better bet. It doesn't command a huge premium over the 216d but the four-cylinder engine delivers an experience that's much more likely to tally with your expectations.
Weighing 75kg more than the B200 CDI we figured in 2012, the 218d Active Tourer has the measure of its immediate rival in every way that matters. It isn’t the perfect comparison, because the Mercedes had a six-speed manual and the BMW an eight-speed auto.
An output of 148bhp may not seem a great deal of power by BMW standards, but it’s generous in an MPV class where 130bhp to 140bhp is about average – and it’s used super-efficiently by an excellent eight-speed transmission.