The first ethos
Most car companies subscribe to a certain ethos or way of building cars; even the ones with multiple models in their line-up have an overriding character. Thus it can seem rather surprising when a company strays from these paths and creates something completely new – like the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer.
Ask any teenage petrol head to describe a BMW and chances are good that they’ll tell you about a butch sedan with long bonnet, beefy engine and smoke pouring from the rear tyres. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive setup with enjoyable handling and excellent weight distribution is a firm favourite with eager youngsters.
If you were to ask their Mom to describe her ideal car (not 4×4 or SUV), the result will probably contain a big boot, raised driving position and lots of space thanks to highly versatile furniture. Garnished with fastidious safety features and driver-friendly assistance systems, Momsy would talk about an MPV.
Combine these two descriptions and you have the surprising – nay, shocking – newcomer in BMW’s stable. The Two Series Active Tourer is a reasonably tall, quite spacious and family-friendly van while its stubby nose hides a transversely-mounted drive train with – shock and horror – front-wheel-drive.
Laugh or curse all you like but BMW can’t be blamed for wanting to keep its competition honest by vying for a piece of the luxury MPV pie. Up to recently, this was dominated locally by the Mercedes-Benz B-Class with the cheaper and slightly less flashy Golf SV arriving just after this BMW.
I won’t go into the 2-Series’ Active Tourer looks too much because the dimensions of a proper MPV dictate that it looks bloated and boring. My humble opinion is that the BMW is no uglier than its rivals who also use brand-specific design details and swooping creases in a semi-successful bid to add a bit of style.
Its interior is textbook BMW stuff with quality materials and good finishes livened up by contrasting colours and stitching, depending on model and trim. These will also determine the car’s gadget count but, as always, BMW offers predetermined packages and tasty optional extras for every model.
We have to tip our hat to BMW for doing their research because the brochures full of smiling families include a lot of sensible accessories to help young parents individualise their Active Tourer. The car is also available in your choice of 13 paint colours and at least as many interior combinations.
To finally describe the way it drives, our top-of-the-line 225i with M Sport package immediately hammered home that it is the dynamic choice. Maximum outputs are 170kW (231hp) or 350Nm which translate into a 240km/h top speed and 0-100km/h in a GTi-scaring 6.6 seconds.
There are tamer models available (starting at N$378,000) but we were happy to test the hairy-chested one because it is the ideal candidate to show how BMW’s new baby handles near the limit. After whipping it around town plus a few open roads, the short answer to this question is “brilliantly”.
The only criticism we had was a modicum of torque steer under full load but we have to applaud the Bavarians for the refinement of this new platform. 2-Series Active Tourer rides reasonably well (avoid Sport packages for more comfort), cruises effortlessly, has a decent start-stop system and excellent steering feedback.
In other words, it drives very much like a proper BMW should. We enjoyed exploring the various driving modes (Eco, Normal, Sport, Plus) and high-end toys as they add even more entertainment to an otherwise mundane segment of cars. Our favourites were the LED Lights, heads-up display and premium sound system.
Prices for this 225i start at N$447,000 and we recommend you visit your nearest BMW dealer for more details. What we can tell you with absolute certainty is that the 2-Series Active Tourer is an amazingly good first effort for a front-wheel-drive MPV. In fact, we think it’s better than some of its more established rivals…