BMW 2 Series Active Tourer review

The new hatchback-cum-MPV transforms the 2 Series from staid people-carrier to a futuristic family car.

Pros: spacious cabin, modern tech, great to drive

Cons: confusing controls, divisive looks, questionable ergonomics

The 2 Series Active Tourer is BMW’s biggest family hatchback, with more than a hint of people carrier about it. Not to be confused with the 2 Series Coupe (a two-door sports coupe) or the 2 Series Gran Coupe (a saloon version of the 1 Series), the Active Tourer is the sensible member of the 2 Series family. But does it do enough to become the default premium option for families?

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Design

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer’s styling divides opinion, but even its biggest champions would never call it the prettiest car in the BMW range. That’s partly down to its fairly conventional MPV shape, which means the silhouette is not naturally sexy, but BMW has not helped itself with its penchant for enormous front grilles, which make another appearance here and give the car quite a bluff front end.

That aside, BMW hasn’t done a bad job of styling the Active Tourer. It isn’t too fussy, and neat details such as the flush door handles help to give it a really modern vibe. It’s certainly more up to date than its predecessor, which aged well but doesn’t look as fresh as the latest iteration.

Of course, the car’s image is partially determined by which trim level you choose. Every version comes with 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, and the M Sport models come with a sportier body kit that includes more aggressive bumpers and more pronounced side skirts. Whether you prefer that look is a matter of taste, but even with this practical MPV, M Sport models are expected to be popular.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Interior

The 2 Series’ cabin is not only its most important aspect, but also its most impressive. The design is more or less carried over from the iX electric SUV, which means it’s a radical change from conventional BMW interiors. Key to the whole thing is a curved display that covers two thirds of the dashboard and provides both driver instrument displays and the touchscreen infotainment system.

Buttons are few and far between, with the vast majority of controls hidden inside the central screen, although a handful remain on the steering wheel and the floating centre console. In truth, the steering wheel buttons don’t feel quite as sturdy as some of those we’re used to seeing from BMW, but overall quality is still excellent. And when the standard of BMW’s touchscreen tech is so high, you don’t really need the buttons that much.

We thought the infotainment technology from the current-generation 3 Series was good, but the 2 Series Active Tourer’s system is even better. Normally, we don’t much like climate control and heating functions that are hidden in a touchscreen menu, but the BMW system is so crisp and so easy to use that it isn’t such a hardship. Every input yields a rapid response, while the display itself manages to look futuristic, without feeling too minimalist. It’s a happy middle ground.

And although buttons are out of favour and screens are very much in vogue, BMW hasn’t skimped on the quality. The slightly dubious steering wheel buttons aside, the cabin quality is good, with all the solidity and attention to detail we’ve come to expect from BMW.

Space is good, too, with plenty of room for four adults and nobody struggling for leg- or headroom. Add in a 470-litre boot that expands to 1,455 litres with the rear seats folded, and you’ve got something almost as practical as the X3 SUV.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Performance & Drive

BMW has long prided itself on building cars that are great to drive, but making a family MPV fun is a tall order. Nevertheless, the Bavarian firm has made a good go of it, giving the 2 Series Active Tourer handling that belies its shape and size.

The 2 Series is no hot hatchback, but it doesn’t lean much in corners and though the steering is light, it’s also quite precise. It has a little bit of feedback, too, which makes the car quite easy to control and place. And if you want to have a bit of fun on a good back road, it’s more rewarding than anything else in its class.

More importantly, it rides well, soaking up most of the bumps without fuss. The Active Tourer is soft and comfortable at any speed, allowing you to enjoy that relaxing, spacious interior in peace. It’s quiet, too, which makes it particularly good on long slogs up and down the motorway.

But as is so often the way with BMW products, the engines are the highlight. At launch, customers are facing a choice of two petrol engines and one diesel, although plug-in hybrid options are on the way. For now, arguably the most appealing option is the 220i petrol model, which uses a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine to produce 170hp. That’s more than sufficient for most people’s needs, albeit hardly electrifying, and the three-cylinder engine makes a cheerful, characterful sound.

Alternatively, you can have the 218d diesel, which only produces 150hp but offers improved economy and low-down grunt, or the 223i petrol, which uses a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine producing 218hp. Picking the right engine for you will depend on your needs – the diesel will suit those doing lots of long journeys, for example – but we think the 220i offers the best compromise of performance and price.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Pricing

The 2 Series Active Tourer starts at €41,325, which makes it less than €6,000 more expensive than the 1 Series. That pays for the basic Sport model, but even that entry-level version gets alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning and the curved digital display, not to mention LED headlights, navigation and the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration technology.

Stepping up to the mid-range Luxury model provides arguably the best mix of price and equipment, starting at €43,840. That pays for wood trim, leather upholstery and a choice of wood and metallic trims, as well as heated front seats. For a sportier look, the €46,790 M Sport comes with a body kit, larger alloy wheels and part-microsuede upholstery, as well as sports suspension.

Carzone Verdict: 4/5

The 2 Series Active Tourer won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for those who want more space and more technology than the 1 Series can provide without substantially increasing the footprint, this will fit the bill perfectly. Admittedly, it isn’t as good to drive as the 1 Series, but it’s still a class leader in that regard, and it makes up for that by being more luxurious than its little brother.

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