The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer combines BMW’s advanced technology and superb quality to great effect.
Very few family-oriented cars (let alone small MPVs) at this price feel quite so nice to sit in or to drive. It’s impressively spacious, too, provided you don’t need seven seats.
When it arrived on the scene in 2014, the original caused no small amount of disquiet amongst the BMW faithful. As a front-wheel-drive MPV, it was far removed from the brand’s then near-exclusively rear-wheel-drive line-up of driver-focused executive saloon cars.
However, it proved popular with family car buyers, who were drawn more by the car’s decent practicality and premium feel, over any notion of driver engagement. The success of BMW’s gamble sees the 2 Series Active Tourer return as an all-new model for 2022.
Comprehensively redesigned inside and out, the five-seater (unlike before, a seven-seat ‘Gran Tourer’ version won’t be offered) is designed to look more like an enlarged version of the , replacing the previous model’s slightly awkward MPV styling. It shares the current BMW design theme of an oversized front grille flanked by slim LED headlights.
The interior has taken a further step upmarket, too, with an excellent amount of on-board technology presented through a widescreen curved-panel dashboard display – an item shared with BMW’s current range-topping electric SUV, the iX.
At launch it’s available with a trio of combustion engines: two petrol and one diesel, the former featuring mild-hybrid tech for the first time for improved economy.
The entry-level petrol engine, badged 220i, is a 1.5-litre turbocharged unit that we’ve seen previously in other compact BMWs including the and , as well as the Mini range. In the Active Tourer it produces 170hp, while the more powerful 223i model gives 218hp from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo motor.
Diesel power is provided by a 150hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine badged 218d.
All models are front-wheel-drive only and are fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.
Two different plug-in hybrid options are due to be added to pricelists from this summer, which as well as having the potential for very low fuel costs and the ability to drive on electricity alone, will also be available with four-wheel-drive, with the electric motor driving the rear axle.
The Active Tourer’s all-new platform also means that a fully electric model is feasible, although one hasn’t yet been announced.
Three trim levels are offered: Sport, Luxury and M-Sport. Standard kit on entry-level sport versions includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, parking assistant with reversing camera, climate control, twin instrument and touchscreen media displays (each measuring more than 10 inches), DAB radio, Apple Carplay/Android Auto and BMW’s latest operating system 8, which features greater voice functionality than ever before.
Luxury trim adds open-pore wood interior trim, heated front seats and leather upholstery. M-Sport cars have a more racy flavour, with more aggressively styled front and rear bumpers, 18-inch alloys, multi-function steering wheel, as well as adjustable sports suspension and adaptive LED headlights and a wireless charging pad.
MPVs aren’t typically renowned for their premium feel, but the Active Tourer has been lavished with the technology and interior appointments of models far higher up the BMW pecking order. Only the likes of the Mercedes B Class can compete in terms of interior ambience.
Like the model it replaces, the new Active Tourer feels rather unlike any other BMW from behind the wheel. The first giveaway is the very light steering. It’s great for manoeuvring in tight spots, but doesn’t gain much additional heft at higher speeds. It is responsive and accurate, though, and additional weight can be added by toggling the ‘Sport’ driving mode.
A more obvious giveaway of this car’s brand origins is its engine. Despite being the entry-level engine in the range, the 170hp 220i feels more than muscular enough, but it’s the refinement and smoothness of it that impresses most of all. Vibration and engine noise are very well tamed indeed – typically not easy with a three-cylinder engine.
The mild-hybrid system helps in this regard, filling in any gaps to the engine’s power delivery, which makes for very easy and smooth acceleration from a standstill. It also allows the engine to flick between coasting (shutting down the petrol engine entirely) or electricity regeneration when decelerating, to best minimise fuel consumption in the given situation.
Ride comfort is good, with the suspension supple enough to convincingly absorb bumps at all speeds. M-Sport models come with lowered, adaptive sport suspension, which we would avoid if you want the best possible ride comfort. That said, even with the sport suspension in its firmest setting, it’s far from super-stiff, and usefully reduces the feeling of body motion when cornering.
Being a large front-wheel-drive car, the Active Tourer can’t hope to match the sharpness and dynamism of its sportier stablemates, but for a small MPV, it’s very good indeed. It turns into corners keenly with plenty of grip, and feels more agile than we expected, driving more like the large hatchback it’s styled to look like than a high-sided people mover.
Perhaps the biggest draw, though, is the all-new interior. Sharing its curved dual screens and open centre-console design with the range-topping iX SUV, it gives the Active Tourer a hugely premium feel. This is backed up by the quality of the materials used throughout.
BMW’s latest operating system 8 makes its debut on a compact BMW model in the Active Tourer. Its combination of touchscreen controls and very slick voice recognition do make it really easy to use with a bit of familiarisation.
However, it’s also the first new BMW to do away with the brand’s famed iDrive controller. This rotary wheel device has long been regarded as among the best vehicle control interfaces. Given the new system’s depth of functionality and customisation options, we can’t help but feel its omission is something of a backwards step.
A relatively high-set driving position and large windows afford good all-round visibility. The Active Tourer also has reasonably sized rear roof pillars for a new car, making for a less restricted view over the shoulder.
A high roofline, large doors and a sensibly high seating arrangement make it easy to both get into and out and also install to child car seats in the rear.
The cabin has an airy feel, with plenty of leg, shoulder and headroom for passengers both front and rear. In typical BMW fashion, there’s plenty of adjustment in both the driver’s seat and steering wheel, to accommodate both taller and shorter passengers with ease.
The positioning of the back seats is well considered, too, with comfortable backrest recline and overall posture. There’s space across the rear bench to sit three adults comfortably, at least for moderately long journeys. The rear bench can be slid back and forth by 13cm to trade boot space for legroom.
We’ll be able to assess just how much usable load space the Active Tourer has as soon as we can get it into our lab. Going by BMW’s own figures, though, the boot is impressively large at 415 litres (470 litres for diesel versions due to the lack of mild-hybrid tech). Fold the rear seats down (in a 40:20:40 split configuration) and this rises to a maximum of 1,405 litres. (1,455 litres for diesels).
The seat-backs fold near flat and leave no step in the boot floor. The boot opening is nice and large too, and there’s only a minimal load lip to negotiate. An electrically operated boot hatch is standard on all models.
We can’t yet independently verify the Active Tourer’s fuel economy claims, but based on BMW’s figures (calculated using the official WLTP test standard) it’s the diesel 218d that’s the most economical of the trio of engines available at launch.
It’s claimed to return between 53.3 and 58.9mpg on average, while at 125-138g/km, official CO2 emissions are lower than for petrol engines.
Of the petrol models, the 220i is only marginally more economical than the significantly more powerful 223i engine, with average fuel consumption of 43.5-47.9mpg and 42.8-47.1mpg respectively and CO2 emissions between 133-148 and 137-149g/km.
At the time of writing, the 2 Series Active Tourer has yet to be crash-tested by Euro NCAP.
However, it’s available with a decent array of active safety equipment as standard, including all-important AEB (autonomous emergency braking) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, dubbed ‘Active Guard’ by BMW.
All models also get adaptive cruise control, rear-view camera and an automatic reverse assistant, which can reverse the car hands-free over the exact path you’ve just driven – handy if you’ve found you’ve taken a wrong turn into a tight street.
Optional safety kit includes full lane-keep assist and active cruise control with stop-and-go functionality.
Small niggles include the potential for driver distraction using the touchscreen-heavy interface on the move. Elsewhere, the open centre console design is handy for throwing in plenty of odds and ends, but there’s only a small centre armrest where you can leave items out of sight.
Typical price: £30,265
Proving that there’s life in the MPV market yet, the new 2 Series Active Tourer has the potential to trump all of its rivals – including Mercedes’ similarly upmarket B Class – in our lab tests.
On this first impression, there’s little doubt that the Active Tourer is an accomplished and well-rounded model, with great technology, a spacious interior and just enough driver appeal to make you reconsider buying a small SUV. If you live can with a maximum of five seats, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Remember, this first drive review is based on our initial impressions of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. We'll post our full verdict once the car has been through our rigorous lab and road tests - to be the first to hear about it, .