2014 BMW 2 Series Tourer road test review
TASMANIA'S is a heady mix of old and new. Where people still have a leisurely chat, where farming methods used for centuries try desperately to keep the scarring reality of logging at bay, as they roll carelessly, disappearing blissfully into the clear waters at their base, proved the ideal backdrop for the launch of BMW's 2 Series Active Tourer this week.
What a swathe the cars cut through the quiet; the long winding line on excellent country roads, passing fields of plump cows and picturesque towns, serving as a stark reminder that progress will come whether you open the door to it or rile against it.
BMW has chosen to do the former, embracing the changes which have seen them not only bring a three-cylinder car to market for the first time, but making it a front-wheel drive to boot.
The Active Tourer available, for now, in two turbo petrol engines - the 218i and 225i - and a diesel mini-beast 218d, is BMW's new weapon in the popular compact segment.
It is versatile, sporty and roomy, with pleasing driving dynamics and a premium finish. With it, BMW hopes to not only grab 75% of their competitors' sales but also "wow" the market while doing so.
Inside, the Active Tourer is quite obviously upmarket, with BMW's determination to continue its premium styling in a manner that embraces both modern trends and old world charm more than evident in the leather-look dash, top-quality switchgear and obvious technological pleasures.
It is noticeably spacious, much more so than you would expect, with the lack of a driveshaft taking up room down the middle of the car giving passengers that extra room to luxuriate in comfort. Sporty plush leather seats (optional in entry-model 218i) hug the bottom, with the adaptive side bolstering adding a nice edge around the twisties.
Combined with the high seating position and full electronic adjustments, it is easy to ensure you really find the best mix for your needs.
The 40:20:40 rear seat is moveable on rails allowing extra room to be appropriated from the luggage compartment when needed - which as an aside, at 468 litres, is also a cavernous affair. Head room is good too, even with a panoramic sunroof.
Storage options are real-word and plenty, including sizeable door bins, clever console options and even an extra 100 litres under the cargo floor where the spare usually takes up residence.
The front cup holders, though, a particular quirk of mine, seem unlikely to be able to hold a takeaway coffee cup but we will test that out when we have it in our garage.
On the road
At launch we took the entry-level 218i and the more sporty range topping 225i for a spin along some of Tasmania's most picturesque roads.
The 1.5 litre 218i, its three cylinder engine a first for BMW, proved a nifty little package, hunkering down well and showing the fleetness of foot we have come to expect from this marque. It does, in most instances, feel like a BMW, with superior driving dynamics offering a largely enjoyable experience.
Gear changes are smooth, except for a little wheeze on steep downhill patches as it forces a breath before catching up. Steering feel is pretty direct, more so if you engage Sport mode.
It is only at takeoff, the occasional twitch when you are underway and when trying to find that little extra as you exit a corner that you notice the natural imperfections of the three-cylinder which, to be honest, will have no trouble in the city environs for which it is designed.
The 225i, boasting a 2.0-litre turbo power engine and eight-speed transmission, was decidedly more balanced and, of course, more powerful, delivering an increasingly spirited performance.
There was still a little lag coming out of tight bends though and some urging required before attempting a speedy highway manoeuvre, there is some noticeable understeer and body roll when changing direction without flagging your intention but handling is good and the overall experience remains true.
What do you get?
When you are hoping to both lure buyers from your competitors and attract a whole new demographic, the appeal needs to encompass more than just the badge and BMW has done it here with top-notch inclusions.
The 225i adds Dakota leather upholstery, LED headlights, LED ambient light package and exterior mirrors with automatic parking function.
Safety is five-star but goes beyond the ordinary, with six airbags, dynamic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist and EBD complemented by BMW's ConnectedDrive which boasts an array of assistance features including emergency call and Driving Assistant.
The most obvious competition is the Mercedes Benz B-Class which, starting from $40,990, is $4000 less than the Active Tourer, and perhaps the Citroen C4 Picasso, which is scheduled to arrive early next year.
Efficiency is the name of the game here and BMW has pulled out all the stops to ensure every drop of fuel counts. Official figures range from 5.2 litres/100km for the 218i to 6.1L/100km for the 225i with the diesel coming in at a paltry 4.2L/100km. Our driving conditions were certainly not going to encourage economy, so we look forward to testing out consumption when we have the Active Tourer for a week.
For city dwellers or those living on its fringes, with kids or without, who need a tad extra room with a premium feel, the Active Tourer makes a great deal of sense.
The chunky A-pillar does hinder vision, yet it is easy to manoeuvre, a pleasure to drive and is bursting at the seams with high-end inclusions and security features.
The exterior of the Active Tourer gives little sign of the roominess within, its tight dynamic lines caught somewhere between teenage awkwardness and a hint of sportiness. The trademark kidney grille, crisp contours and confident stance hints at the delights beneath the bonnet, an understated but stylish presence to doff your cap at.
It may be a case of join them if you can't beat them but with this 2 Series Active Tourer, despite what the critics say, the Bavarian manufacturer has taken a step in the right direction.
Small cars of this kind that compromise naught when it comes to form and function but still present at a reasonable price are in high demand and BMW has played an ace here, both with their on-trend technologies and innovative forethought.
What matters most
What we liked: Premium, spacious interior, pleasant driving experience, innovative technology.
What we'd like to see: Less tyre noise, less intrusive A-pillar, bit more power out of turns.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with three years roadside assist. Condition based servicing, with maintenance packages available from $900.
Model: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive compact tourer.
Engine: 218i 1.5-litre three cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 100kW @ 4400rpm and peak torque of 220Nm @ 1200-4300rpm. 218d 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 110kW @ 4000rpm and 330Nm @ 1750-2750rpm; 225i 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo petrol 170kW @ 5000rpm and 350Nm @ 1250-4500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed Steptronic auto or eight-speed Steptronic auto.
Consumption: 218i 5.2 litres/100km (combined average); 218d 4.2L/100km; 225i 6.1L/100km.
Bottom line plus on-roads: 218i $44,400, 218d $47,800, 225i $54,900.