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BMW 2 Series Active Tourer MPV (2017 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.4

As a five-seat SUV with a prestige badge, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer isn’t exactly flooded with rivals. In what it does, though, it acquits itself well. It’s reasonably practical, good to drive, high in quality, and its desirability and efficiency helps makes it a sound financial proposition, despite being undeniably pricey. A worthy contender for your money if you don’t want to follow the crowd into SUV ownership.

Pros

  • Feels sophisticated on the road
  • Some very good engines
  • Desirable for an MPV

Cons

  • Expensive for a family car
  • Ride is slightly on the firm side
  • Five-seat MPVs of limited appeal these days

Interested in buying a BMW 2 Series Active Tourer?

How good does it look? 3/5

MPVs aren’t usually the most desirable-looking machines – that’s the very reason buyers are flocking towards SUVs instead – but in the scheme of things, the 2 Series Active Tourer is a very smart-looking thing. Having the desirable BMW badge at either end does its desirability no harm, either. The entry-level SE car comes with alloy wheels, chrome exhausts and LED foglamps, while the upgrade to Sport trim earns you a few glossy black exterior trim pieces, and the upgrade to Luxury trim replaces these with chrome ones. The M Sport version has a unique look thanks to bigger alloys and a racy bodykit.

What's the interior like? 4/5

From the driver’s seat, it’s all very BMW in the Active Tourer; well built, easy to use and, in typical BMW fashion, with all the major controls angled slightly towards the driver. It’s not as smart as the latest cabins from the likes of Audi and Mercedes, and the lower reaches aren’t as plush as the parts you see and use in everyday life, but we can’t think of another MPV with a smarter cabin. The driving position is fine and, as in most MPVs, it’s set a little higher than in a regular saloon, giving a commanding view of the road ahead. What’s less impressive, is that the thick windscreen pillars (which spilt into two at the bottom) restrict your view a lot, making it awkward when pulling out of T-junctions, for example.

How practical is it? 4/5

This is a critical area for any MPV, and thankfully, the Active Tourer does a very respectable job. All five seats are surrounded by generous headroom and legroom, more than you might expect from a car with such a compact footprint, and that’s helped by the rather upright (yet perfectly comfortable) seating position. Shoulder room is a bit too snug for three adults to travel comfortably for long distances in the back, and the middle seat is narrower than those either side, too, but things should still be reasonably comfortable for short hops. Most versions come with sliding rear seats that allow you increase either passenger space or boot space as needed, which also fold down electrically in a 40/20/40 split arrangement. The exceptions are the entry-level SE-trimmed car, which has fixed rear seats that are split 60/40, and the 225xe iPerformance model, which has manually-folding 40/20/40 split seats that can’t slide because there’s an electric motor housed underneath them.

In all versions, boot space is acceptable rather than amazing when compared with most rivals, but at least the rear seats go pretty much flat when you drop them.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

The Active Tourer is most un-BMW-like in that it’s front-wheel drive (although some versions can be had with four-wheel drive). Although BMW purists might baulk at the very thought, it’s not like your average MPV really needs the rear-drive sharpness BMW prides itself on. And besides, the Active Tourer is still a very good car to drive. It grips strongly and turns sharply, making it feel agile and alert in corners and eager and manoeuvrable around town.

The ride on the standard suspension does have a slightly firm edge to it over some lumps and bumps, an effect that’s exacerbated by choosing larger wheels. While it shouldn’t be a problem for most people, those after ultimate family car comfort should probably consider adding the optional adaptive suspension, which has a better range of abilities. Comfort mode makes the car cushier in everyday use, and while it does lead to a little more body roll in the bends, you can simply switch to Sport mode when you want to sharpen things up.

Our one criticism is with the overly heavy steering – even in Comfort mode – which is great for handling, but less useful when you're inching it into a parking space or trying to negotiate a tricky three-point turn, like most MPVs will spend their time doing.

The 225xe plug-in hybrid version is one of those that has four-wheel drive, because while the petrol motor powers the front wheels, an electric motor powers the rears. Most of the time, you’ll struggle to tell the difference in the way it drives, so it’s still a very good car to drive, but you do feel its extra weight occasionally, mainly when slowing down or stopping.

How powerful is it? 4/5

The Active Tourer comes with a fairly wide range of petrol and diesel engines, but so far, we’ve only tried the more powerful versions. The 190 horsepower 220d diesel version feels muscular and responsive at all times, so it’s always ready, willing and able to pick up the pace when called upon. It’s not the smoothest or quietest engine of its type, but it’s nothing that’ll bother the majority of buyers.

The other version we’ve tried is the 225xe iPerformance, which is a plug-in hybrid that combines a petrol engine and an electric motor to give 224 horsepower. It’s the quickest version of the Active Tourer against the stopwatch, taking less than seven seconds to sprint from 0-62mph, but the impression of pace you feel is strong and willing, rather than outright quick. The best thing, though, it that the hybrid system juggles its various power sources around really smoothly, so you’re blissfully unaware of the complexity going on around you.

How much will it cost me? 3/5

The Active Tourer looks expensive compared with most five-seater MPVs, although admittedly, those rivals don’t have a BMW badge on the nose. Not only will that little blue and white disc make your car more desirable, it’ll also ensure the car’s resale values stay solid, significantly reducing your whole-life running costs and keeping monthly finance rates lower than they’d otherwise be. The Active Tourer’s fuel consumption and CO2 figures are very competitive across the entire range of engines, while the 225xe has a unique appeal in this regard.

Its clever technology means it can return around 100mpg according to official figures, while CO2 emissions sit at just over the 50g/km mark. That’s not as clean as some other plug-in hybrids, but it’s still good enough to qualify you for plenty of tax breaks. Just be aware the actual efficiency you end up getting will depend entirely on how regularly you charge it and how gently you drive it.

How reliable is it? 2/5

There’s not a great deal of reliability data available on the Active Tourer. The model isn’t included in the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, although it should be noted that BMW sits well down the pecking order in the manufacturer rankings. The JD Power Vehicle Dependability study makes for even more concerning reading, as BMW finished stone-cold last in the manufacturer ratings in both 2017 and 2018. Our owner reviews paint a far more positive picture, though, with very few owners reporting any mechanical problems with their Active Tourers. And the car’s three-year/unlimited mileage warranty isn’t half bad, either.

How safe is it? 3/5

The Active Tourer earned the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, but those tests were on the pre-facelift version, and took place way back in 2014. The testing standards have become much tougher since then.

You get the expected collection of airbags and stability control. However, the roster doesn’t include automatic emergency braking – which can sense an impending impact and slam on the brakes if you don’t respond to warnings – so if you want it, you’ll have to pay extra for a pack that also includes lane departure warning and a high-beam assistant. It’s not expensive to add, but such systems are standard fare on many rivals these days.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

There are four trim levels, and even the most basic SE comes with sat-nav, DAB radio, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a powered tailgate. That should be enough for most buyers. Stepping up to Sport brings a package of styling upgrades, smarter cloth upholstery and sports seats, while Luxury adds extra chrome trim outside and leather upholstery.

Range-topping M Sport models have a bespoke look, and among the worthwhile options are the adaptive suspension, a panoramic glass sunroof, and the upgraded Professional Navigation system. We would advise avoiding the M Sport models though, as the 18-inch wheels do little for ride comfort, and you're paying an awful lot for what boils down to some badges, trims, and a subtle bodykit. This is a family people carrier after all, not a sports car.

Why buy? 3/5

There aren’t many options for those who are after a five-seat MPV with a premium badge, and if that’s you, the 2 Series Active Tourer will fit the bill perfectly. It’s desirable for an MPV, and it’s practical, high in quality and good to drive. Some would argue, the perfect BMW take on the MPV.

Interested in buying a BMW 2 Series Active Tourer?