06_BMW_2_Series_Active_Tourer

BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer brings four-wheel drive capability to the MPV party – it’s still great to drive and is as premium as ever. But you have to pay for it.

Sean Carson | December 2014

The 2 Series Active Tourer was an extremely smart move by BMW. Sure, the purists might scoff at the fact its engine is turned through 90 degrees to every other BMW ever, and that it sends drive to the ‘wrong’ wheels. But do people buying a five-seat MPV really care that it’s front-wheel drive? No.

Do they care there’s a BMW badge on the nose and an upmarket interior? Yes – because this is a practical car to suit families wanting plenty of usability in something a little more premium than a Ford or a Renault, for example. Up until now, your only choice was the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

And with the harsh European winters over the last few years, BMW has spotted yet another niche to plug and opted to stick its xDrive four-wheel drive system in the 2er Active Tourer.

It might add £3,050 extra to the list price (you get other equipment as standard, too), but it also brings with it extra peace of mind in tricky, inclement conditions we’re used to in the UK – especially if you have your kids in the car, which many Active Tourer owners will.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive

What’s the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive like to drive?

It feels much more like a regular hatchback to drive than any other people carrier we’ve driven. Up until now the Ford Focus C-Max has had a monopoly on that particular party trick. Not anymore. The BMW trumps it.

It feels solid and planted, with accurate steering, plenty of agility and lots of grip – because, of course, this is vital in an MPV…

The engine doesn’t always drive the rear wheels as well as the fronts, decoupling the power when the extra grip isn’t needed to save fuel. It’s hard to pick-up when the xDrive system is doing its thing – all you know leaving a junction with the accelerator pedal to the floor is that there’s no wheelspin or traction control intervention, just lots of lovely, reassuring propulsion.

You can opt for either a 231hp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol in the 225i, or a 190hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel in the 220d. The former is a sweet revving unit, but it’ll be the latter that makes up the majority of 2 Series Active Tourer sales.

At 7.3 seconds from 0-62mph, 58.9mpg combined and 122g/km CO2, it’s a great balance between performance and efficiency, as the car only emits marginally more carbon than the 119g/km two-wheel drive 220d Active Tourer in M Sport spec. There’s loads of torque, too, so you don’t have to trouble the gearbox all that much either. But it’s no great shame if you do have to.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive

Both units are mated to a standard fit eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s smooth and shifts quickly, with different driving modes to change the engine and gearbox response.

Eco Pro will change up as early as possible for maximum efficiency, while Sport holds onto gears longer for greater performance. No matter what mode, the transmission always seems to be in the right gear – and on the odd occasion it might not be, it kicks down quickly.

In the most part it’s comfortable, but on big wheels you pay a price for style – over the worst bumps on the launch in the south of France, the ride was a touch choppy. On anything other than terribly bad road surfaces, it’s fine, and refinement inside the cabin is particularly good.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive

Is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive any good off-road?

Given the limited ground clearance most Active Tourer owners probably won’t be venturing too far off road, if at all. The all-wheel drive will come into its own in bad weather, but BMW still treated us to a proper off-road demonstration on the launch.

And it was actually pretty impressive. Over muddy bogs, big humps and slippy, rocky inclines and declines, the Active Tourer xDrive coped with conditions and surfaces other MPVs would be flummoxed by – not to mention some smaller, fashionable SUVs.

Not once did it hint at getting stuck, and traversing break-overs it didn’t scrape any bodywork or clonk any under-body components.

The rear axle can recouple in as little as 0.1 seconds, so reaction times to any potential loss of grip are swift, meaning plenty of help from the rear wheels to propel you forward if the going gets tough – so it is sort of a proper BMW, in a way…

The Active Tourer does have its faults though – for example, the thick A-pillars that inhibit your view making tight turns and exiting junctions difficult at times. For some, there’s the price, too…

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive

MR verdict: 2014 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive

At £29,955 for the entry-level xDrive Active Tourer – the 220d Sport model – it’s not exactly a cheap way of carting around your kids, but it is a very impressive one, nonetheless.

For your money you do get quite a bit of kit though, including that four-wheel drive system and automatic ’box, as well as an electric boot, air conditioning, parking sensors, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and a 6.5-inch multimedia screen.

Some may still scoff at the move away from BMW’s traditional marketplace, but we say don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive won’t be for everyone, but if you’re after a practical and premium car that’s still fun to drive and safe should you get caught in a downpour or blizzard this winter, you have to consider an all-wheel drive Active Tourer.

Rivals: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive

  1. BMW 3 Series Touring
  2. Citroen C4 Picasso
  3. Ford Focus C-Max
  4. Mercedes-Benz B-Class
  5. Nissan Qashqai

If the MPV thing isn’t for you, for similar money you could get a 320d Touring – the same BMW badge, the same 190hp diesel engine and similar practicality: 480 litres in the Touring plays 468 in the Active Tourer. The Ford C-Max is the BMW’s closest MPV competitor in terms of how it drives, but what it gains in price it lacks in badge cachet – no four-wheel drive, either. The Citroen C4 Picasso is much the same, but its design is more interesting than the Ford and it’s roomy, too. The B-Class is more on a par with the BMW in terms of approach, with an all-wheel drive options, but the newer 2 Series AT outshines it. The Qashqai pretty much rivals everything, so with four-wheel drive options, a big boot, plenty of style and a higher seating position, some people will prefer the 4×4 approach.

Specification: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer xDrive 

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

Gearbox: eight-speed automatic

Price from: £29,995

Power: 190 – 231hp

Torque: 258 – 295lb ft

0-62mph: 6.3 – 7.3 seconds

Top speed: 147mph

MPG: 44.1 – 58.9mpg

CO2: 122 – 152g/km