► New 2 Series Active Tourer driven
► Minor tweaks...
► ... but that's fine by us
BMW’s proud of the 2 Series Active Tourer’s success story. It’s sold considerable numbers worldwide, thanks in part to huge appeal in China, with the UK as the third-largest market for the five-seat MPV.
Part of that success is undoubtedly attributable to the failure of Merc’s B-Class to live up to three-pointed standards, while Audi’s gone for a full-SUV line-up rather than offering a more practical A3-based people-carrier.
But to keep things in the here and now, BMW’s updated the 2 Series Active Tourer (and its Grand Tourer sibling with its extra row of seats) with slight revisions to front and rear bumpers, equipment levels and engines in the range. There’s no dramatic change, though. Just a few tweaks to retain Tourer’s relevance in context with its rivals – namely said Mercedes, VW Golf SV and Ford C-Max.
What’s the 2018 BMW Active Tourer like to drive?
Not hugely different. We’ve driven two of the new powertrains, with varying levels of enthusiasm. The first was a bit of a damp squib from a keen driver’s perspective – the 1.5-litre turbo triple MINI uses in the Countryman is bolted to an eight-speed DCT, but this isn’t a great combination here.
You see, while it’s based on the very same platform, the AT is a far more mature, grown-up vehicle and as such we’re less accommodating for the lack of straight-line vigour on offer here.
The sheer entertainment a MINI is capable of with a chassis more capable than its engine is one thing, but remove that eager steering and replace with an overly weighted front-driven MPV set-up, and you’re soon left wanting a little more grunt to get down the road. At least the power band is nice and wide, revving high enough and holding onto ratios in Sport mode to begin to make decent progress.
It doesn’t help that this three-pot engine suffers poor refinement at low rpm (not unlike Audi’s A3 with a 1.0-litre and S Tronic), yet at the same time this is exactly what the gearbox wants to achieve for optimum fuel economy in default Comfort. The result: at ultra-low throttle application it can feel as though the car wants to stall. Older car fans may liken it to a misfire, though we’re assured it’s been tuned like that…
Still, in Sport the Active Tourer is still among the best drivers in the people-carrier paddock. There’s enough Munich DNA there to remind you what you’re driving, and why you paid more than Mr C-Max over there. We thought it a shame you couldn’t turn the engine/gearbox up or down independently of the steering, though, for the reason above.
Bodyroll is kept nicely in check, which is slight mitigation for the unapologetic ride comfort on the cars we tried in the suburbs outside Munich.
What about the hybrid?
We drove the 225xe plug-in hybrid, too, which gets more efficient batteries that charge far quicker than before using BMW’s iWallbox: 28 miles of range is possible by plugging in for 90 minutes rather than 2h20m.
The PHEV system, which borrows many bits from the i8, has been retuned for better efficiency and response, too, and it does feel more polished to drive. We were particularly impressed with its smooth transition between petrol and electric power, and the instant throttle response mid-corner in Sport mode. It’s more fun, which is a Good Thing.
What’s the 2018 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer like inside?
There isn’t much difference, to be honest.
The iDrive system is always a highlight, its rotary touchpad remaining the best way to control in-car entertainment and the processor powerful enough to all but eradicate lag when zooming in the nav maps or flicking between menu screens. The update ushers in BMW’s latest Professional multimedia system, unlocking clever features like ‘time to leave’ notifications to your mobile if you’ve set a nav destination and Microsoft 365 connectivity for the highly professional among you.
And thanks to the facelift, it’s undeniably more cheerful inside as well. Cabin design and exterior colours are things BMW believes it needed to make more interesting during this update in an effort to drive down the age of the demographic that buy these sorts of cars… so let’s hope grandma likes metallic orange with contrasting stitching. Younger folk will surely find a better fit in the firm’s niche-busting line-up of medium-sized models.
The Active Tourer’s nip-and-tuck isn’t going to make national newspaper headlines. The tweaks are minor really, aimed at broadening the AT’s already strong appeal rather than changing the game in any demonstrable way.
It’s still a highly practical, cleverly designed product, though.
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