With the spike in demand for SUVs and crossovers, the humble MPV hasn’t seen a considerable amount of interest recently. At one point the go-to choice for families and space-lovers alike, the MPV fell out of favour with buyers as people started leaning towards a more high-up, confidence-inspiring driving position.
But that hasn’t stopped BMW from forging on with its own MPV – the new 2 Series Active Tourer. It’s a car that we’ll be living with over a couple of months to see how it compares with a modern crossover and why it could be a viable alternative to a compact SUV.
You see BMW has thrown the works at the Active Tourer. Inside, it gets the firm’s latest Operating System 8 setup, which up until now has only featured on its latest iX and i4 electric cars. It’s a super-sharp feature, with glossy menus accessed via a wide central screen.
Some might lament the removal of BMW’s tried-and-tested rotary iDrive controller but, in truth, you don’t miss it here. Our only objection up until this point has simply been around just how many menus and settings there are to go through. Even doing something as simple as activating the heated seats requires a dizzying number of presses – something that could definitely be made simpler with some shortcut buttons.
This particular car we’ve got is a 223i, which means it uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 215bhp. To me, that seems like a heck of a lot and, when you consider that the 223i will do 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds – which is only a little slower than a Golf GTI – it means that this plucky MPV feels fairly spirited in a straight line.
Thankfully, despite this performance, BMW claims that the 223i will manage around 44mpg combined, which isn’t too bad – though some way off being remarkable. That said, the engine does feel particularly smooth, even if the seven-speed automatic gearbox can feel a little hesitant at times. It’s fine when you’re at a cruise, but that initial take-off – particularly when entering a roundabout – can feel a little too slow.
However, the overall refinement is very good. Even though this car is fitted with a full panoramic roof – which can sometimes disrupt an otherwise quiet cabin – it’s very hushed when you’re on the motorway, without too much wind noise to speak of.
There can be a little bit of sound generated by the 19-inch wheels, but it’s not too much to contend with. In truth, we’d probably swap out those 19-inch wheels for smaller ones as they’d not only benefit refinement but also improve the ride which can feel overly firm at times in this M-Sport-specification car.
But it’s the practicality that shines through with the Active Tourer, as it does on so many MPVs. There’s loads of headroom for those sitting in the back, while having the seats fitted on sliding rails means that you can shift between more legroom or more boot space as and when you see fit. As standard, there are 415 litres of boot space, rising to 1,405 litres with the rear seats lowered. It’s a decent-size space and one that is easy to access thanks to its powered boot and low-load lip.
The general fit-and-finish is excellent too. This 2 Series Active Tourer comes in at £41,489 which is a lot in anyone’s money, but you don’t feel like BMW is scrimping when it comes to material quality or fitment. Everything feels very well screwed together, while the part-leather seats have loads of support and have proved comfortable even on longer journeys.
We’ve just found the lane-keep assist system a little intrusive at times. There doesn’t appear to be a dedicated switch to disable it and though the system works just fine on the motorway, down traditional British country lanes it really does try and keep you running along a line which might not exist. It’s quite strong, too, and takes some effort to overcome. All of this can be a bit disconcerting.
But the 2 Series Active Tourer feels like a great example of why crossovers and SUVs needn’t be the go-to option. This is a comfortable, spacious car that has boatloads of room for those sitting in the rear and a pleasant environment for those up front. The fact that BMW has thrown its latest technology at the Active Tourer shows some confidence in the segment, too.
What would we change about it during our time in the car so far? Well, that menu could definitely do with clearing up and making it a little more intuitive while, to us, this M-Sport specification car rides just a little too firmly, particularly if you’re going to be taking the whole family along for the ride.
Thankfully, BMW does offer a Luxury model which brings a more – you guessed it – luxurious take and does without the stiffened suspension of the M Sport. For outright comfort, we’d opt for that one instead.Fac