BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Review - Select Car Leasing
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BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Review

Introduction

This is the second generation BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, a vehicle few thought we would ever see. As SUVs (and coupe-SUVs) dominate the sales charts, a fairly conventional old-school MPV perhaps doesn’t hold the same appeal.

That misses the point of the 2 Active Tourer, which solves many of the problems families come across but in a cheaper, more practical and lower-cost alternative to an SUV — like the BMW X1.

Get a cup of cocoa ready. This won’t be exciting, but it’ll be fulfilling.

Select's rating score* - 4.1 / 5

At a Glance

The sleek and overtly aggressive styling of modern BMWs has passed by the 2 Series Active Tourer. Instead, it’s got a thoroughly sensible and upright stance leaving it looking closer to the Ford S-Max than the Mercedes S-Class.

That’s all by design, as the Active Tourer is BMW’s thoroughly sensible model, but it still ticks most of the boxes BMW buyers want ticking. Strong engines with impressive performance? Oh yes. Entertaining to drive? Pretty much. Loaded with technology? Definitely. Able to attract admiring glances, whatever the speed? Well, you can’t have everything.


What you can have is a choice of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines, ranging from 170hp to 326hp and offering economy from 44.8mpg to an astonishing 470.8mg. You can choose between three trim levels; the standard Sport model, a comfort-oriented Luxury model, or a more sporting M Sport version as we have here.

What you don’t get is a seven-seat option. This second-generation model is a strict five-seater, but you get a large, flexible boot, which means you can carry your family’s cargo comfortably.

But, in a world dominated by stylish SUVs, does a practical but plain MPV offer enough panache to pull lease customers from more popular people movers?


Key Features

BMW is edging towards a digital future, adding more tech (and more screens) into every new model. The 2 Series Active Tourer is no different, with an impressive digital panel stretching across the dashboard.

BMW calls it the Curved Display, but it’s really just a pair of screens behind some glossy plastic that makes it look like one continuous panel. Despite that, it looks fantastic, and, most importantly, it’s a slick system that’s easy to use, although there are so many menus that some infrequently used options are a tad hard to find.

Still, it’s a crystal-clear display with bold graphics and an intuitive interface. And if you struggle with finding just what you need, an impressive voice control system is included. And if you still can’t cope, there’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay — both operate wirelessly.


Performance & Drive

The range starts with the 220i, powered by a three-cylinder petrol engine producing 170hp. Step up to the 223i, and you get a 218hp model with a smoother four-cylinder engine. Those covering high miles will appreciate the 218d, with its 150hp diesel engine. While the world demonises diesel, there’s still a lot of life left in the oil burner, although it’s not for everyone.

We’re in a plug-in hybrid model, though. The 230e attracts the most attention thanks to its 326hp output, but we’re testing the more sensible 225e. There’s still a not-inconsiderable 245hp on tap, so performance is still impressive — the 0-62mph sprint is dealt with in just 6.7 seconds, which is on par with some seriously sporty cars. The engine and electric motor send power through a seven-speed gearbox, which shifts ratios smoothly and, at times, imperceptibly.


There’s more than just straight-line speed on offer. It’s actually quite a good steer, with well-checked body roll in corners. The steering is pleasingly precise, although it is very light, which will initially catch you out. Switch on Sport mode, and the soundtrack is boosted by piped-in noise, including, bizarrely, a digital noise that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Star Trek. The hum it creates adds something, but more importantly, flicking the Sport button improves the car's dynamic qualities, despite the Active Tourer being built for grown-up parenting responsibilities rather than Nurburgring lap record attempts.

Ride quality is fine, although the large wheels on our M Sport test model make it a little restless over the endless cracks and gaps of the UK’s roads. You’ll find more comfort in Kia Sportage, but then you’ll miss out on the engaging drive of the BMW.


Running Costs

The entry-level 220i is, as you would expect, the cheapest model to lease, but the uplift to the plug-in hybrid is surprisingly small. The benefits of upgrading are significant, too.

A sizable 14.2kWh battery pack means that the BMW can run for as far as 56 miles on electric power alone, which, while optimistic, does drop the car into the 8% BIK rate for company car drivers.

Fuel economy of a frankly ludicrous 470.8mpg is suggested as being possible, at least when tested under the WLTP regime. The reality is that your results will depend entirely on what kind of driving you do.


Commute 20 miles or so to work, and ensure you plug in to charge each night, and you’ll barely touch any petrol, which means 500+mpg is entirely possible. Plough up and down the UK’s motorways each day, and you’ll have to be happy with around 40mpg.

Charging takes less than three hours on a home charger, so you’ll be topped-up and ready to go each morning.

Servicing requirements vary depending on your driving — those with a heavy right foot will visit the dealer more frequently — while BMW covers the car with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty. That should see most people through their lease deal.


Interior

Stepping inside the 2 Series Active Tourer presents you with a cabin you might not be expecting. From the driver’s perspective, it’s a technical tour de force with a luxurious, stylish and cosseting environment.

The 10.25-inch digital instrument panel is directly ahead, presenting critical information to the driver crisply and clearly. Well, mostly — it’s customisable, and it’s possible to set it up so that it becomes a mess of graphics and numbers. Keep it simple, and it’s glorious.

To the left is a 10.7-inch infotainment screen through which you control virtually everything. And we mean everything, as there are almost no physical buttons in the car. You can switch on the heated front and rear screens, but that’s about it. Temperature controls are on the screen, although audio volume can be adjusted via the steering wheel or a rolling wheel on the floating centre armrest.


A wireless charging plate for your smartphone sits at the bottom of the dashboard, letting you put your phone in an upright (and therefore visible) position held in place by a clamp. It’s an elegant solution to the problem of what to do with your phone but does rather encourage use while driving.

The rest of the cabin is generously appointed, with Alcantara-trimmed seats that are both supportive and comfortable, if not quite plush. The Luxury or Sport model will likely offer a more relaxed set of seats.

There’s a lot of space up front, with immense headroom, thanks to the tall bodywork. The same holds in the rear, where passengers get more than enough leg and headroom. However, squeezing in a fifth person will be tricky thanks to a bulky tunnel running through the centre, robbing space for their feet.


Access is impressive, with rear doors that swing open very wide. They allow parents to easily slide a pair of child seats into the back, with another able to go on the front seat, which gets its own Isofix points. There’s plenty of storage for family detritus, with substantial door pockets and a storage tray under the central armrest for quick access to emergency wipes.

The boot, at 406 litres, isn’t particularly large, but it’s sensibly-shaped. Petrol and diesel models benefit from sliding rear seats that can be moved back and forth by around 5cm to balance space between the boot and rear passengers, but the plug-in hybrid misses out on this feature.


Safety

Predictably, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer scored the full five stars when Euro NCAP ran it through its thorough safety testing. Occupant protection for both adults and children was strong, but pedestrian protection was particularly impressive.

It’s helped by being packed to the gunwales with passive and active safety equipment. Front collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, left turn warning (handy to avoid cyclists shooting up the inside), and traffic sign recognition are all in place.


Options

There’s no shortage of equipment fitted to the Active Tourer, but if you want to explore the options list, there are a few highlights.

A panoramic sunroof isn’t for everybody, but it lightens up the cabin and adds a premium feel to the car. It’s not a bargain at £1,000, but it’s tempting. Likewise, the Harmon Kardon stereo isn’t an essential upgrade, but if you like your audio, the £600 surround sound system might be worth the investment.

The Technology Pack Plus adds a bundle of equipment, including an interior camera, an upgraded instrument binnacle, and a head-up display. There’s also a parking assistant for tight spaces, but, at £1,150, it’s expensive. An extra £1,500 on top adds the semi-autonomous Driving Assistant Pro system.

Your car will come in white unless you spend another £595 on an optional colour. Portimao Blue is lovely, but we’re less convinced by Sanremo Green. The rest are various shades of grey.


Rival Cars

German rivals Mercedes-Benz make a similarly sensible car in the B-Class (below), which is arguably even more high-tech inside, with a sumptuous cabin. Like the BMW, it’s practical, frugal and comfortable, but utterly unexciting. The quality isn’t quite where you might want it, either.

The Volkswagen Touran takes an even more traditional approach to sensible family motoring, offering a practical (read: dull) exterior and interior design with plenty of room for five in the cabin. You can also pick a third row of seats, although they’re very tight for space.


It might be that an SUV is the right answer for you after all, and the Kia Sportage (below) offers just about as much as the BMW for the busy family. It’s loaded with tech, with a cutting-edge cabin and exterior design. It’s not much fun to drive, though, and while the plug-in hybrid is peppy and frugal, it’s pretty expensive.


Verdict

Opting for a sensible people-carrier design rather than following the trend for SUV style is a brave move from BMW, but then it has the X1 and X3 to fall back on for those wanting something more glamorous.

So, assuming you can get past the styling, is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer worth your money?

It’s got more space inside than many will know what to do with, is packed with useful equipment and advanced technology, drives well, is — in the right circumstances — economical, and can put on a good turn of speed.

It’ll cost about the same as an equivalent X1 SUV, which means your decision comes down to a heart vs head moment. Stick with the 2 Series Active Tourer, and you’ll get more for your money. It’s a winner.

Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

**Correct as of 07/02/2023. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,523.86 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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