BMW 225i Active Tourer put to the test: The first Bavarian MPV
Two firsts at once in the BMW: front-wheel drive and an MPV. Sounds like a renunciation of the "Sheer Driving Pleasure" motto. Or is this not the case? Can the BMW Active Tourer meet the high market expectations? Is it a genuine BMW?
The hotly discussed question occupying online forums, namely "Can BMW do front-wheel drive?" has long been answered in the affirmative with reference to the Mini – which was ultimately built by the Munich manufacturers. With regard to the 2 Series Active Tourer we therefore are actually asking a more interesting question: "Can BMW do an MPV?"
For this is precisely what the new BMW Active Tourer is, regardless of the great lengths that the marketing team is going to come up with a new generic term. What is this One-Box car, if not an MPV? This is exactly how representatives of this vehicle-type are formed – take a look at the Mercedes B-Class, VW Golf Sportsvan or the Ford C-Max.
However, the expectations placed on a family BMW are higher. After all, the brand has considered itself a guardian of drive dynamics for decades. So a BMW MPV not only has to be spacious, but must corner well as well.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer with electrically opening boot lid
We will first focus on the spaciousness. Doors open: the driver's seat isn't mounted particularly high, not like in the VW Golf Sportsvan. Climbing in is easy – thanks to the generous head room you don't have to bow and scrape. First impression: the BMW Active Tourer is a typical BMW. The dashboard has been redesigned, but all white-and-blue Bavarian cars will feel immediately at home.
The Munich engineers have clearly taken repeated criticism regarding the poor feel of the materials to heart: in the BMW Active Tourer there is much less cheap-looking plastic than in the 3 Series. Only in the engine compartment, where you will discover the cheapest plastics, can you see where savings had to be made – which is not the case in the loading compartment, which is lined with high-quality carpet.
The fact that the boot lid can be raised electrically if desired (450 Euros) and even by gesture control (750 Euros) – with a spirited kick beneath the rear of the car – is actually a premium feature among compact MPVs. On the other hand, the double loading floor and the trough below it for storing odds and ends, as well as the lashing eyes and hooks for hanging shopping bags are in keeping with the usual MPV standard.
And the vehicle delves further into the MPV repertoire: by pulling on the lateral remote unlocking, the rear seat backs can be folded forwards from the boot – three-part with a 40:20:40 ratio. This results in an almost level loading floor, and the luggage capacity can be expanded from 468 to up to 1,510 litres. Those who have ordered the folding passenger seat back for 190 Euro can transport goods of up to 2.40 metres in length. Variability can be taken to the extreme with the adjustable rear seat bench, which can be extended by 13 centimetres (300 Euros).
Everything you need in an MPV
Of course there are also sufficient trays and storage compartments of various sizes spread throughout the interior. And the options list offers practical accessories, ranging from the roof rails and a box to the ski bag, racing bike, surf board mounts, clothes hanger, cool box or an LED torch. The BMW engineers have really thought of everything, and at no point give the impression that this MPV is their first attempt.
The same applies for the use of space and the seating comfort. Two adults can comfortably fit in the back, although a third would only fit between them on sufferance due to the wide centre tunnel. The driver on the other hand experiences perfect ergonomics – the majority of BMW fans will probably want to lower their seats all the way down. Then you won't feel like you're sitting on a coach box like in other MPVs, but are rather integrated into the proCee’dings.
Start the engine, grab the automatic gear lever. Brief confusion: it isn't in keeping with a standard BMW, but rather functions via simple detent mechanisms like in the Mini. In addition, the test car features rocker switches mounted on the steering wheel, as part of the Steptronic sports transmission (at an extra cost of 150 Euros in the 225i).
To begine with we will let the eight-speed automatic transmission have control over the switching time. The BMW Active Tourer sets off quietly, merging discreetly into the inner city traffic. You get a great overview of the surrounding environment to the sides and the front, however, diagonally backwards the BMW is somewhat sealed off: those who frequently have to manoeuvre backwards should indulge in the beeping parking assistant (as standard in the Luxury Line).
The BMW 225i Active Tourer produces 228 HP
Away from the city and directly onto the motorway. We accelerate up to speed. For the first time, the two-litre turbo raises its voice slightly. And it thrusts forward – it really thrusts forward. The 225i showcases its 228 HP unexpectedly forcefully, breaking the 200-km/h barrier with ease, and driving on with verve. Unlike as is sometimes the case in the 3 Series, the much berated four-cylinder petrol engine in the BMW Active Tourer is certainly not out of place.
Off the motorway and into a drawn out combination of lefts and rights. We expect understeer, or at least strong roll. But not so: the BMW Active Tourer throws itself into the corners like a 3 Series, steers slightly with the rear, but sticks accurately to its line.
A similar case on country roads. At present there is no other MPV that devours corners so voraciously. Of course, in hairpin bends the driven front axle paws at the ground; 350 Nm give the traction control a lot to do. And the steering is not completely free from drive influences. The slight pull shouldn't bother the MPV clientèle – its the die-hard BMW drivers it will bother most. Incidentally, they will also criticise the lack of lateral support in the seats.
Cornering artist, with comfort
Luckily agility is not achieved at the expense of the suspension comfort. Of course, the chassis of the cornering artist is firmly tuned. However, the adaptive shock absorbers (500 Euros) willingly absorb even large bumps, only acknowledging manhole covers with an audible clatter.
Thus, the handling of the BMW Active Tourer in no way shames BMW – in spite of the front-wheel drive. And there is little to criticise regarding the space concept, with variable seats and a host of accessories, but much to praise. So can BMW do an MPV? Sure they can.
Date18 August 2015