The Active Tourer is a huge step for BMW, majoring on practicality and comfort. It's also front-wheel drive - a radical departure from the company's traditional rear-wheel-drive saloons and estates, although four-wheel drive will also be available on some models.
The 2 Series Active Tourer is 434cm long, 180cm wide and 156cm high; that makes it nearly 10cm longer and taller than a Golf, but around the same width. It's also slightly shorter, wider and lower than one of its most obvious rivals, the Mercedes B-Class.
What's it like inside the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer?
For a car that's not much longer than a VW Golf, the 2 Series Active Tourer delivers an impressive amount of interior space. There's plenty of room for four six-foot adults, and even with the optional panoramic sunroof fitted, those in the rear aren't likely to complain about headroom. The cabin also feels spacious, thanks to deeply scalloped door trims that free up elbow room, and a fascia that's 'cut away' compared with regular BMW dashboards.
There are around 35 litres of oddment space in the cabin when you add up the glovebox, the storage in and under the central front armrest, an oddment area ahead of the gearstick, door pockets that can accommodate a 1.5-litre drinks bottle and netting in the backs of the front seats.
The rear seats slide forwards and back to free up more cabin space or focus on luggage capacity in the boot. The angle of the rear seat backs can also be altered to improve the boot capacity. The boot itself is well shaped, with a wide, tall aperture and useful hooks and tethering points on both sides. The floor can be folded up to reveal an extra compartment that contains organising panels.
The standard boot space is 468 litres (86 litres more than a Golf's), but with the 40/20/40 rear seat folded down this increases to 1510 litres - or a little more than BMW's 3 Series Touring. The front passenger seat back can also be folded down (as an option), potentially allowing items of up to 2.4 metres in length to be accommodated.
What’s under the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer's bonnet?
The 2 Series Active Tourer gets some of BMW's latest engines, including three-cylinder petrol and diesel motors. All motors get stop-start as standard, and if you choose the optional automatic transmission (an eight-speed unit with four-cylinder models, a six-speed one with three-cylinder motors), you get a coasting function that's designed to improve fuel efficiency.
The two models available at launch will be the 218i and the 218d. The 218i gets a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder producing 134bhp and 162lb ft at 1250rpm. With the standard six-speed manual transmission it can reach 62mph from rest in 9.3sec and has a top speed of 124mph, while returning combined fuel economy of 57.6mpg and emitting 115g/km of CO2. The optional eight-speed automatic version delivers 119g/km and 55.3mpg.
The 218d Active Tourer has a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel producing 148bhp and 243lb ft of torque between 1750-2250rpm. It cracks 0-62mph in 8.9sec and has a top speed of 127mph, but as you'd expect, it's more frugal than the petrol, with combined fuel consumption of 68.9mpg and 109g/km of CO2 emissions. Impressively, it returns the same CO2 figure if equipped with the eight-speed automatic transmission.
Other engines will be available when order books open in September, although deliveries of these variants won't start until early in 2015. There will be a 220i and a 228bhp 225i – the latter gets xDrive four-wheel drive.
The xDrive system will also be offered as an option on the 220d Active Tourer, which will join the range alongside the economy-focused 216d Active Tourer. That smaller engine - the same 1.5-litre diesel that features in the new Mini - is likely to be close to the 100g/km mark, or even less.
What are the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer's trim levels?
The standard 2 Series Active Tourer will be badged as SE, and its fascia will get a metallic-effect panel. Next up will be Sport, which brings an 'untreated wood' finish, plus high-gloss black trim on the exterior areas such as the front grille and air intake. You also get Sports seats and different 16in or 17in alloy wheels.
Next up is Luxury (shown above), which gets chrome trim on the grille and air intake, a further choice of 16in or 17in alloys, a traditional wood veneer insert on the dashboard and different upholstery.
In late autumn BMW will also release the M Sport edition, which gets suspension that's been lowered by 10mm, an aggressive bodykit, 17in or 18in alloy wheels, an M multi-function steering wheel and M sports seats in a mix of fabric and Alcantara.
The options list will include 'big car' features such as a head-up display (information is projected onto a small glass screen that rises up beyond the instrument panel), dynamic dampers that can focus on comfort or agility, a city emergency braking system, and camera-controlled cruise control that can maintain the gap to the car in front.
How much will the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer cost?
The 2 Series Active Tourer is being pitched directly between the 1 Series and 3 Series, so prices should start at around £22,995 for the 218i, rising to more than £30,000 for the 225i xDrive when it turns up later in the autumn.
The order books are scheduled to open as soon as BMW announces full pricing in July, with deliveries expected to start from September.