What Car? says...
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and other MPVs have been suffering at the hands of SUVs in recent years. In fact, while people carriers used to be the high-rise wagon of choice for families, most now go for something that looks a bit more like an off-roader.
To that end, car manufacturers have been focusing on creating SUVs that fit all niches and have taken their eyes off the MPV ball. BMW hasn’t. Instead, it’s looking to tempt families out of small SUVs with its own sporty-looking MPV, the 2 Series Active Tourer.
That won’t be easy though, and it’ll take more than just good aesthetics and a premium badge on the nose. So what’s on offer? Well, BMW has equipped it with a class-leading interior and loads of standard equipment.
The 2 Series Active Tourer also comes with the choice of a petrol engine with two different power outputs and mild-hybrid assistance or a diesel option. There are also two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants – perfect for company car drivers and those wanting to keep running costs low.
That all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But is it really enough to persuade loyal SUV owners to switch to an MPVs, and does the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer have what it takes to go head-to-head with the best MPVs, including the Mercedes B-Class, and seven-seaters such as the Dacia Jogger, the Ford Galaxy and the Volkswagen Touran.
Over the next few pages of this review, we’ll tell you what the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is like inside and on the road, plus which engine and trim combination we recommend. (We have full reviews of the BMW 2 Series Coupé and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé too.)
If you decide it’s the best MPV option for you – or, indeed, if you're in the market for a vehicle of any make and model – our free What Car? New Car Buying service can help you make big savings on this car and hundreds of others. It has some attractive new MPV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If you want a diesel-engined BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, you have one option: the 148bhp 218d. We’ve yet to try that engine, but it was our favourite diesel engine in the previous generation 2 Series Active Tourer.
Our pick of the range, though, is one of the petrols, the entry-level 168bhp 220i, which uses a compact three-cylinder engine with mild-hybrid tech for a little extra power and efficiency. It’s quick to respond to your accelerator inputs, offering enough power to get you up to speed easily even when the car is fully laden with passengers and luggage (0-62mph takes 8.1sec). It's so good that we can't see why anyone would want to step up to the more powerful but much more expensive 223i.
There are also two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions to choose from: the 242bhp 225e and the 322bhp 230e. Both feed their power to all four wheels and both are rather quick, with the most powerful version sprinting from 0-62mph in just 5.5sec – more than a second faster than the Mercedes B-Class B250e. According to official figures, PHEV Active Tourers can travel more than 50 miles on electric power alone, but it's likely to be less in real-world driving.
Suspension and ride comfort
At low speeds, the 2 Series Active Tourer’s has a tendency to patter and thump over rough surfaces, especially on BMW’s optional ‘Individual’ 19in wheels. The car does settle down at speed but it never feels as plush or as controlled as the Citroën Grand C4 SpaceTourer.
Versions with the M Adaptive suspension (which comes as standard with M Sport trim) are better. Selecting Comfort mode softens the suspension, which stops the car being deflected off larger abrasions such as potholes and expansion joints.
We’ve driven a PHEV Active Tourer in pre-production form, and we were quite impressed by how well it masked the extra weight added by the battery. Like the mild-hybrids, it's firmer than the B-Class and other rivals, but never feels uncomfortable.
If you’ve driven other BMWs you might be surprised to learn that the 2 Series Active Tourer’s steering is incredibly light to the point where it almost feels synthetic. Keener drivers will find this rather disappointing as it doesn’t provide the driver with any real communication to the front wheels, but it is at least direct and allows you to place the car accurately on the road.
Models equipped with M Adaptive suspension have the best handling, especially in Sport mode. Once that’s selected and everything has stiffened up a little, body lean is very well controlled and the car feels plenty responsive. Versions without adaptive suspension lean a little more if you corner quickly, but they're still far better than the 2 Series Active Tourer’s rivals.
If you want more security in slippery conditions, the 223i is available with the BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Both PHEV versions get that as standard – the electric motor powers the rear wheels while the petrol engine drives the front ones. It works well and makes the car engaging to drive, but you can still feel hints of the additional weight when you corner hard.
Noise and vibration
Neither of the 2 Series Active Tourer’s petrol engines are particularly intrusive when it comes to noise, but the 223i can be a little raucous if you put your foot down at lower speeds. It soon fades into the background, though, and both make for relaxing motorway cruising, with little wind noise and road noise that’s only really noticeable on very coarse surfaces.
As you might expect, the PHEV versions are even quieter because of their ability to drive around silently on electric power alone. If you put your foot down, you’ll get to enjoy sounds created by composer Hans Zimmer until the petrol engine kicks in smoothly.
All versions come with a seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox. It's smooth enough when shifting through the gears, but at low speeds it can be rather jerky, which makes it tricky to pull away smoothly. The inconsistent brakes can make it hard to judge how much pressure to apply to the pedal to slow down smoothly, so parking isn't as easy as it should be.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
You won’t struggle to get comfortable behind the wheel of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer because all models having plenty of adjustment for the driving position and steering wheel. The seats are designed to be like the ones in sportier BMW models, and are comfortable with plenty of support. Disappointingly, adjustable lumbar support is a cost option on all trim levels.
On the inside, the 2 Series Active Tourer has taken its design and technology straight from the BMW iX so you won't find many physical buttons. Instead, most functions, including the climate control, are set using the large curved screen that combines a 10.25in driver display with a 10.7in infotainment system.
The driver display gives you all the information you could ever need and can be customised to show all the normal dials or for some other function, such as the sat-nav map. To make it even easier to see that information, all versions come with a head-up display that projects straight on to a glass panel in your eyeline. Again, that can be customised to show exactly what you want to see.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The 2 Series Active Tourer has fairly narrow front windscreen pillars, but they’re angled aggressively and end up limiting your front visibility at junctions and as you approach pedestrian crossings.
It’s better news when you look over your shoulder, and you’ll never struggle to get a good view whenever you need to check your blind-spot. Thanks to the large rear window, you won’t struggle to park, and it’s made even easier by front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and the standard-fit parking assistant, which will parallel park the car for you.
You’ll be able to see plenty when you head out for a night drive because automatic LED headlights are standard across the range. If you opt for the Technology pack (which is standard on the M Sport), you’ll upgrade those to matrix headlights that allow you to leave full beam on all the time without dazzling oncoming drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
The 2 Series Active Tourer’s 10.7in infotainment touchscreen has built-in sat-nav, DAB radio and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. It’s the same as the system fitted to the BMW iX, with the same pin-sharp graphics and near-instant reaction to your prods and swipes.
There’s one big difference here, though: the iDrive rotary controller that makes BMW infotainment system so wonderfully user-friendly is not fitted to the latest Active Tourer, so you can only control the system through touchscreen prods or voice commands. That makes it much more distracting to use when you're driving, and unfortunately the user interface, which is inspired by smartphone displays, seems as though it was designed to work with a rotary controller.
The voice control system works well most of the time, though, and doesn’t tend to call a random relative when you ask for details about your route or to turn the heating up. You’ll also find buttons that control most aspects of the infotainment system on the steering wheel.
Interior quality in the 2 Series Active Tourer is impressive, with plenty of dense soft-touch materials in all the right places and anything scratchy hidden well out of view. The Alcantara used throughout M Sport versions is especially pleasant.
Build quality is fantastic too, and all the stalks and surfaces that you touch regularly feel sturdy. You can certainly see why this is a much more expensive car than the Dacia Jogger.
Overall, it’s a very nice place to be on a long journey, even compared with the high-quality interiors of the Volkswagen Touran and the Ford S-Max. Even next to the comparatively-sized Mini Countryman – which has one of the best interiors in the small SUV class – the 2 Series Active Tourer fares very well.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There’s masses of room up front in the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, so even very tall drivers will have plenty of space in the high-roofed interior. There’s lots of headroom and the generous width means the driver won’t end up rubbing shoulders with their passenger.
The removal of the iDrive controller and large gear selector has opened up plenty of space, so you have a number of areas to store all your bits and bobs. On top of the usual, such as door bins and a glovebox, you get a large storage area under the floating central armrest and a Tesla-esque area in front of the cupholders to store your phone in an upright position. That’s also where you can charge your phone wirelessly if you opt for M Sport trim or the optional Technology pack.
The broad door apertures, a high roof and slightly higher-set seats than in a conventional hatchback make access to the 2 Series Active Tourer excellent.
Two six-footers, or three children, will be fine in the back of the 2 Series Active Tourer. With the sliding seats fully back, there’s generous legroom and loads of head and shoulder room. The central tunnel in the floor and the raised central cushion will make a middle passenger uncomfortable on longer trips, though. There's a touch more rear leg and head room in the Volkswagen Touran.
You won’t find as many storage spaces in the rear as you get in the front, but if you fold down the standard centre rear armrest, passengers will have a couple of cup holders to store drinks. The door pockets are moulded to offer convenient bottle storage and you get map pockets on the back of the front seats as standard.
Access is very good, with the high roofline making it easy to duck in for access to child seats.
Seat folding and flexibility
The 2 Series Active Tourer may be a little behind the Touran for outright passenger space, but it’s better for flexibility. All variants come with rear seats that slide in a 60/40 split, so you can prioritise rear legroom or boot space, depending on your needs. On top of that, they can be folded totally flat in a versatile 40/20/40 split.
One thing the 2 Series Active Tourer can’t do is fold two additional seats out of the boot floor. So, if you need a seven-seater, you’ll want to take a look at the Dacia Jogger, the Ford Galaxy or the Touran. You could also turn your attention to the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer but at the time of writing that hasn't been updated with the latest engines and tech.
As with the driver’s seat, the front passenger seat has a broad range of movement. You don’t get electronic seat adjustment as standard with any trim but you can add it by opting for the Comfort pack (that’ll also get you adjustable lumbar support). Heated seats are standard on all but the entry-level Sport trim.
Boot sizes vary depending on which engine you go for, and the 218d gets the largest. In fact, it’s not only the largest available with the 2 Series Active Tourer but also one of the biggest boots in the MPV class, at 470 litres. The mild-hybrid tech on the 220i and 223i reduces that number to 415 litres, which is smaller than the Mercedes B-Class boot but can still easily swallow a pushchair or a large weekly shop. They also have a storage compartment under the boot floor.
A powered tailgate is standard across the range and there’s no loading lip to contend with, making it a doddle to load bulky and heavy items. If you’re loading long items into the boot, folding down the rear seats is easy and creates a totally flat area with 1405 litres of space. It’s worth noting that the Ford S-Max offers even more space.
As you might expect, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models get the smallest boot in the range, but they still manage to match the space you’ll find in the boot of a PHEV B-Class.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer will be quite tempting as a cash buy because it matches the price of an equivalent Mercedes B-Class and is cheaper than the Ford S-Max. It is, however, more expensive than small SUVs including the Mini Countryman and Volkswagen Taigo, and costs a lot more than the Dacia Jogger.
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants are the obvious choice for company car drivers that want to keep their benefit-in-kind tax payments low, so it’s worth waiting for those to arrive before taking the plunge. If you keep their batteries charged, the official electric-only range of over 50 miles will keep running costs incredibly low.
The premium badge will ensure resale values are among the best in the class. If you’re planning to sell on, this could well work out to be one of the cheaper cars in the class with all ownership costs factored in, despite its higher initial purchase price.
Equipment, options and extras
One of the 2 Series Active Tourer’s trump cards is that it comes with plenty of standard equipment. As such, even the entry-level Sport version comes with 17in alloy wheels, 2-zone air conditioning, cruise control, LED headlights, a head-up display, the infotainment system and other tech.
Upgrading to Luxury trim gives the 2 Series Active Tourer some more luxurious features, including leather upholstery, fine-wood interior details and heated front seats. Opting for top-tier M Sport, which isn’t much more expensive, takes things down a sportier path, with larger (18in) alloy wheels, more aggressive styling, sports seats and M Adaptive suspension.
Interestingly, the 2 Series Active Tourer comes with the added ability of letting you buy upgrades directly through the infotainment system, without heading back to a dealership. That means you could go for the entry-level Sport version and add a heated steering wheel or heated seats at a later date while sitting in the driver’s seat on your driveway.
When it comes to reliability, BMW finished 13th out of the 30 manufacturers included in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey – above Volkswagen, Mercedes and Ford, in 20th, joint 22nd and joint 27th place respectively.
For added peace of mind, all 2 Series Active Tourers come with a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty. PHEV versions also get a six-year or 60,000 mile warranty for their high-voltage battery.
Safety and security
Regardless of trim, there’s no shortage of safety technology on the 2 Series Active Tourer. Every version comes with stability control, automatic emergency braking (AEB), a tyre-pressure monitoring system and a system that warns you of potential collisions.
You can also add the Driving Assistant Professional pack if you’d like to get some additional safety features. That optional extra gets you a steering and lane-assistant system, automatic speed-limit assistance, a blind-spot warning, front and rear cross traffic warning, and a system that will automatically help you to evade an accident.
Security equipment includes an alarm and an engine immobiliser.
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|RRP price range||£33,550 - £48,890|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||403.5 - 470.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£551 / £2,635|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,103 / £5,271|