Although 2.0-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines are available, we’ve only driven the 2.0-litre diesel engine in the 218d and 220d, plus the three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the 218i and 225xe plug-in hybrid.
The 218d is punchy enough once it gets going at around 1800rpm, but if you let the revs drop too low or hit a steep hill, you’ll have to change down a gear to maintain your speed. You can add an optional eight-speed automatic – one of the best autos in the class – that does a good job of disguising the engine’s shortage of low-down response.
Even with the auto 'box, you’ll still notice that the 218d isn’t fast, so you’ll occasionally need to work it hard for decent overtaking performance. Given that the 216d is significantly down on power and torque, we’d recommend test driving one with a few people on board to see if it’s gutsy enough for your needs.
The 220d is worth looking at if you value a sportier-feeling engine or if you regularly carry a full load of passengers and luggage. It certainly makes the 2 Series Active Tourer feel significantly faster and more flexible, although this is in part down to the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox. Just remember that the 218d is usefully cheaper to buy and will be more than adequate for the majority of buyers – even those who do lots of motorway miles.
The 218i’s engine is taken from the Mini – this might sound like it would struggle in a car as big as the 2 Series Active Tourer, but that’s not the case. You will have to work the engine fairly hard through the standard six-speed manual gearbox if you want hearty acceleration, but generally it’s just as adequate in everyday driving as the 218d, thanks to a broad spread of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch auto is optional and won’t harm performance, according to official figures.
That same three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is also found in the 225xe, alongside a battery pack and rear-mounted electric motor. Performance from a standing start is strong, but this tails off as speeds increase due to the weight of the added hybrid components.