First Drive

2016 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 225xe review

BMW expands their range of plug-in hybrids with the four-wheel drive 225xe. Does a 25-mile electric only range increase the 2 Series Active Tourer’s appeal?

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The plug-in hybrid has proved a popular choice for many in the UK.

Given the tax breaks and sizeable government grant plug-in vehicles receive, it’s no surprise to see BMW expanding their range of hybrids to include the 2 Series Active Tourer, particularly given that it'll be one of the very few plug-in cars in this high-roofed, five-seat MPV class.

The 225xe has enough battery capacity to run for up to 25 miles on electricity alone before the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine kicks in to give you just as much range as a standard petrol 2 Series.

Even this limited electric range gives it some impressive claimed fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures. The 225xe emits 46g/km of CO2 - meaning it falls into the lowest company car tax band - and has a combined fuel economy figure of 141.2mpg.

What is the 2016 BMW 225xe Active Tourer like to drive?

Driven carefully and with a fully charged battery, the 225xe acts just like an electric car. Around town, it’s easy to keep the engine from firing unless you either flatten the throttle or switch the car to battery save mode to preserve charge.

If you’re determined to run on volts alone, there’s an electric-only mode that will prevent the petrol engine from running even under harder acceleration. As you would expect, though, the quicker you gain speed and the higher your speed, the sooner the battery runs out.

Once the battery is fully depleted, the engine runs for much longer periods of time. This means the 141.2mpg figure is only achievable over short distances where the car can run in electric mode for much of the time.

Thanks to the relatively small capacity of the battery, charging doesn’t take too long even off a normal three-pin plug, which will charge the battery in 3.5 hours. A BMW supplied Wallbox charger will cut that to two hours and 45 minutes.

There are other benefits to the hybrid system; while the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces just 134bhp, the rear-mounted electric motor produces another 87bhp. That means there’s 221bhp with both working together, enough for a 0-62mph time of just 6.7sec accompanied by a sporty sounding warble from the engine.

Off the line, it really does feel like hot hatch performance. There’s loads of traction courtesy of the four-wheel drive and the standard automatic gearbox shifts swiftly through the gears. As you pass 60mph, though, the acceleration tails off noticeably, probably because of the extra weight of the hybrid system.

This additional mass doesn’t seem to have blunted the 225xe’s zest for corners. The steering still feels precise with the front of the car keen to turn in. The ride is firm but the advantage of this is precious little body roll. Refinement is also worth mentioning; the electric motor and engine integrate well, so you don't get too gruff a noise when you swap from silent electric-only to petrol power while there’s not much noise when you’re cruising.

What is the 2016 BMW 225xe Active Tourer like inside?

Much like the outside of the 225xe, there’s little inside to differentiate this from a normal 2 Series Active Tourer. From behind the wheel, you notice slight changes to the instrument binnacle to give information on charging rates and also an eDrive logo. There's also a switch on the centre console to flick between pure electric running, a mixture, and the battery save mode.

The remainder of the cabin up front is much the same as before. Thin pillars provide good visibility out while BMW’s iDrive system is easy to use. Everything is well laid out, attractive and feels well put together.

It’s the rear seat that receives the biggest change. Gone is the handy sliding rear bench, having been replaced by a fixed unit that is at least split 40/20/40 rather than the less practical 60/40 split of the standard car. Taller adults may also notice that head room is a touch more restricted since the rear bench sits 30mm higher than in the normal Active Tourer on account of the battery being located underneath the rear seat.

Boot space is a reasonable 400 litres, rising to 1350 litres with all of the seats folded. Those after seven-seat practicality will have to look elsewhere; there’s currently no plug-in hybrid version of the seven-seat 2 Series Gran Tourer.

Should I buy one?

Whether or not you should go for the 225xe over one of its more conventionally powered siblings or rivals depends on how you plan to use it. If you're a company car user who does mostly short journeys, it has an awful lot going for it - primarily monthly company car tax bills of Β£59, which substantially undercut the conventional diesel alternatives.

On top of that, potentially you could go weeks in between fill-ups if you make the most of electric mode while the all-wheel drive system will provide many with an additional sense of security. It’s also surprisingly rapid when you put your foot down.

If however, you regularly travel big miles or have nowhere to charge the 225xe up, we’d recommend a traditionally powered petrol or diesel MPV because this plug-in hybrid isn't likely to be all that efficient once the battery power is depleted.

It's hard to recommend this car to private buyers, too, because the 225xe's pricing starts at Β£32,655 including the Β£2500 government grant. While it's undoubtedly good, we find that price hard to swallow alongside its main rivals.

What Car? says...

Rivals

Mercedes B Class

Volkswagen Golf SV

BMW 225xe Engine size 1.5-litre petrol & electric motor Price from Β£32,655 (after Β£2.5k grant) Power 221bhp Torque 310lb ft 0-62mph 6.7 seconds Top speed 126mph Fuel economy 141.2mpg CO2 46g/km