BMW plug-in im­presses

Un­til now, the BMW 2 Se­ries Ac­tive Tourer hasn’t been John Ox­ley’s favourite Beemer. But he’s changed his ideas a bit...

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The BMW 2 Se­ries Ac­tive Tourer is, for me, a bit of a mix-up. First up, it’s not the best­look­ing BMW, and sec­ond, well, un­til now it’s been a front-wheel drive Bmw-badged Mini four-door with a BMW body and a to­tal lack of iden­tity! How­ever, af­ter sam­pling the plug-in hy­brid ver­sion, the 225xe, my mind has changed – a lot. Looked at holis­ti­cally, it’s not a lot more ex­pen­sive than the 218d turbo-diesel Ac­tive Tourer, at $68,500, which puts it, price­wise, within reach of the top-sell­ing PHEV, the Mit­subishi Out­lander, which tips the bank bal­ance at $59,990 – but with less kit. At the same time the Mit­subishi’s ride, han­dling and over­all qual­ity is way down on the Beemer’s – not to men­tion per­for­mance, where the 22xe just drills it! So what does that mean? Well, on the road the 225xe be­haves just like a big sports hatch, with Golf Gti-like ac­cel­er­a­tion, great grip out of cor­ners, and fab­u­lous han­dling thanks to its elec­tron­i­cally ad­justed drive sys­tem Per­for­mance Con­trol, which puts power to the wheels that need it. Or, if you want to just war­ble along in elec­tric drive only, with rel­a­tively slow ac­cel­er­a­tion, you can do that too, waft­ing along with not much more noise than the breeze for up to 41km. This means most peo­ple would be able to per­form their daily com­mute with­out hav­ing to start the main en­gine at all. And the cost? On my plan, about 14c a km. The car can be recharged in about three and a half hours on a house­hold plug, or two hours 15 mins on a fast charger. If you go on longer runs, you only get that ben­e­fit un­til the trac­tion bat­ter­ies run out, although they do recharge as you brake or de­cel­er­ate hard. Us­ing the petrol en­gine alone, you can ex­pect about 6L/100km, which isn’t bad at all. Oh, and that equates to around $112c/km… Is it com­pli­cated? Not re­ally. You can choose from var­i­ous modes which in­clude full elec­tric or just leave it in Au­toedrive and let the car do the think­ing for you. Charg­ing is equally easy – just plug the charger ca­ble into the socket on the side of the car and a wall socket. How­ever, it’s best to use a plug that’s not got a lot of other stuff on the cir­cuit, or you might end up trip­ping a breaker or fuse. Ear­lier we men­tioned the car’s kit, and it’s pretty im­pres­sive. First up, the 1.5-litre three-cylin­der turbo en­gine is linked to a smooth-shift­ing auto ‘box, and there’s auto stop/start, which cuts fuel use if you’re run­ning in petrol mode. There’s driver ex­pe­ri­ence con­trol, which al­lows you to choose how the car drives, from econ­omy right through to sporty. Driver aid fea­tures in­clude rain-sens­ing wipers, LED head­lights, fog lights, rear cam­era with front and rear park­ing sen­sors, ac­tive cruise con­trol, park­ing as­sis­tant which finds a suit­able park­ing place then helps you park it (you just op­er­ate the gearshift, throt­tle and brakes), leatherette uphol­stery, heated front seats, and a multi-func­tion leather-rimmed sports steer­ing wheel. In ad­di­tion there’s full Blue­tooth tele­phony and stream­ing, in­clud­ing a fa­cil­ity to snap in a com­pat­i­ble cell phone which then auto charges and uses the car’s ex­ter­nal aerial for bet­ter re­cep­tion, sat­nav with a 6.5-inch dis­play, and a me­dia cen­tre which in­cludes a CD player as well as a ra­dio. Sum­ming up, an ex­cep­tional so­lu­tion if you want to cut your com­mut­ing costs, and at the same time con­trib­ute to cut­ting pol­lu­tion, yet re­tain­ing the abil­ity to be an en­ter­tain­ing drive when you get out­side the city lim­its. It’s as spa­cious as a medium SUV, but a lot more com­fort­able, and pas­sen­gers don’t get thrown around nearly as much as they do in a taller ve­hi­cle.

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