A sense of oc­ca­sion

BRIAN BAS­SETT ex­plores lofty liv­ing in the new BMW 218i Ac­tive Tourer Sport Line

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

BMW launched its new Ac­tive Tourer range ear­lier this year, it set the mo­tor­ing In­ter­net buzzing. This was the first front-wheel drive ve­hi­cle mass pro­duced by the brand and it is equipped with BMW’s first three-cylin­der en­gine.

There was much com­ment about the di­lu­tion of the brand, pre­sum­ably be­cause the 218 Ac­tive Tourer looks noth­ing like the M3 and you can­not now do power slides with ev­ery BMW model in ex­is­tence. BMW did, how­ever, ac­knowl­edged the fact that the own­ers of this peo­ple mover are far more con­cerned with wip­ing baby drool off the up­hol­stery and get­ting lug­gage into the boot, than get­ting side­ways into a tight­en­ing right-hand cor­ner on a race­track.

The real ques­tions are: does it work and will you buy it? My thanks to An­thony El­lis, new dealer prin­ci­pal at SMG Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, for al­low­ing me a few days with the ve­hi­cle to find out.


The Ac­tive Tourer can­not be de­scribed as beau­ti­ful, but it is a prac­ti­cal de­sign wrapped in a pleas­ant aes­thetic.

The front is dom­i­nated by the trade­mark BMW kid­ney grill flanked by two, swept back LED head­light pods, a cen­trally placed BMW badge and fog lamps built into the front bumper. The car has pow­er­ful con­tours and dy­namic lines, while the high roofline adds to its dis­tinc­tive im­age.

Deep creases along the sides break up the scale of the sheet me­tal and the 17-inch al­loys com­plete the de­sign. The well-de­signed auto tail-gate can be op­er­ated either by a side­ways foot move­ment or by us­ing the car’s smart key.

In all, the de­sign projects a sense of oc­ca­sion which can­not be ig­nored.


The Ac­tive Tourer’s trans­verse fron­twheel drive pays off in the in­te­rior, as there is no trans­mis­sion tun­nel and this adds to the in­te­rior space.

The Sport Line has con­toured sports seats that are com­fort­able for even a bulky fig­ure like mine and the leather up­hol­stery and in­te­rior fin­ishes are of the best qual­ity with stor­age spa­ces every­where. The rear seats will take three Spring­bok for­wards with ease and are also ad­justable to en­hance boot space, which is 468 litres with all seats in place and 1 510 litres with the rear seats folded down in a 40:20:40 split.

In­te­rior fin­ishes are out­lined in red, adding a pleas­ant sporty touch. The con­trols are vin­tage BMW with large easy-to-read di­als and sup­port­ing dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion which makes for easy driv­ing.

The dash is framed by a three-spoke, leather-cov­ered, mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel which han­dles the ra­dio, Blue­tooth and speed-con­trol func­tions. And the cen­trally placed, leather-cov­ered gear stick for the tip­tronic gear­box is easy to reach and op­er­ate.

The dual-zone cli­mate con­trol is ex­tremely ef­fec­tive and the ra­dio, CD/aux mul­ti­speaker au­dio sys­tem, de­liv­ered beau­ti­fully the Bach that I played through it.

At the cen­tre of the dash is a 6,5-inch iPod-like screen that is op­er­ated by a con­troller in the cen­tral stack. It brings to­gether all the vi­su­als for the Idrive sys­tem and, if you have the right pro­grams, will con­nect you with so­cial me­dia.

Safety and Se­cu­rity

The fo­cus of this MPV is to con­vey famiWHEN lies ef­fi­ciently and safely to their des­ti­na­tions. Not sur­pris­ingly, the Ac­tive Tourer is equipped with a wide range of tech­nolo­gies to en­sure that you and your fam­ily ar­rive alive.

Be­sides the usual al­pha­bet soup of ABS with EBD, dy­namic sta­bil­ity con­trol, seat belts for all and six air bags, there is a range of driver as­sists like park as­sist and hill start as­sist and the rather in­ter­est­ing ap­proach warn­ing, which warns if your dis­tance to the ve­hi­cle in front of you is too small.

Dy­namic sta­bil­ity con­trol op­ti­mises di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity and trac­tion traf­fic queue as­sist which, when en­gaged, con­trols the speed of the car in dense traf­fic. So the only un­known fac­tor in this im­pres­sive raft of safety mea­sures is the driver. The ve­hi­cle also has the usual cen­tral lock­ing and on-board alarm, as well as child-safety locks and child-seat an­chors at the rear.


The 218’s most im­pres­sive party trick is the three-cylin­der turbo-charged en­gine. This is a rev­e­la­tion and a cut­tingedge ex­am­ple of what mod­ern tech­nolo­gies can achieve.

The three-cylin­der de­liv­ers 100 kw of power and 220 Nm of torque, with zero to 100 km/h com­ing up in 9,2 sec­onds and a top speed of 205 km/h. Com­bined fuel con­sump­tion for me was about six litres to 100 km.

The car is re­spon­sive, im­me­di­ate, will­ing and seem­ingly un­burstable, and the chas­sis is able to ex­press this on road via the six-speed au­to­matic gear­box. In town, the car is en­joy­able and gives a quiet ride, with re­spon­sive steer­ing with good feed­back.

Park­ing is no prob­lem with park as­sist. On the N3, as well as on the no­to­ri­ous Mid­lands D roads, the 218 is fun to drive in a seg­ment where some par­tic­i­pants are about as much fun as the morn­ing medicine round in a geri­atric ward.

The car is bal­anced in all con­di­tions and the front-wheel drive is a non­event. Sport mode changes the na­ture of the car, but fully loaded it has to work hard to achieve BMW-type per­for­mance. This trendy peo­ple car­rier will win new cus­tomers for BMW and have the space to wel­come them.

Costs and com­pe­ti­tion

The en­try model 218 comes in at R380 000 and the auto ver­sion will cost you around R400 000.

The range-top­ping 225i auto comes in at about R450 000.

You also get the ex­tend­able BMW five-year or 100 000 km mo­tor plan and a man­u­fac­turer’s guar­an­tee.

The com­pe­ti­tion is fierce, so also look at the Mercedes B Class, Volk­swa­gen Golf SV, Peugeot 308 and Citroën C4 Pi­casso.


The new BMW 218i Ac­tive Tourer.

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