A sense of occasion
BRIAN BASSETT explores lofty living in the new BMW 218i Active Tourer Sport Line
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.