Front-wheel drive first, but it’s still a true BMW
WHEN BMW introduced the 2 Series last year it marked a major milestone for the German manufacturer – its first modern-day car with front-wheel drive.
BMW has always presented itself as making ‘drivers cars’ – and a big part of that claim was sticking to traditional rear-wheeldrive.
So joining almost every other car maker in the world to offer FWD with this week’s test car, the 218i Sport Active Tourer, was a big step for the company as it entered for the first time the highly-competitive compact MPV market.
At first, looking at the £24,295 price, I thought BMW may have a problem in such a hard-fought sector where Citroens, Peugeots and Fords that can do the same job can be bought for less.
But then I thought of the driver who needs the practicality of such a car but still wants prestige and driver enjoyment – after all, the 2 Series Active Tourer does feel like a proper BMW.
For although being an MPV – with the shape being dictated more by interior space rather than stunning looks and performance – it still delivers an enjoyable drive when in Sport mode, although I suspect these cars will spend most of their life in Eco Pro (economy) mode. There is also a mid-way Comfort setting.
Inside all the controls are laid out with the clarity we’ve come to expect from BMW and the command/sat-nav screen on top of the dash makes it easy to use without taking your eyes too far off the road.
The screen is controlled using BMW’s iDrive system, which is intuitive to use and features a series of handy shortcut buttons.
Also good is the multi-function, head-up display projected onto a clear screen ahead of the driver and active cruise control – although it has to be said cheaper rivals can offer the same bits of kit.
Whether you go for a petrol or diesel engine, you’ll find a car that pulls well from low speed, but I suspect the more than 10 miles per gallon advantage of the diesel will win over most buyers (combined mpg 57.6 petrol and 68.9 diesel). And I have to report our test car’s three-cylinder 1.5 petrol engine seemed a little more thirsty in realworld driving than the figures quoted.
Performance-wise expect 0-62 in 9.3 seconds (a shade faster than the diesel) and a top speed of 124 (a shade less than the diesel). Unlike the petrol unit, the 150bhp, diesel engine is a more conventional four cylinder unit.
BMW fits rear parking sensors as standard across the range and other standard kit includes variable ambient interior lighting, automatic air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth with USB interface, 6.5-inch monitor, DAB digital radio, keyless go and engine start and sports multi-function leather steering wheel.
But one of the main reasons for this car’s existence is space – and there is lots of it considering the compact exterior dimensions, particularly for rear seat passengers and load lugging. The rear seats fold almost completely flat giving a very practical load area.
A nice touch is the ease with which those seats can be dispensed with – literally a touch of a button and they fold away electrically with surprising speed. Our test car also had another very handy feature when loading up – a power open and close tailgate – again standard across the range.
The base SE model also has 16” alloys, forward vehicle collision warning, auto headlights and wipers and front foglights.
Our Sport test car adds several features including bigger alloys and extra trim, sports heated seats. Luxury and M Sport models boast even more refinements.
When it comes to engine choices BMW very recently greatly expanded its offer on 2 Series Active Tourers adding 214i, 220i, 225i xDrive (4x4), 216d, 220d, 220d xDrive (4x4) models.
The 218 Range is priced from £22.150 for the 218i petrol SE up to £27,205 for the diesel M Sport.