The ultimate switch
BMW departs from “driving machine” to front-drive family runabout
A FRONT-wheel-drive BMW isn’t so much the beginning of the end for the prestige maker as it is the start of a new era.
Purists muttered when the company that built its reputation on rear-wheel-drive cars moved into all-wheel-drive with its SUVs.
Those mutterings couldn’t be heard over the general public’s clamour to buy one — expect the same routine this time.
The global trend to smaller vehicles and the need to expand the customer base means premium car makers have to chase mainstream buyers by pitching more affordable compact cars that families can justify shopping against Asianbuilt brands.
Enter the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. The car BMW said it wouldn’t build … until the market appetite for compact front-drivers with their efficient use of interior space and smaller, city-friendly exterior dimensions, became a global phenomenon.
BMW has followed rival Mercedes-Benz in launching a high-riding five-seat peoplemover as the first model on its FWD platform. Rest assured, it won’t be the last.
An entry price of $44,400 puts the BMW about $4500 above its Mercedes direct rival, the B180. That will buy a 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder petrol engine matched to a six-speed auto.
Equipment on all models includes automatic tailgate, adaptive cruise control, city collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, reversing camera, satnav and lane-departure alert. The Benz misses out on an auto tailgate and adaptive cruise but has auto-parking.
BMW’s 218i and 218d will be fitted with the Sports Line styling pack as standard; the 225i will arrive in Australia with the Luxury Line look.
Aspiring BMW owners wanting a diesel will need to look at the $47,800 218i, which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo claiming just 4.1L/100km. The 225i will head the line-up at $54,900 with a 2.0 turbo petrol four. Both will use an eightspeed auto.
Anyone who has driven a new Mini knows how well it corners. The 2 Series Active Tourer uses the same platform, though in this case it has been stretched and the ride height raised to maximise interior space for the “semi-command” seating position SUV buyers love.
The engines are also based on a common modular design: each cylinder is 500cc. To date BMW has confirmed three-, four- and six-cylinder versions, with turbocharging and direct injection.
Delve into the options list and there’s a head-up display projected on to a screen between the steering wheel and the windscreen and BMW’s ConnectedDrive service including app-based real-time traffic updates and a concierge call service using the dedicated mobile phone SIM installed in the car.
The major issue for BMW was to make the car look and feel premium and it has largely succeeded.
The outside has a kidney grille — a must-have so other school-run mums know what they’re missing — and a smart, stylish body.
The interior is the highlight. The dash quality and layout are