The ul­ti­mate switch

BMW departs from “driv­ing ma­chine” to front-drive fam­ily run­about

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige -

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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

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