Can the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer eclipse its predecessor?

The new 2 Series Active Tourer is here with a bold new look and plenty of cutting-edge tech. JACK EVANS has been finding out what it’s like.

When you think of BMW, it’s likely luxurious saloon cars or high-riding SUVs that come to mind. But despite this, one of its most popular cars in recent times hasn’t been either of those but instead adopted a practicality-focused MPV layout that really set it apart from the rest of the firm’s range. Called the 2 Series Active Tourer, that car succeeded in bringing many conquest buyers across to BMW and, after going on sale in 2014, more than 430,000 examples had been shifted across Europe.

So you can understand why BMW wanted to introduce a new one – and that’s the car we’re looking at today. Revitalised with a whole new look and a load more interior technology, this new Active Tourer has the aim of being just as popular as its predecessor. We’ve been finding out whether that’s a worthy claim.

There’s a good deal to talk about on this new 2 Series Active Tourer. As before, this MPV adopts a front-wheel-drive layout, using a platform that you’ll also find underpinning cars like the Mini Countryman and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. But despite that similarity to its predecessor, the new Active Tourer is radically different elsewhere with a bold new look and a cabin that has a greater focus on technology than before.

Photos: PA Media

It’s also slightly larger than before, growing in width, length and height over the car it replaces. The car’s track has also been made wider with the aim of improving cornering ability.

We’re driving the 223i here, which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 215bhp and 360Nm of torque. One of the key petrol engines to launch with the 2 Series, it’s got mild-hybrid technology for improved efficiency and added throttle response, with BMW claiming that it’ll return up to 47.1mpg while emitting between 149 and 137g/km depending on specification and wheel size.

Sent to the wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission, it’s the most powerful petrol engine available with the 2 Series Active Tourer from launch and with its 7.9-second 0-60mph time, it’s got a lot more performance on its side than you may expect from a car of this type. Flat out, the 223i will do 137mph, too.

We drove the 223i in M Sport flavour and, having driven a regular-specification 220i earlier, found that this is definitely the best option for those who want a little added driving involvement. Though there’s a slight trade-off in ride quality, the 223i’s added composure through the bends is a great positive, while the body control means that cornering is actually quite good fun.

There’s not too much wind or road noise, either, while the 2.0-litre under the bonnet actually makes quite a pleasant noise when pushed a little harder. In truth, the Active Tourer handles far better than a ‘regular’ MPV really should, while its steering – which is weightier in the M Sport versions – gives more positive feedback and inspires confidence.

The Active Tourer has some of BMW’s latest styling callsigns – namely those uber-large kidney grilles – but it’s actually quite an effective look overall. It may not be as sleek as cars like BMW’s 2 Series Coupe or X3, but there are a variety of styling touches that have been implemented to make it look a whole lot more exciting than its predecessor.

These types of cars are always dictated by the practicality that they’re designed to offer, but the 2 Series Active Tourer shows that a compromise can be struck between outright ease-of-use and a decent look.

As we’ve alluded to, the 2 Series Tourer is a car designed with practicality in mind. With its relatively high roofline, there’s plenty of headroom for those sitting inside, while legroom is reasonable for those sitting in the back, too. One of the Active Tourer’s trump cards is the rear seat’s positioning on rails, which allows you to slide the whole back row forward or back in order to free up more boot space or add a little extra legroom. They also split 40:20:40.

Speaking of boot space, there are 415 litres available as standard, rising to 1,370 litres with the rear seats folded flat. BMW has also fitted a variety of storage compartments dotted throughout the cabin to help keep it as clutter-free as possible.

BMW has thrown some of its very best technology at the 2 Series Active Tourer, so you’ll find the same 10.25-inch infotainment setup here as you would in its i4 and iX electric cars. The central screen is touch-sensitive and simply laid out, but the real change here is the removal of BMW’s famous rotary controller, with the firm saying that drivers will instead rely on touch and voice-operated controls. In truth, the system’s variety of menus, displays and options is impressive, but we wonder whether many drivers would still like the option of that physical controller.

All cars also get two-zone climate control as standard, as well as rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights. Our car, in M Sport trim, also gained larger alloy wheels and M Sport suspension which brings a 15mm drop in ride height over the regular car.

The BMW 2 Series actually feels like quite a refreshing addition to the firm’s range. It’s focused on practicality, but actually has a very accomplished driving character on its side, as well as plenty of standard technology.

Its looks are just different enough to help it stand out, yet have resisted the slightly over-the-top design of some of BMW’s other models. Given all of these excellent attributes, we can only see the new 2 Series Active Tourer being just as successful as its predecessor.

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