The new BMW 2 Series gets mild-hybrid technology to prove there’s life in the MPV class yet
4.0 out of 5
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It’s interesting to see BMW commit to a class dwindling in importance with a car so thoroughly new, and the 2 Series Active Tourer feels more complete than the Mercedes B-Class. We like the space inside, the quality, and the mild-hybrid tech is executed well. The price is fair, too, although some people may find the car’s modernisation is not without one or two drawbacks. But the new 2 Series is still a good MPV.
While the people-carrier market has been devoured by SUVs, there are still signs of life in the compact MPV class. And that’s where this new 2 Series Active Tourer will land, rivalling the Mercedes B-Class.
With the previous 2 Series Active Tourer racking up more than 400,000 sales, BMW clearly sees that as reason to continue, and around 90 per cent of new Active Tourers sold will find homes in Europe.
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There will be no seven-seat 2 Series Gran Tourer this time, with the five-seat version the only option. But the new car has grown in size slightly to plug the gap; it’s wider, taller and has a longer wheelbase. But perhaps the greatest gains are to be found in technology rather than practicality.
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The new car is based on BMW’s FAAR platform. This, in theory, makes a full EV possible, but for now the firm is offering an advanced plug-in hybrid and all sorts of new technology and driver-assistance features.
We’re driving the petrol-powered 220i, though, which will take the lion’s share of sales. It uses the 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine found in everything from the X1 and X2 SUVs to the MINI Hatch, but the 220i Active Tourer introduces 48-volt mild-hybrid technology to this set-up.
Drive goes to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and on the whole it’s a similar experience to any other front-wheel-drive BMW with this powertrain, benefitting from the refined and grown-up characteristics of the engine, with smooth performance and strong fuel economy.
The mild-hybrid system provides a 19bhp boost thanks to an e-motor integrated into the gearbox, fed by a tiny 1kWh battery. The total output is 178bhp and 280Nm of torque, delivering more than adequate performance; 0-62mph takes 8.1 seconds.
The mild-hybrid set-up also introduces engine-off coasting, plus clever predictive regeneration, although it’s not quite as clever and substantial as the regenerative tricks of the new plug-in hybrid 230e. It does mean that economical driving is a doddle, and we easily achieved 40mpg.
Opt for Luxury trim and you’ll avoid the lower M Sport suspension, and that’s probably a good thing, keeping the ride on the correct side of firm, but still controlled. However, the steering certainly shows that this is a BMW that hasn’t been designed with driving dynamics first and foremost. True, it’s direct and sharp enough, but it’s also exceptionally light; that makes it great for tight parking manoeuvres, but even in Sport mode the German brand’s trademark weighting doesn’t really materialise.
It’s the interior and boot-space flexibility that will draw buyers to this car, however. Up front, the newly designed ‘cut-away’ centre console makes the front feel airy and spacious, although it means that anything large you’d typically store in the central bin will now be in plain sight, because the hidden storage area in the armrest is only suitable for small items. A pair of cup-holders sit behind another central storage area that’s designed for wirelessly charging smartphones.
Those in the back will find lots of space on offer. Passengers sit on an elevated bench with good leg, knee and footroom, and the backrest is nicely reclined, so it’s likely to be a relaxing place to spend a longer journey. The seats slide and fold independently with simple levers.
The boot impresses, too, offering a useful 406 litres with all seats in place and moved forwards. This can expand to 1,455 litres with all rear seats folded.
M Sport cars come with racy touches around the cabin, but Luxury spec is well suited to the Active Tourer’s comfortable and practical nature. The level of perceived quality remains high, with solid materials and soft plastics all around the interior.
This being a new-generation BMW, it has the latest curved infotainment display. Two screens span the dash with a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and a 10.7-inch central display. The OS 8 software makes it very easy to use, with crisp graphics plus easy menus and widgets. But BMW has removed the rotary selector to reduce interior clutter, and the car now relies on the touchscreen for many functions, such as the climate control. Some people may find that the overall user experience has taken a hit.
|Model:||BMW 220i Active Tourer Luxury|
|Engine:||1.5-litre 3cl turbo petrol MHEV|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
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