BMW 2-Series Active Tourer (F45)


Debut: 2014
Maker: BMW
Predecessor: No



 Published on 27 Jul 2014 All rights reserved. 


We thought some golden rules never change. For example, a BMW should be rear-wheel-drive, and a BMW M-car should be naturally aspirated. For decades, Munich had been following, protecting and promoting these philosophies, and that is why it could carry the slogan "Ultimate Driving Machines". Somehow, both traditions have been broken recently. This raises our suspicion that the driver-focused company has changed its philosophy – is it going mainstream like Audi? Yes, the Audi factor is always there, as is Mercedes recently. Both German rivals found success in selling FWD compact cars in recent years, such as A3, A1, Q3, Q5, A-class, B-class, CLA-class and GLA-class. They managed very well to utilize the packaging and cost advantages of FWD platforms without damaging their premium images. If Munich wants to keep its (slim) lead in sales race, it has to respond to the FWD trend, no matter how bad that might sound to its loyal customers.

Moreover, to BMW there is another rationale: cost sharing with Mini. Since the revival of Mini in 2001, the British marque has been contributing little profit to the group, because at 200,000 units a year or so it lacks economy of scale. The solution BMW has adopted is to build a range of compact front-wheel-drive BMWs and the 3rd generation Mini based on a common platform called UKL1. The BMW models will start from 2-Series Active Tourer and expand to the next generation 1 and 2-Series plus their crossover derivatives. If all goes according to plan, there will be close to 1 million cars to be built every year on this platform, accounting for 40 percent of BMW's production total. During the transitional period, however, you will find an embarrassing situation in which both front and rear-wheel-drive 2-Series are for sale. They might share the same name, but they are completely different things.

Frankly, from the driver or consumer point of view, we don't care about these strategies. What we care is how good the car is to look, to sit and to drive, and whether it retains that special feel of BMW. Judging from the 2-Series Active Tourer, the answer is both yes and no.



In terms of packaging, the 2er AT is every bit conventional. It is sized and packaged just like a Ford C-Max or Mercedes B-class, with a compact footprint but an elevated roof to make more interior room. The 5-seat layout with rear bench seat is not as versatile as some compact MPVs on the market that offer 3 individual rear seats, such as Citroen C4 Picasso. Although you can split the rear seats in 40/20/40, slide them or fold them individually, they don't tumble forward to free up more luggage space. There are large door bins, large storage compartments and plenty of cup holders, but no fold tables or under-seat drawers etc., so BMW's first ever MPV is half-hearted.

Both rows offer good head and legroom, if not as abundant as some rivals, though the middle rear passenger enjoys limited shoulder room and seat comfort. Ambience at the rear seat is also less airy than the class norm, blame to the rising waist line hence small side windows. At the back, the 468-liter boot is on the small end of the class. On the positive side, the very BMW-style dashboard is apparently more upmarket than others, with high-quality plastics, wood, leather, aluminum inserts and some tactile controls. The i-Drive is also a high-quality feature that many rivals would be jealous of. Other upmarket features include electrical-operated tailgate and folding rear seats.

While the cabin is a mixed bag, the body shell is rather good. It is made of high percentage of high-strength steel to keep weight down and rigidity up. The same goes for the suspension, which uses high-strength steel, aluminum bearings and hollow anti-roll bars to cut unsprung weight. Like Mini, it rides on MacPherson struts up front and multi-link suspensions at the back, supported by optional electronic adaptive dampers. The steering is a single-pinion rack-mounted EPS, chosen for reduced friction and better feel. Brake-based torque vectoring should reduce the likelihood of understeer which is normally associated with FWD cars.



On the road, the steering gives decent feedback but it is overly heavy, something BMW deliberately did to give a sporty feel. Unfortunately, the suspension does not support that sporty impression. In fact, it is tuned to please ride comfort rather than handling, resulting in more body roll than desired. A Golf Sportsvan handles slightly tidier and C-Max more involving to drive. It is still more agile than the class norm, but it is not good enough to wear the BMW badge. On the flipside, the ride is smoother than expected. Even on optional 18-inch wheels and without taking adaptive dampers it still rides well on all but the bumpiest surfaces.

That said, BMW's first MPV does not work good enough in NVH suppression. On coarse surfaces the front structure lets too much road noise to penetrate into the cabin, whereas at high speed the A-pillars and door mirrors generate a lot of wind noise, something shouldn't happen on a German car, let alone one wearing the double-kidney grille. The 2.0 turbo diesel engine on 218d is also to blame, as it is noisier than the same engine installed to Mini SD or 1-Series.

The petrol engines are much better. 218i is powered by the new 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine with Bi-Vanos, Valvetronic, direct injection and turbo (i.e. the same engine as Mini Cooper). It offers respectable punch (136 hp and an especially useful 162 lbft) and remarkable economy. The 4-cylinder, 2.0-liter version of that engine serves 225i. With 231 hp and 258 lbft of torque it is powerful for the class. Both motors are smooth and eager. Unfortunately, the 6-speed manual box, BMW's first transverse unit, has a notchy gearshift, therefore the Aisin 8-speed auto would be a better option. Benefited by a low drag coefficient of 0.26 and adequate weight control, all models have good top speed and acceleration.

Nevertheless, the 2er AT is not going to be the new class leader. While it looks quite special outside and unusually classy inside, it does not deliver the right refinement, space or versatility as most other rivals. Meanwhile, its driver appeal has taken a step backward, falling behind Ford C-Max and Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan, which is something we did not expect. That is the biggest problem.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
218i Active Tourer
2014
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4342 / 1800 / 1555 mm
2670 mm
Inline-3
1499 cc
DOHC 12 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
136 hp
162 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/60VR16
1320 kg
124 mph (c)
8.7 (c)
-
218d Active Tourer
2014
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4342 / 1800 / 1555 mm
2670 mm
Inline-4 diesel
1995 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
150 hp
243 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/55WR17
1375 kg
127 mph (c)
8.4 (c)
-
225i Active Tourer
2014
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4342 / 1800 / 1555 mm
2670 mm
Inline-4
1998 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
231 hp
258 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/45WR18
1430 kg
146 mph (c)
6.5 (c)
-




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