Skid Marks

BMW 2-Series Active Tourer: the ultimate driver’s MPV

A painlessly easy-to-drive car that sports the right badge.

A painlessly easy-to-drive car that sports the right badge.

BMW’s trademark hofmeister kink in the D-pillar

BMW’s trademark hofmeister kink in the D-pillar

When BMW launched the BMW X5 SAV, BMW’s first properly raised luggage hauler, many a BMW purist cried foul, saying it betrayed the brand’s values and heritage. Yet, BMW had seen the writing on the wall.

Soon after, corporate rivals Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and now, even Jaguar have all followed suit.

Today, SUVs are strongly in demand, no doubt helped by emerging markets such as China where conspicuous consumption of all things flashy (and oftentimes tacky) are the norm.

This disdain for another seemingly unwanted member of the family is reserved for BMW’s 2-Series Active Tourer.

The 2-Series Active Tourer is an abomination of sorts for dyed-in-the-wool BMW fans.

Firstly, it’s a front-wheel drive vehicle.

Second, the engine is an anodyne sounding 3-cylinder turbocharged mill instead of the usual smooth inline six, or even a modest four-pot.

And third, well, it doesn’t honestly live up to its ethos as “The Ultimate Driving Machine” because, let’s face it, it’s an honest-to-goodness family car.

Crucially, this BMW is meant for people previously disinterested in the Bavarian roundel, a new model to attract a different breed of buyers into the BMW fold.

It might take a while to catch on, but it has its place.

We can all blame two things for the emergence of the 2-Series. The rise in demand for painlessly easy-to-drive cars sporting the right badge, and economies of scale.

Imagine carrying grocery bags in the rain with a thick jacket plus a toddler in your arms? Slipping into an M3/M4 isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.

Throw in steep ramps, poorly paved roads, and traffic, and suddenly, a sporty coupe or sedan loses its appeal.

Throw in emissions-based road-use taxation for developed countries, limited parking, skyrocketing insurance costs, and suddenly, you just can’t justify owning your dream sports coupe or sedan.

Throw in a stroller, a few weekend bags, perhaps a bicycle or two, and suddenly, your M3/M4 just got emancipated.

LED daytime running lights and kidney grills

LED daytime running lights and kidney grills

The 2-Series Active Tourer fills these needs well. Why? Because it can do all these requirements easily and effortlessly, yet crucially, still possess the right badge for that all-important flash value and street cred on the high street, country club or a night out on town.

And yet, should you need to haul serious cargo, drop the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats and you get as much as 1,510 liters of cargo space. Impressive indeed for a stylish load lugger.

It’s a generally accepted fact (though not always 100 percent accurate or precise) that between 80-90 percent of a vehicle’s R&D and testing cost is spent on the space between the front bumper and the driver’s footwell.

The engines, transmissions, steering, safety and crash impact regulations, electronics, front suspension, and more are located in this area.

If a manufacturer can standardize all these parts and adapt a modular architecture wherein it can lengthen/shorten or adjust the width slightly as needed, R&D costs, as well as time and effort will be greatly reduced for each car with more standardized parts available, which also brings down ownership cost for the consumer.

The Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform sharing architecture, while not the first, is arguably the most successful in all of the automotive world, and everyone has followed suit.

For the BMW Group, (BMW and MINI, in particular), their version of a modular platform sharing architecture is called the UKL, with UKL1 and UKL2. UKL stands for Untere Klasse or smaller class vehicles.

The 2-Series is related to the BMW X1 SAV as well as the recently unveiled MINI Countryman.

How does the 2-Series Active Tourer drive? Forget for a moment your expectations from a BMW, and the 2-Series is, honestly, probably the best MPV you’ll ever get to try hands-down.

There’s that same weighty steering that offers very good feel and feedback.

The long-travel throttle that delivers just the right amount of grunt when you need it, the 1.5-liter 3-cylinder twin-power twin-scroll turbocharged engine delivering a modest 136 ps, and crucially, a very useful 220 Newton meters of torque driving the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission which helps spread the power band well, allowing the 2-Series Active Tourer to effortlessly overtake slower moving vehicles on the highway, cruising comfortably between 100-120 km/h despite a full load of gear.

Credit goes to the 2,670 mm wheelbase despite sporting a relatively compact 4,342 mm overall length.

And the modestly sized 17-inch wheels shod with 205/55R17 tires no doubt help improve comfort further while still looking just right on the car.

The brakes, slightly over-assisted compared to previous generation BMWs (remember, driving this is supposed to be easier and more effortless) delivers confidence-inspiring levels of performance that is fade-free despite the rapid downhill run down from Tagaytay with the missus, gear, and our fur baby maltipoo comfortably enjoying the proceedings.

It’s a mighty fine car indeed, refined and very comfortable—until you remember it’s a BMW.

BMW twin-power turbo 3-cylinder engine

BMW twin-power turbo 3-cylinder engine

Comparing it to other BMWs, you do notice a few things: the steering, while still being decently good and feelsome, has considerably lost the delicacy you find in practically all rear-wheel drive BMWs, from the 1-Series all the way to the huge 7-Series limousine.

The interior plastics somewhat feel cheap compared to other BMWs, and the dashboard architecture and design seem to be a departure from other BMWs as well.

Quite bothersome too is some suspension noise from the rear when the roads get very coarse and rough even while travelling at a decent pace.

Despite its minor foibles, I like the 2-Series Active Tourer a lot. It’s very capable, versatile, fun, and enjoyable, and again, as MPVs go, the best I’ve tried.

Perhaps the only one that can better on this 2-Series Active Tourer is the 2-Series Gran Tourer, a long-wheelbase 7-seat version of this one, which should offer more space, versatility and refinement.

17-inch wheels and 205-55R17 Kumho tires

17-inch wheels and 205-55R17 Kumho tires

If you’re a BMW purist, walk away because this isn’t for you. But if you’re someone who wants to try the BMW ownership experience (not necessarily the BMW driving experience) but have yet to find a particular BMW model that suits your needs and budget, the 2-Series Active Tourer, or its long-wheelbase variant, the Gran Tourer merit a close look. Capable, enjoyable, and yes, the ultimate driver’s MPV if there ever was an award for one.

Special thanks to Justin Koa of Auto Allee BMW for letting me spend time with their 2-Series Active Tourer.

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