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BMW 2 Series 2015 review

Philip King road tests and reviews the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

For years, BMW's most cherished brand value was its adherence to rear-wheel drive. That's what you needed for "the ultimate driving machine" and "pure driving pleasure". Then recently the penny dropped that to make small cars that are practical and efficient, sticking to that format simply doesn't work.

Taking power from the bonnet to the rear axle is expensive to build and to run, and takes up too much space.

The dogma was ditched and the first of Munich's front-drive vehicles arrived late last year. The 2 Series Active Tourer is a tall hatchback in the European mode, where they are often known as mini people movers or multipurpose vehicles. There, most brands have one in their range but few reach us. We prefer SUVs.

The sensible shoe in BMW's wardrobe of runners and high-heels


The Active Tourer is the sensible shoe in BMW's wardrobe of runners and high-heels. It ticks the box marked brand recognition thanks to the shape of its grille and headlights, but in other respects it's a different species.

There's a pointy, inquisitive snout instead of the long bonnet you usually find on a BMW and its tall cabin dominates the shape. In fact, it's mostly cabin. As with all these European mini people mover designs, the Active Tourer is all about putting as much space as possible on to a small footprint.

Visually, the result seldom rises above the inoffensive. What it has in common with other vehicles from the 2 Series range - so far a coupe and convertible - is a mystery. It looks more like the i3, BMW's electric city car. In engineering terms, it's related to the third-generation Mini.

There's concert hall headroom

These sorts of cars are all about the interior, and the overall air is defined by premium materials and quality finishes throughout.

Front occupants sit upright in an elevated position, although it falls short of the command chairs you find in an SUV. The rears are mounted higher and there's concert hall headroom. Seat squabs could be longer, but all passengers get a full suite of amenities including vents and plenty of storage.

Flexibility is key and the rear bench split-folds - and slides fore-aft - 60:40. That maximises cargo, with 468 litres of boot space expanding to 1510 litres. There's an underfloor compartment too.

Full-length panoramic glass roof is an option, but check your address first. If you live anywhere the Australian sun shines, you'll find its shade cover inadequate.

Upfront, the dash stretches ahead of the driver and a head-up display - if fitted - projects on to a cheap pop-up glass plate instead of the windscreen.

The A-pillar houses a quarter-window but it does little to improve vision through corners and the added width probably makes matters worse. The rear headrests and a roof-mounted rear seatbelt also can get in the way.

BMW drivers will recognise the angled centre console and switchgear layout as a positive, but the brand does have some annoying features. These include the imprecise way the wands function and the irritating "tring" that reminds you to buckle up before your bottom has kissed the seat. The main detraction from cabin comfort, though, is more tyre noise than there should be on a jiggly ride.

Engine / Transmission

BMW makes terrific engines and the 225i test car, with a 170kW petrol four-cylinder, is a splendid example. It tops the range at $54,900. It pulls with easy determination and a pleasing sound, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox is among the best around.

Other options untested here include a 141kW version of the same unit in the 220i, one of the brand's excellent diesels (218d) and a debut three-cylinder petrol engine that develops 100kW (218i). It kicks off the line-up at $44,400.

The 225i achieves a respectable 6.6 seconds to 100km/h

If fuel economy is a priority then the diesel wins, with average consumption of 4.2L/100km.

Acceleration shouldn't be a priority but, just in case, the 225i achieves a respectable 6.6 seconds to 100km/h, while the 220i does it in 7.4s. The 218d and 218i are slower. Much slower.


All grades get family-friendly features such as power tailgate, cooler glovebox and input sockets for USBs and smartphones. For the driver, there's a reversing camera, parking sensors and stop-and-go cruise control with speed limiter.

Also standard is a camera-based autonomous braking system that can mitigate - or avoid - collisions with pedestrians or stationary vehicles up to 60km/h. It includes a lane departure alert.

The top two grades get one or two extras, such as intelligent cornering headlights, 18-inch alloys and ambient lighting. The 225i gets real, as opposed to synthetic, leather. There's five-star safety, as you should expect, although it's disappointing to find no side airbags for second-row occupants.


It's often observed by industry executives that most car owners don't actually know which wheels are doing the work of getting power to the ground. It simply doesn't matter to them.

The Active Tourer drives well but unlike any BMW you've driven

Perhaps. But it's likely to be less true of BMW buyers suckled on the virtues of rear-wheel drive than most drivers. So BMW confronts the question head-on: "Like all BMW models, the new BMW 2 Series Active Tourer makes its mark with great driving dynamics and the sort of driving experience the brand is renowned for". It's a case of protesting too much.

The Active Tourer drives well but unlike any BMW you've driven. It resists the common front-drive tendency to push wide or understeer through corners, and body movements are well controlled. But it's impossible to be unaware the power is going through the front wheels. Under hard acceleration, the steering wheel wriggles a little in your hands. That doesn't happen when the front wheels only have to do the turning.


The Active Tourer goes somewhere new for BMW and not just because it's engineered differently. BMW has already shown us it can make capable - even enjoyable - front-drive vehicles for its Mini brand. The 225i does nothing to dilute that reputation. It does diversify the brand, though, which means its advertising message must be more nuanced. You can claim the Active Tourer is good, but you can't claim it's the same.

More crucially, it pitches BMW to buyers who would never have been open to it before. It extends the brand's reach in a way rival Mercedes-Benz did with the B-Class a decade ago.

The B-Class has done surprising well here for Mercedes, but these are not the sorts of vehicles Australians buy with enthusiasm.

With plenty of small BMWs to choose from, the Active Tourer will be first choice for only a few.

Pricing guides

Based on 69 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Highest Price

Range and Specs

220i 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $25,520 – 31,570 2015 BMW 2 Series 2015 220i Pricing and Specs
218i Active Tourer Sport Line 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $19,470 – 24,640 2015 BMW 2 Series 2015 218i Active Tourer Sport Line Pricing and Specs
220i Sport Line 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $24,200 – 29,920 2015 BMW 2 Series 2015 220i Sport Line Pricing and Specs
220i M-Sport 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $27,500 – 33,110 2015 BMW 2 Series 2015 220i M-Sport Pricing and Specs
Philip King
Contributing Journalist


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