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Test Drive : BMW 218d Active Tourer : Family Friendly


BMW’s compact MPV second generation boasts a dynamic and rather pleasant look. Its internal combustion engine lineup engines should please private buyers who are still reluctant to take the plunge for a plug in hybrid. Even if its longer version disappeared, it grew up in size and should be high on large families’ buying list.

BMW and Mercedes have been at each other’s throats for decades, and have always been careful not to give one another any advantage. Back in 2005,  Mercedes launched its B-Class, and it proved unexpectedly successful. BMW took a while to launch a competitor and the Active Tourer arrived quite lately to the party, in 2014. Yours truly mischievously renamed it the BMW Scenic… its appearance was ungainly for a car proudly bearing the BMW logo. This did not prevent the Munich brand from selling some 430,000 units to a rather elderly clientele looking for space to move about their grandchildren or leisure equipment. Seven years later, it was high time for BMW to launch an upgraded replacement.

I like it

The new Active Tourer uses the same UKL platform as its predecessor but its body lines are more harmonious and rather dynamic, even if the grille shape and size will still shock some of you. Inside, the dashboard gets new, nice curved screens… however, these are not up to what Mercedes offers ! The door bins are cavernous but the space available under the central armrest is too small, while the under console compartment is very difficult to access. In the rear, there is plenty of legroom and it is even possible to slide your feet under the front seats, something that’s not too common. The sliding and 40/20/40 foldable rear seat is a 310 € extra.

Quite clever

No one pretending to be a racing driver will enjoy driving this crossover. Nevertheless, it remains quite pleasant to drive. This is due to its fairly convincing roadholding and nice manners. The suspension settings are pretty soft but not overtly so. The passengers are never rushed and comfort is quite impressive, without this 2 Series family car overdiving in each and every bend.  The German engineers did a wonderful work, roadholding is pretty safe and comfortable, perfectly matching the Active Tourer’s character and intended use. High quality soundproofing isolates the cabin from the rest of the world and enhances overall comfort.

I don’t like it

The 218d sits at the top of the Diesel-engined range. However, we found it lacking a bit in power, especially when it’s needed to overtake slower cars. Was that feeling due to the automatic gearbox sapping it ? The BMW 218d is available with 136 or 150 bhp, depending on whether it complies or not with Belgian tax regulations. Maximum torque value is 360 Nm. In any case, such power will suit most people…

Why I buy it

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer starts from €36,850 and comes with full LED headlights, lane departure warning (from 70 km/h), automatic emergency braking with pedestrian/cyclist detection (from 5 to 65 km/h) or vehicle detection (from 5 to 85 km/h), roadsign recognition and drowsiness detection. Tailoring it to your taste will obviously mean adding some extras. As we already mentioned, roadholding and comfort are pretty good and inside materials quality is better than before. At the end of our 468 km test, average fuel consumption was 6.0 l / 100 km but we have no doubt it’s possible to do much better!

Why I don’t buy it

One wonders who designed this 2 Series’ doorhandles, they are featured on the 4 Series Gran Coupe, too. Obviously, it was someone who never had to open a door in his life ! Anyway, that’s just a detail. Large families will lament the disappearance of the seven-seater version, while others will bemoan the infotainment system; the iDrive wheel and switches disappeared and have been replaced by a touchscreen. Eventually, hefty prices will put some punters off… but these haven’t been a major problem for BMW as it’s been the best-selling car brand in Belgium for several months now. (translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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