Smart and spacious, the BMW Active Tourer proves there is still a place for the humble MPV, but will the car be enough to excite SUV buyers
After nine years, for me, at the primary school gates, my last child has left and now he is just a month away from “big school” where he joins his older brother in September. I will miss the hugs at the gate and the friendships formed but not so much the last-minute text requests to send my child dressed in something yellow and the endless projects that seemed to be given only to parents.
Nearly a decade on, so much has changed, including the cars that gather outside the school. In 2013, diesel powered almost three-quarters of the new cars we bought, with saloons and multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) the family cars of choice. But over time families stopped buying MPVs and makers stopped selling them. To be fair, with a few notable exceptions, these were generally dull vehicles that favoured more space for people and luggage over performance and power.
But not all carmakers abandoned the humble MPV and amid BMW’s line-up of sports cars and performance models lurks a very practical family car, the 2 series Active Tourer and, as if in some primary-school time-warp, our test car this week was the BMW 218d M Sport Active Tourer, a five-seater diesel MPV. Buyers can also choose petrol and plug-in hybrid models.
At first glance, the Active Tourer is smart in a pleasantly understated way. It’s also larger than the car it replaces with an extra 32mm in length, 24mm in width, and 21mm in height. Inside, this means there’s enough room for five grown-ups with the added benefit that those in the back have lots of head- and knee-room.
The cabin has also been completely redesigned and is comfortable and classy. A new iDrive system debuts and you interact with it via a 10.25in information touchscreen to select your options. The seats have also been improved to provide long-distance comfort with enhanced lateral support.
Boot space is a good 470 litres; when those rear seats aren’t being used, it extends to 1,455 litres. One minor criticism, though, is it is not hugely spacious in comparison to other cars and doesn’t offer the flexible seating arrangements and space akin to a removal van that the boxy MPVs of old did.
On the road, it feels like a BMW and while it’s not quite the “ultimate driving machine”, BMW drivers will not be let down. Good to drive, refined and with plenty of “oomph”, it is also smooth and soaks up the bumps nicely.
In a market where SUVs and crossovers dominate there are few direct competitors to BMW’s MPV but rivals include the Mercedes B-Class (€42,650) and larger seven-seaters such as the Dacia Jogger (€24,590). Pricing for the Active Tourer range starts from €42,985. Our test car came with extensive options, bringing it to €49,717.
Today’s buyers may be snubbing people carriers but I have to admit the charms of a practical family car are hard to ignore. The Active Tourer is small enough to be parked just about anywhere while the versatile interior will appeal with good space and storage areas throughout. It’s proof that the car industry can offer refreshing alternatives to SUVs, it’s just a pity they don’t do it more often.
Star rating: 4/5
BMW 218d M Sport Active Tourer:
Starting Price: €42,985
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Transmission: 7-speed Steptronic dual clutch transmission
Co2/Motor Tax: 125g/km/€270
Economy: 4.8-5.3 litres/100km