Cars come in all shapes and sizes, but generally speaking, they fall into two categories: specialised and do-it-all. The BMW Z4, for instance, is a specialised vehicle, because it is built to deliver speed and sublime handling whilst you feel the wind in your hair. It is not, however, meant to be practical – the Z4 only has room for two and a boot for little more than groceries.
The 2 Series (218i) Active Tourer, on the other hand, is a do-it-all car. Its mini-MPV shape hints at its purpose and functionality. But the Active Tourer’s design, however, probably won’t do for most buyers.
The front end, for instance, could have resembled the current 5 Series, except that the tapered nose and oddly shaped headlamps look – for lack of a better word – weird.
Thankfully, the rest of the exterior is better resolved. The flanks are nicely sculpted and the rear looks pert.
It’s hard to believe that the platform underpinning the Active Tourer is actually the same one that underpins the MINI Cooper, because the latter is cute but impractical and the former is not cute but practical.
The are numerous storage points for your personal effects, while the chilled glovebox keeps your beverages cool on long drives. Forward and lateral visibility from the cockpit is also fantastic, thanks to the cab-forward design and relatively high seating positions.
There’s also an extra pair of air-con vents to help keep rear passengers comfy. Backseat space, however, is a mixed bag.
While tall people with large feet will enjoy the plentiful headroom and spacious footwells (that include the space beneath the front seats), the middle passenger has to contend with the sizeable floor protrusion that eats into the available legroom.
The rear bench itself is useful, enhancing the Active Tourer’s “active touring” capability with its 40:20:40 split-fold function. Complementing this is the powered tailgate, whose opening height can be set and adjusted via the iDrive infotainment system.
In Singapore, only the 218i variant of the Active Tourer is available for now. Power is provided by BMW’s turbocharged 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engine – the same unit driving the aforementioned MINI Cooper.
A trio of 500cc cylinders might seem weedy on paper, but wait till you experience their energy on tarmac. The 1.5-litre engine punches out 136bhp and a very useful 220Nm of torque, which is available from 1250rpm.
The motor sounds sporty when stretched, is highly tractable and revs smoothly, too. It’s so polished in its performance that if you weren’t told it has three cylinders, you would assume it has four.
What the Active Tourer lacks, however, is the wonderful 8-speed automatic that most new BMWs are equipped with. Instead, the car uses the same 6-speed automatic found in the MINI Cooper.
Although having two additional ratios would’ve improved efficiency, the good news is that this gearbox is responsive and unobtrusive.
One unique aspect about the Active Tourer is that it is the only front-wheel-drive Bimmer in the brand’s entire model range. But this doesn’t mean that it has poor handling.
On the contrary, the steering is quick and precise, while the firmer-than-expected damping aids the car in getting around corners. Turn-in is good, but the car’s height does cause it to lean.
But when compared to its rival, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, the Active Tourer is still the more enjoyable drive, for it has a superior ride/handling balance.
What the BMW 218i Active Tourer really needs to accomplish its “active touring” duties is more midrange grunt.
Overtaking on the highways requires the driver to select “Sport” mode (with the Driving Experience Control rocker switch) and utilise the transmission’s manual override to better exploit the engine’s powerband. Incidentally, enthusiasts will love the fact that the upshift and downshift points are “correctly” positioned.
The BMW 218i Active Tourer might be the least exciting model in BMW’s local lineup, but it’s just the ticket for the buyer who needs a multi-purpose hatchback that can help you accomplish the missions on your family tour of duty.
TYPE Inline-3, 12-valves turbocharged
BORE X STROKE 82mm x 94.6mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11:1
MAX POWER 136bhp at 4400rpm
MAX TORQUE 220Nm at 1250-4300rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 94.8bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed automatic with manual select
DRIVEN WHEELS Front
0-100KM/H 9.2 seconds
TOP SPEED 205km/h
CONSUMPTION 19.2km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 122g/km
FRONT MacPherson struts, coil springs
REAR Multi-link, coil springs
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs
TYPE Continental ContiPremiumContact 5 SSR
SIZE 205/60 R16
TRACTION AIDS ABS with DSC
KERB WEIGHT 1435kg
TURNING CIRCLE 11.3m
PRICE INCL. COE $177,800 (after $10k CEVS rebate)
WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km
+ Precise steering, flexible boot, willing drivetrain, better than B-Class
– Ride stiffer than expected, 6-speed auto only, no paddle-shifters