Convincingly practical and refined tall family hatch gains pluggable tech
We’ve just had our first chance to drive a plug-in hybrid variant of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, other versions of which went on sale in the spring.
So far, it has proved it’s a likeable car. Not a traditional BMW in the ‘ultimate driving machine’ sense, but this sensible and predominantly front-driven hatch-meets-kinda-MPV has sold pretty well and is intensely practical. At nearly 4.4m long and 1.6m high, it’s a spacious tall family car with generous roominess and a big boot.
This 225e xDrive variant has a 56-mile (combined cycle) electric-only range, and 108bhp as an EV via a motor that acts solely on the back axle.
Then there’s the 1.5-litre petrol engine in the front, driving the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, whose 135bhp gives a system total of 243bhp (because the engine and motor don’t both make their peak outputs at the same time).
The latest system’s EV range is much better than the 32 miles the old 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in offered, and the drive battery can charge at 7.4kW, double the 3.7kW it used to have – so it can fully charge in around 2.5 hours on a home wallbox.
As before, and as elsewhere in plug-in hybrid land, it’s the integration of the various drive systems that’s key to usability and here’s where the 225e scores well. In normal driving, the electric motor assists the petrol engine, filling a torque gap while the engine spools from low revs, assisting performance when you ask for full acceleration, and pitching in to drive on EV power alone whenever it can, even once any initial battery charge is depleted.
The impressive thing is how little you’d know about what it’s up to mechanically, and when it’s doing its various things. The petrol engine is quiet so spins in and out largely unnoticeably around town. And when the battery has no plugged range left, this is still a set-up that can return an MPG deep into the 50s without too much effort on the driver’s part.
The rest of the Active Tourer experience is very much as-you-were with other versions in the line-up. The battery and drivetrain mean you lose a little bit of a luggage space, with a taller boot floor and a 380-litre capacity rather than 415 litres. The 2 Series Active Tourer has an automatic tailgate regardless of its derivative, incidentally.
Further forward, the rear seats are spacious and easily accessible through big doors, while the front cabin is airy by trad BMW standards, which would once have gone out of their way to cocoon the driver. Instead, a centre armrest/console has a floating effect, with big storage trays beneath it, and it’s separated from the dash itself.
In some respects, that’s a pity: it means there’s no room, or at least no room has been provided, for physical controls for BMW’s iDrive infotainment system. Instead, that’s all left to a 12.25in touchscreen, including for the climate functions. It’s a shame, then, that just when some other manufacturers have started to indicate that they’re backing away from a reliance on touchscreens – and when the physical iDrive controller still present in most BMWs shows them how it should be done – BMW is threatening to ditch the previously present dial. At least the steering wheel retains proper buttons – and there are a few physical shortcut buttons.
To drive, the 2 Series Active Tourer is fit for the role, if not in keeping with the most recent traditions of the badge. It rides comfortably, with good noise isolation. There’s smooth if unengaging steering and decent enough control of the body movements for a tall hatch. It’s stable at speed, too (even in some pretty foul recent conditions with deep puddles and high winds). But this is a sensible rather than exciting car, which, if you come at the 2 Series Active Tourer expecting the kind of drive BMW would traditionally offer, could leave you a bit cold. It’s up to your lifestyle, rather than the model, to supply the dynamics.