2018 BMW 2 Series 220D Sport X-drive 2.0 turbo diesel 190 BHP from UK and Ireland
There can be few things more frustrating than buying a car only to be disappointed some way down the road, metaphorically speaking, so when a dealership goes that extra mile to be as helpful as they possibly can to ensure the buyer is entirely satisfied, it is surely worthy of a mention. Ben Bryan at Baron’s BMW of Cambourne, is the epitome of a good salesman. His diligence and courtesy ensured my wife and I are now driving around in a car that is so right for us. That is Mercedes’ loss, but I will deal with that on another occasion.
Our original expedition to the local BMW franchise was to look over the 1 Series. The model is a bit long-in-the-tooth and at the time of writing is due for replacement, but there are plenty of them on the road, and that wouldn’t be the case were they a dog of a thing that no-one wanted. Ben kindly let us have an extended test drive over a weekend in a 2-litre 190 BHP diesel Sport variant with a manual gearbox.
The car performed very well. It was fairly comfortable and easy to drive. With full occupancy, it wasn’t as roomy as we were used to, but on the plus side, it did 62.5 MPG at a steady 65 mph from Felixstowe to Cambridge. All seemed well during the post test-drive discussions at the dealership, then something else caught our attention - the Series 2 Active Tourer. Some say the car is just a people carrier, but I suspect that comment is said disparagingly by cynics who haven’t seen its true potential. It is fair to say it’s an MPV not an SUV, but I would refine the description and say it’s more of a spacious sporty hatch-back.
The Active Tourer broke with BMW tradition and utilises front wheel drive. Prior to its development, BMW had conducted a survey and found a large majority of their customers didn’t actually know they were driving a rear wheel drive car, which gave the company license to extend their design parameters. Front wheel drive and a transverse engine does open up the possibility of more interior space, and BMW have surely got that down to a fine art in this instance. Despite being more or less the same size as the 1 Series outwardly, the Active Tourer’s interior is a lot more spacious.
Having expressed an interest, Ben indulged us for a second time and gave us an extended test drive, but in the Active Tourer 218d Sport 150 BHP variant with an automatic box and finished in Alpine white, which looks very sporty and eye-catching. The car was nicely run-in so we could see if it had developed any irritating rattles since new.
The whole ensemble is very well put together. The build quality and attention to detail really shows throughout. The seating position has a host of permutations with a range of heights as well as the usual forwards and backwards movement. The steering wheel has height and reach adjustment to suit almost everyone. The ergonomic front sports seats have inflatable sides to support the torso. The front centre armrest is height adjustable, and I sat in the car as I would in an armchair, but with my left foot resting on the thoughtfully provided pad out of the way, and I couldn’t have been more comfortable.
Big ‘A’ pillars incorporating a small triangular window at the base can obscure forward vision, but it is easily mitigated by (surprise surprise) simply turning one's head slightly to look around them. Forward vision is otherwise good, but a greater impediment for my wife and I at least, is our inability to see the sloping bonnet, so driving into a parking space can either be hit or miss, or to stop well short to be on the safe side. The turning circle is good and three-point turns are a doddle. The car had the optional sun protection glass aft of the ‘B’ post and it really added to the aesthetic quality as well as being practical. Definitely one for inclusion on a future order.
From inside the car, the diesel engine is very quiet on start up and very subdued from outside. It pulled away effortlessly and the easy-to-use cruise control is available from 20 mph. The 8-speed auto box changes gears almost imperceptibly. Kick-down has some delay, so I had to time my overtaking well and not pull out unless I had adequate time and space. Ride quality is quite smooth and stable, but one can still feel the worst potholes, and sunken manhole covers are best avoided. But perhaps this car should be seen in the context of a comfortable cruiser with a rapid straight-line performance. All things considered, the Active Tourer really is ridiculously easy to drive in this guise.
We like a quiet environment, so we deliberately ruled out the no-cost optional run-flat tyres as they can generate too much noise. Windscreen wipers are whisper quiet, and as with the lights, they can either be set to come on automatically, or with manual override. Even the basic sound system is more than adequate for our needs because the rest is so hushed.
The iDrive system is both intuitive and comprehensive. The sat nav is way better than we were used to, but both needed time and patience to become fully accustomed to them. The iDrive handbook is an expensive extra, but there’s sufficient information built in that is easily accessible via the dial on the console. Dual zone air con stops any disagreements about one person being too hot or too cold, but the buttons are small and fiddly to use, and that is something BMW could definitely improve upon.
The vehicle’s utility is impressive. The very useful 40-20-40 rear seats fold down electronically at the touch of a button to give a near-flat load space, although they do need to be raised manually. The rear seats can also slide forwards allowing the backrests to be reclined for greater passenger comfort, and the centre folding arm rest incorporates cup holders. Access to the boot is via a powered tailgate that comes as standard across the range. Boot space with seats up is very respectable. Load space with the seats down is highly commendable, and is said to be bigger than even the 3 Series estate. Leg room is on a par with a big 7 Series.
There are lots of safety features such as an electronic parking brake that won't release automatically as the car pulls away unless the seatbelts are fastened, although the handbrake can be released manually via the switch. The car’s doors lock as you pull away, and won't open until the engine is turned off, but there are many different settings to suit one’s individual preference. There’s even remote operation of certain features via a mobile phone app such as checking the fuel level, pre-ventilation on a hot day, flashing the headlights if you forget where you have parked, number of miles to the next service, and sending destinations to the sat nav. There are plenty of airbags and an excellent N-CAP rating in case of an accident - one very safe car.
We ordered the more powerful version, the 220d, which differed from the 218d test car in some key areas. The twin exhausts gave the first clue to the greater power from the 190 BHP Euro 6 low-emission Add Blue diesel engine. If booted, acceleration is not merely good, it’s very rapid, but at all other times it’s as gentle as a lamb. The smooth 8-speed auto box is the same, but the upgraded selector is now electronic and seems counter intuitive. Pull it back into Drive to go forward, and push it forward into Reverse to go back, but we can’t have everything.
There’s a little understated badge on the tailgate denoting the x-Drive system, which although not a permanent 4×4 in the truest sense, does become operational in a fraction of a second to make the car very sure-footed. It isn’t brilliant on bends because of the slight body roll, and in that respect it never will be as good as a low-slung sports coupé, but it isn’t likely to break away unexpectedly unless pushed to ridiculous extremes.
The most surprising feature of all however is the fuel economy, and this left us amazed. BMW claim the vehicle will do 60.1 MPG combined. Following the VW emissions scandal, they tend to be coy and don’t say what a person might get under near ideal conditions. Well, we can tack another 25 MPG onto that figure on a run, and I have the photographs to prove it.
Three driving modes are selected by a control lever on the console - Sport/Comfort/EcoPro - and they give the car three completely different characters. In Sport mode, the car drops down a cog or two, is at the ready, and very responsive to every little input. In Comfort mode, the ride is noticeably softer. In EcoPro mode, everything is far more laid-back with the emphasis on saving fuel. The car can even free-wheel where the engine disengages and works very well at eking out every last mile.
BMW's mantra is 'The ultimate driving machine'. They might have said, ‘in pursuit of the ultimate driving machine’ as it is my belief there is no such thing as the perfect car. Each of us have our own notions of what the perfect car should be, but the Active Tourer comes pretty close to everything my wife and I need right now. You pay a premium for the premium badge, but you do get a far superior product.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 1st October, 2018