Climb aboard and you’ll find a driving position that’s just high enough to make it appealing to the SUV crowd, but low enough that the 2-Series doesn’t feel like a van. Thanks to the big windows and low dash, the view out is superb.
This is an approachable car and one that feels friendly, and that might feel like a welcome change after a steady diet of SUVs, with their innate whiffs of ruggedness and aggression. The 2-Series is easy to drive, too; its dimensions are manageable, the controls are smooth and well weighted, the sheer tail end makes it a doddle to park, and that good all-round visibility means it’s easy to position around town.
It isn’t all sweetness and light, however; the ride is quite stiff, and over the worst roads it can get a little bit fidgety. Having said that, it never becomes truly uncomfortable and just about stays on the right side of the line between firmness and crashiness most of the time. What’s more, at higher speeds it smoothes out nicely and leaves the Active Tourer feeling very stable and secure.
There’s a payoff, too: even this less sporting variant can hold its own if you decide to drive it in a spirited manner. Granted, this isn’t natural territory for a small MPV, but even so, it’s nice that the Active Tourer feels pretty planted on a back road, and even verges on fun.
The steering isn’t the most communicative and of course the chassis has been set up for safety rather than playfulness, so it’s very one-dimensional. But there’s loads of grip, so you won’t get into trouble, and the nose turns in eagerly.
That taut suspension keeps the body upright, rather than letting it slop around during quick changes in direction, too; that is relevant because it means the Active Tourer should stay stable and vice-free in an emergency manoeuvre.
It would be interesting to try the M Sport with its adaptive suspension; this might go some way toward smoothing the ride while also sharpening the handling. However, given our experience with BMWs fitted with such systems, there’s an equal chance it might not.
The M Sport’s larger wheels will probably generate more tyre noise, too. Given the 17-inch wheels on our Luxury test car got pretty vocal at high speeds, that might be a significant downside.
The Telegraph verdict
On the whole, this is a car that does what it sets out to do pretty well. Yes, it’s marred by its slightly diminutive boot, but on the whole the 2-Series Active Tourer is a smart, sensible and very capable family hauler; one which is more versatile, more economical and somehow more honest than many of its SUV rivals.
That honesty makes it likeable, too, as does its approachability; this is an easy car to get along with, but equally it manages to avoid being dull – there’s just enough sparkle from the chassis, combined with just enough of an upmarket air inside, to make it feel just a bit more special than the average MPV.
If you need a flexible family car, then, but don’t like the idea of following the SUV crowd, the 2-Series Active Tourer stacks up well. It turns out you might actually want one after all.
- On test: BMW 220i Luxury Active Tourer
- Body style: Five-door MPV
- On sale: now
- How much? £32,085 on the road (range from £30,265)
- How fast? 137mph, 0-62mph in 8.1sec
- How economical? 47.9mpg (WLTP Combined)
- Engine & gearbox: 1,499cc three-cylinder petrol engine, eight-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel drive
- Electric powertrain: 48-volt integrated starter-generator with dedicated battery
- Electric range: 0 miles
- Maximum power/torque: 168bhp/207lb ft
- CO2 emissions: 133g/km (tailpipe)
- VED: £220 first year, then £155
- Warranty: 3 years / unlimited miles
- Spare wheel as standard: No