Marking the beginning of many front-wheel-drive BMW-badged models to come, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer will make its European debut at the 2014 Geneva auto show in March. The compact luxury hatchback will appear with three different turbocharged powertrains, comprising three- and four-cylinder gasoline options, as well as a diesel.
In terms of design, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer holds true to the Active Tourer concept. It maintains the four-door hatchback body with a long wheelbase, short overhangs, and a sloping front nose. Despite these stubby ends, the hatchback has a smooth, tall, sloping roofline; sculpted lines on the profile that run through the door handles and between the front and rear wheels; and a handsome, well-executed interior. Design editor Robert Cumberford called it an “attractive, chubby, chunky, tall hatchback [that] will find a ready market.”
The BMW 218i Active Tourer will be the entry-level option, employing a turbocharged, 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine generating 136 hp. Most focused on efficiency, the 218i Active Tourer achieves the equivalent of 36/56/48 mpg city/highway/combined when equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox. The BMW 225i Active Tourer packs much more power with 231 hp under the hood, available via a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine that is rated at 31/47/39 mpg city/highway/combined. If these powertrains sound familiar, it’s because they’re also used in the 2014 Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S, respectively. Last is the BMW 218d Active Tourer, which uses a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine good for 150 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for the diesel is rated at 47/65/57 mpg city/highway/combined. Don't expect to see this version in the U.S.
All three engines are transversely mounted in typical economy-car fashion, delivering power to the front wheels only. This setup will be consistent for all 11 cars in total, between BMW and Mini, that will be built on the new UKL architecture that underpins the new Cooper and this Active Tourer. While the BMW Active Tourer concept featured a hybrid powertrain which connected the rear wheels to an electric motor, such an arrangement is still a few years down the line. The small, transversely-mounted engine is not only efficient, but its packaging also helps maximize passenger and cargo space. There are 16.5 cubic feet of space in the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer with the rear seats raised, and up to 53.6 cubic feet with them folded—more than enough space for groceries, sports gear, or weekend getaways.
While the new architecture may be anathema to the longitudinal front-engine, rear-wheel-drive arrangement BMW fanatics adore, no amount of pouting is going to stop progress. As Cumberford noted of the BMW Active Tourer concept, “For safer, more stable, low-cost family cars, there’s nothing to equal a nose-heavy front driver.” Don’t assume, however, a complete fall from grace for BMW—we’ve seen how much fun driving front-wheel-drive cars like the Mini Cooper can be, so there’s still hope for the future BMW 1 Series and X1 models that will also switch to front-wheel drive. The 2 Series Active Tourer uses a new chassis with a strut front suspension and a multi-link rear axle, which BMW claims allows for superior agility and ride comfort. If BMW did it right, the 2 Series Active Tourer will be stiff competition for other small urban family-haulers. No matter what the naysayers spout, a BMW badge still means something to a lot of buyers.
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer will bow at the 2014 Geneva auto show beginning on March 4. BMW tells us that the 2 Series Active Tourer will arrive in the U.S. sometime during the 2015 calendar year, although it did not specify a release date or model year. Available engine options for the U.S. market are also still under wraps, but will most likely comprise the aforementioned three- and four-cylinder gasoline options.