BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Still feels like the odd one out in the BMW family. Roomy and well-appointed, but doesn’t drive well enough or offer clever solutions for family motoring

Good stuff

Cabin quality, improved standard spec, plug-in hybrid has over 50 miles of electric range

Bad stuff

Over-complicated infotainment, doesn’t drive well enough to justify the price


What is it?

It’s BMW’s mini-MPV, or ‘sports activity tourer’, as they’d have you believe. These days BMW reckons the 2 Series Active Tourer looks more like a crossover, but it doesn’t. No plastic wheelarches, and very definitely a one-box silhouette. You’ll tell it’s the new one because the front appears to have careened onto a Victorian school gate. And once you’ve seen the uncanny resemblance to a giant metal gerbil, you’ll struggle to unsee it. Sorry. 

Who cares about MPVs any more?

Well, 400,000 people decided to spend actual money they had earned on the old 2 Series Active Tourer, and given this all-new model again recycles a pre-existing platform in the range (already seeing duty under the front-wheel drive 1 Series and 2 Series Gran Coupe) it’s worth BMW’s while to keep doing a 1990s-tastic MPV.

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Ironically, when the first 2AT hit the market it had the likes of the Ford C-Max and Renault Scenic to contend with. But these days the mainstreamers have given up on high-roofed hatches and are only interested in selling you faux 4x4 crossovers. So while this might be a dwindling market, BMW has a larger slice of it to itself.

What’s new for the second 2 Series Active Tourer?

With almost half of sales expected to be grabbed by plug-in hybrids, there’s more e-range. Where the old car was good for a claimed 32 miles of battery power, the new 225e and 230e can do up to 56 miles. And the battery is now buried in the floor, not under the rear seats, so there’s more cabin space. The PHEVs will also charge faster, at up to 7.4kW – twice as quick as before.

Inside there’s a totally rethought dashboard with lots of input from the flagship BMW EV and chief evil hamster: the iX SUV. All 2ATs get a 10.25-inch curved touchscreen display. BMW has deleted the iDrive controller in an effort to ‘declutter’ the interior, but the tidy-up has introduced far more serious problems than a few fussy buttons. 

Is there going to be a hot M version?

Don’t be silly. You can have an M Sport trim with a body kit and 18-inch rims, sitting ahead of standard Sport and middling Luxury trim in the range. The quickest 2AT is the 230e xDrive which boasts a combined petrol-electric output of 313bhp, which is more than the first two generations of M3. It’ll do 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, which is rapid enough to make a Civic Type R driver concentrate.

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What about a fully electric one? 

Nope, the mega-range PHEVs will have to do. You can still have a diesel, believe it or not. Prices for the non-hybrid 220i start at just over £30,000. An M Sport’d 223i will send that past £36,000. Final prices for the PHEVs aren’t here just yet. 

What's the verdict?

While this is a better kitted out car than the one it replaces, it still can’t outrun the suspicion this is a car conceived primarily to win buyers with its badge, rather than any of its actual abilities

The 2 Series Active Tourer remains a curious outlier in BMW’s range. They’ve solved the overly firm ride and some of the visibility and seat comfort quibbles of the last car. The hybrids have promising range. Interior quality has leapt forward. It’s comfortable and reasonably refined.

But the illogical integration of the infotainment tech, and the underdeveloped gearbox and inconsistent controls add up to a grating driving experience. And in the same footprint, a Honda Jazz offers a more versatile cabin.

While this is a better kitted out car than the one it replaces, it still can’t outrun the suspicion this is a car conceived primarily to win buyers with its badge, rather than any of its actual abilities. There was an opportunity here to create a car with some of the i3’s flair, to make us forgive BMW for the lacklustre ‘also-ran’ factor of the X1, X2, or 2 Gran Coupe. But the 2AT ultimately isn’t remarkable enough.

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