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Car Review

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer review

Published: 08 Mar 2022


What is it like on the inside?

Buying a one-box MPV? This is what matters. You’ll forgive the handling or the car’s rodent-ish facial expression if the all-important passenger accommodation is life-changing.

We’ll come to that, promise. But first let’s assess the quality, which is remarkable. The old 2AT was full of black plastic, but this new one feels much more richly trimmed. There’s liberal flashes of proper metal and tighter shutlines. The vents and handles move with an oily smoothness. The seats, which were criticised for being too firm in the old car, are now bizarrely cradling items which wouldn’t look out of place in a Porsche 911. Even the steering wheel spokes look technical and interesting. From up here, in your semi-command driving position, you feel good. The view of the road is good. Life is good. 

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What about the tech?

Yes, that’s what I’m coming to. All Active Tourers get the new ‘BMW Curved Display’, a 10.25 inch touchscreen atop the dash running an interface all but identical to the new all-electric iX’s. And that’s a flagship BMW, retailing at over £100,000 in some guises. This is an entry-level car.

Thing is, BMW’s stripped out the veteran iDrive clickwheel for the Active Tourer, reasoning you don’t need it any more because the touchscreen is so good. They’re wrong. And it’s a bad decision. For a start, removing the clickwheel hasn’t resulted in anything useful. There’s no new stowage or clever features on the floating centre console where it used to live. It’s still home to buttons and a drive selector. And it’s still the natural place for your non-steering hand to rest. 

Secondly, the screen itself is just way, way too fiddly. While it responds better than the monitor in a current Volkswagen, and the graphics are sharper, fundamentally useful things like heated seats and trip data are buried multiple jabs deep in the screen. And it’s a bit of a stretch to reach if you’re over six-foot tall.

Sure, the temperature sliders are always present at the bottom of the screen. But since they’re always there, why not just use buttons, instead of pixels coated in fingerprints? And why is the main menu now a mish-mash of some 30 unintelligible icons? 

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Zooming in on a map? Scrolling through a list? All dramatically harder than they used to be in a BMW with a clickwheel, requiring more time with your hand off the steering wheel and your eyes off the road. The voice control simply isn’t good enough to paper over the operational cracks, and in any case, it interrupts the nav or whatever you’re listening to on the stereo. 

It’s a real shame, this. BMW was holding out as VW and Mercedes lost their heads and went touchscreen-silly. Now, it seems, the end of days is upon us. Even a BMW has an irrationally dumb cockpit. Shame.

Let’s be honest, this isn’t a BMW bought chiefly by young and happ’nin urban couples. It’s for your grandparents. They struggle with a TV remote control or a microwave. This is going to baffle them into taking the bus.

Ouch. So… is it practical?

A much better showing here. Adults can sit behind adults, no trouble at all. The doors open wide and access is easier, as you’d expect, than a 1 Series hatch or 2 Gran Coupe. The rear seats slide fore and aft easily via manual locking mechanisms, so you can have a bigger boot, or better legroom. Sitting in the back of one of these things is a heck of a lot more pleasant than life in the back of an X2

On the other hand, there’s none of the folding-seat magic of the Honda Jazz, which can swallow a house-plant or a bicycle thanks to its foldable squabs. The boot, meanwhile, is a generous 470 litres with 1,455 litres on offer with the rear seat backrests folded down. 

We do question the logic of designing the wireless charging pad to stand your smartphone to attention facing out into the cabin. This makes your device as distracting as possible to the driver, which is exactly what tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is designed to prevent. Weird.

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