As its name suggests, the 2 Series Active Tourer is aimed at drivers whose diaries are overflowing with exciting things to do.
The idea behind the car is that it is the perfect vehicle for people looking to hit the road in search of adventure, antiques, fine art, or, more realistically, supermarket bargains or trips to a flat-pack furniture store.
It has a high roofline and clever flexible seating so that it can transport five in some level of comfort or can be converted into a one-seater with huge luggage space instead, plus every combination in-between.
Announced in this guise Friday (before its official reveal at the Geneva Motor Show in March), a longer, seven-seat version will be arriving in dealerships later this year.
In terms of looks, it’s based on the new BMW 2-Series, but peel back the panels and underneath it’s actually an elongated Mini.
For existing BMW lovers, the car could also prove to be a shock to the system because the power from its engine is delivered to the front, not the rear, wheels. As such it is the first-ever car to carry the BMW emblem to do so.
This could be a gamble: BMW has built its reputation on making sublime drivers’ cars and therefore, rear-wheel drive has always been the company’s defining characteristic. Connecting the engine to the front wheels does save space — there’s no need to run a transmission tunnel through the vehicle’s interior — but it limits driving dynamics because the front wheels are being asked to do everything (steer, propel the car forwards or backwards, and perform the lion’s share of braking).
Of the decision, BMW says the car has been given “a cutting-edge front-wheel-drive set-up. And it has honed its responses to fully satisfy the dynamic expectations of a model wearing the BMW badge.” And to be fair, the Mini on which the Active Tourer is based can be great fun to drive.
For those who feel unready for such a seismic shift, despite the company’s reassurances, four-wheel drive versions are also earmarked for production at a later date.
For now, potential owners have a choice of two petrol engines (the 1.5-liter turbo 218i and a 168 bhp 2-liter turbo badged as the 225i xDrive) or a 2-liter diesel.
Cool options include a heads-up display and BMW’s new traffic jam assist technology, which will enable the car to take over the stop-start driving on congested roads at speeds of up to 60 km/h.