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BMW 218d Active Tourer

 

The diesel version of the BMW 2-series Active Tourer brings a serious performance/efficiency upgrade, but also a serious increase in price. Is an extra $11,000 over the petrol version justified?

Base price: $62,900.

Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four, 110kW/330Nm, 8-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 4.3 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 8.9 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4342mm long, 1565mm high, 2670mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 468-1510 litres, fuel tank 51 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/45 tyres.

We like: Energetic three-cylinder engine, good handling, clever cabin packaging.

We don’t like: Bland looks, uneven specification, expensive.

How it rates: 7/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? We’ve already tested the BMW 218i Active Tourer, BMW’s first-ever front-drive model: built on the Mini platform and sharing its three-cylinder powertrain.

The 218d featured here is the flagship of the Active Tourer range: same basic package, but boasting a BMW turbo-diesel engine with a lot more pulling power and superior fuel economy.

Sounds tempting, but buyer beware: the 218d comes with an $11,000 price premium over the 218i.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Active Tourer doesn’t handle anything like a rear-drive BMW. No surprise there.

But it is very accomplished and entertaining in a front-drive context; and of course, the concept of this model is to provide family buyers with the packaging advantages of this configuration.

If having the car pulled rather than pushed is an issue, it looms larger in the 218d than it does in the more modestly powered 218i. The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine has a surplus of torque and in wet conditions or tight corners it’s very easy to get one or both front wheels spinning.

Take a bit more care with the throttle and the 218d Active Tourer is a great traffic-light sprinter and accomplished long-distance cruiser. There’s a wave of torque from very low speed and the eight-speed transmission (two more ratios than the Mini-powered 218i) is an extremely smooth operator.

Whereas the 218i feels a bit cheeky, the 218d is very grown-up indeed. No bad thing for a family vehicle.

With one proviso: the 18-inch alloys do have an impact on the ride of the 218d, which is noticeable firmer than the 218i. Not a deal breaker, but the chassis is certainly fussier in urban driving.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The 218d uses its people-mover-like-profile to great effect. Cabin space is exceptional for a car it these exterior dimensions and there are plenty of clever packaging tricks, including sliding rear seats that are also split 40/20/40 and can be locked at 90 degrees for more cargo space (albeit at some cost to passenger comfort).

The boot has a false floor that allows you to either have a flat load-through when the seats are folded, or a deeper cargo bay when it’s removed.

The cabin styling is pure BMW, albeit with a few Mini-like touches. The seat fabric wouldn’t be out of place on a Cooper and the tiny switch to put the car into Sport mode is similarly worthy of the world of Mini. A sly nod to the Active Tourer’s parentage, perhaps?

One of our concerns about the 218i was its relatively sparse equipment level for a $50k car: manual air conditioning and cloth trim for example, even taking into account tech like ConnectedDrive and a self-parking system.

The 218d addresses those concerns by adding LED lights, climate air conditioning, an anti-dazzle rearvision mirror and something called leatherette upholstery. It feels very nice but one can only assume it’s not actually leather, because the full cowhide is still a $3000 option (or included with the $3000 Luxury Line package).

So the 218d is more generously equipped than its 218i sibling, but it’s also gone from a $50k car to a $60k car. Which probably puts us right back where we started in terms of value for money.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it now: there are plenty of European small cars around that make the Active Tourer look pretty expensive. But if you want BMW styling and interior design character in a really practical package, the Active Tourer ticks a lot of boxes.

Diesel or petrol? The diesel is a lot more accomplished and has a better gearbox than the petrol, not to mention more standard equipment. But we’re not sure whether that justifies the extra $11,000 asked for the 218d, especially when the three-cylinder engine of the 218i has so much energy and character.

Maybe spend that $11k on a few options to make your Active Tourer feel more like the little luxury car that it wants to be?

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Lane guidance: $1500 with Driving Assistant option, also includes Approach Control Warning and Person Recognition with light braking, High Beam Assistance and special instrument cluster.
  • Cruise control: Yes with braking function.
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Parking radar: Yes with camera
  • Self-parking technology: Yes
  • Head-up display: $3000 with Navigation Plus option
  • Satellite navigation: Yes
  • Keyless entry/start: $750/Yes
  • Stop-start: Yes
  • Air conditioning: Manual
  • Heated/ventilated seats: $800/No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: $2000
  • Leather upholstery: $3000
  • Power boot or tailgate: $750
  • Split/folding rear seats: 40/20/40

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