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FWD BMW? Yep, and it rivals B-Class

By: IOL Motoring Staff

With the arrival of the 2 Series Active Tourer, due to debut at the Geneva show in March, BMW is charging headlong into a new segment for the brand - the premium compact class - where, in order to stand out, it will have to be something special.

And it is - it's front-wheel drive, the first in BMW's modern history, with turbocharged engines of either three or four cylinders. The Blue Propeller Guys say they chose front wheel drive to maximise interior space, as did Alec Issigonis in 1959 when he laid out the original Mini, with the engine mounted sideways and no prop-shaft tunnel.

PERCEPTION OF SPACE

Following the Coupé as the second member of the new 2 Series family (which remains RWD in Coupe guise), the Tourer is certainly compact at just 4342mm long, 1800mm wide and 1555mmin height on a relatively long 2670mm wheelbase, but the raised roofline places the occupants significantly higher than in a conventional sedan, while the extra glazed area adds to the feeling of spaciousness; there's also the option of a panoramic glass roof.

Front-wheel drive or not, the styling is typical BMW, with a very short front overhang (unusual in a FWD car), the Hofmeister kink in the rear side windows, L-shaped tail lights and, of course, dual round headlights on either side of the kidney grille.

VERSATILITY THE NAME OF THE GAME

The interior architecture emphasises horizontal lines, once again to add to the visual perception of space, while the centre stack and the controls are angled towards the driver in another signature BMW design cue.

Thanks to a sliding rear seat, with an adjustable backrest that's split 40:20:40, the cargo bay can be expanded from 468 to 1510 litres, including a folding boot floor over a storage compartment with a multifunction tray.

It's accessed by full-width tailgate that can be optioned with either pushbutton automatic opening or a Smart Opener function that works with a flick of the foot under the bumper.

THREE OR FOUR CYLINDERS, SIR?

The 218i Tourer has a 1.5-litre turbopetrol triple rated at 100kW, with a 120-degree crankshaft and balance shaft for smooth running, for which BMW quotes 4.9 litres per 100km and 115g/km of CO2 emissions; given the current brouhaha surrounding fuel-consumption claims, we'll take these under advisement until we've driven one far enough to have to refuel it!

Then there's the 218d, with a two-litre turbodiesel four packing 110kW and 330Nm, good enough to launch the Tourer fropm 0-100 in 8.9 seconds and on to 205km/h, while sipping a claimed 4.1 litres per 100km and coughing 109g/km of CO2.

Topping the range at launch will be the 225i, with four pots, two litres and a TwinPower hairdrier, delivering 170kW, 0-100 in 6.8 seconds and 235km/h flat out at a quoted cost of six litres per 100km and 139g/km of CO2.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, and an auto trannie is an option on four-cylinder variants.

FINELY TUNED GEOMETRY

Each of these drives the front wheels via a single-joint spring strut axle, while finely-tuned geometry and electromechanical power steering remove almost every vestige of torque steer, and rear-wheel movement is modulated by a multi-link setup.

Idle stop, brake energy recovery, shift light, on-demand operation of ancillary units and an integral air curtain that uses two vertical air inlets in the front bumper to direct the airstream around the front wheels, are standard across the range.

CONNECTIVITY

Gizmotronics include a camera-based cruise control system that also works as a stop/go traffic assist with built-in steering assist and smartphone apps such as concierge service, real-time traffic updates and even an optional head-up display.

Also coming (in Europe) later this year are Sport and Luxury packages, as well as all-wheel drive variants.

The 2 Series Active Tourer is due to arrive in South Africa this October.

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