Meet the front-drive BMW that shares its platform, powertrains with Mini

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(March 2, 2014) Maybe the Polar Vortex is the true manifestation of Hell freezing over. If it is, this could be the vehicle that caused everyone “down there” to order down-filled parkas. The first front-drive BMW production car shares its platform and powertrains with the new Mini Cooper, and is the reason the latest Mini has lost some of the handling sparkle of the 2003-2007 model.

In compensation, it is much better built. Using the same architecture and powertrains for the Mini and 2 Series helps defray costs, increase volumes, and makes it possible to fit both cars with higher tech at a lower price.

The 2 Series Active Tourer, a name that expands BMW’s baffling branding convention, is designed for what BMW describes as “the increasing challenges of urban mobility.” Nearly the same size as the company’s 1 Series, this front-drive hatchback has a roomier, more flexible interior than that rear-drive car, and can seat five. Perched on a 105.1-in wheelbase, the 2 Series Active Tourer is 171 inches long, 70.9 inches wide and 61.2 inches high. The last measurement should clue you in to the fact that this little hatch has a high seating position.

It also has a large cargo area. Slide the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat to its rearmost position, and you’ll find 16.5 ft3 of cargo space. Fold the seat flat, and this increases to 53.3 feet. The flat load floor conceals a storage compartment with tray, and is accessed through the wide hatch. This is opened and clo
sed either by pushing the button on the key fob or by kicking underneath the rear bumper if the optional Smart-Opener option is ordered.

The 2 Series Active Tourer has a 61.4-in front and 61.5-in rear track, giving it a wide stance for stability. Up front is a single-joint strut suspension, while a multi-link independent design is used in the rear. Interestingly, BMW’s own press materials describe the front suspension design as contributing to the car’s “largely torque-steer-free steering”, which suggests the family hatch has a touch of tug at the wheel under hard acceleration or while accelerating out of turns. The electrically assisted rack and pinion power steering also includes automatic parallel parking assist to guide the car into an appropriately sized space. Ultrasound sensors on the outside mirrors measure the space and, if it is approximately three feet longer than the car, signals the driver that the space is acceptable.

Electronically controlled dampers are optional, as is Variable Sports Steering. M Sports models will be added to the lineup later. They will include an aerodynamic package, M Sport suspension, 18-inch light-alloy wheels unique leather steering wheel, and specially upholstered sports seats.

A three-cylinder turbo motor powers the 218i Active Tourer, and boasts variable intake and exhaust cam timing, direct injection a balance shaft, and a dual-mass flywheel. Peak torque is reached at 1,250 rpm and continues to 4,300 rpm. It’s unclear whether or not BMW will off the 218d in the U.S. Powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged common-rail diesel engine, this model has a bit more horsepower and a lot more torque, and should possess great fuel efficiency.

The standard transmission for both engines is a six-speed manual. This can be replaced on three-cylinder models with a six
-speed automatic or, on four-cylinder cars, an eight-speed automatic. All powertrains are fitted with Auto Start-Stop, while the automatics also include a coasting function. Also, buyers have the choice of front- or xDrive all-wheel drive, though the choice of engine may determine whether this option is available or not. A more powerful 225i gas and 220d diesel powertrain will be offered, though only European buyers are likely to get the 216d model.

As on the latest Mini Cooper, the 2 Series will offer a full-color head-up display as part of the Media Package. This screen sits ahead of the steering wheel and displays key information within the driver’s line of sight. It also will offer Pedestrian Warning with City Braking. This system detects pedestrians or stationary vehicles and emits an audible warning to the driver while priming the four-wheel disc brakes. If the driver does not react to the warning, the system brakes autonomously.

No introduction date or pricing have been set for the 2 Series Active Tourer in the U.S., but U.K. buyers will be able to order the car starting Sept. 27. Pricing starts under £23,000 with destination charges. You can expect the U.S. model to start around $23,000, and rise sharply from there.

The Virtual Driver