Fun(c)tional Practicalities: Driving the BMW F46 216d Gran Tourer

Traditionalist, it’s time to look the other way as what we have this time might not appease you very much, we are of course talking about the BMW 2-Series Gran Tourer. Mismatched nomenclatures aside, the 2GT represents BMW’s first foray into the World of the MPV, and is in most likelihood, BMW’s most practical offering ever.

We didn’t really take too kindly to it’s smaller Active Tourer stablemate, so it remains to be seen if this Gran Tourer variant is worthy of wearing those coveted roundel badges. With our practical glasses on, it’s time to find out.

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First off, styling. There is no way the 2-Series Gran Tourer is not going to set any hearts on fire. But we did feel that choosing the right color for your 2GT plays a pretty big part in uplifting the overall look of the car, with brighter hues working much better than subdued tones like blacks or greys.

Best colors to go for? We’d pick white or red, and if image really is a concern, do remember to check the options box for the “M-Sport” kit and wheels. We’ve seen a few Active Tourers running the M-Sport and trust us when we say it really does make a World of difference.

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To be fair, making a car of this type look sexy is a challenge no other manufacturer has quite yet achieved, so BMW does get points for being able to incorporate a number of sporty BMW cues into the design. With a heavily raked windscreen, forward body line taper and a snouty front grill adding some dramatic effect to an otherwise understated design. Having little touches of sportiness and fun elements did seem to be a recurring theme as we further explored our 2GT. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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It might seem rather obvious now but for those new to the marque, the biggest difference between the Active Tourer and the Gran Tourer (besides the price) is this bit residing right above the rear wheels. Extending 21cm over its slightly smaller stablemate. Keen observers will also spot a roof line that’s also 5cm taller than the Active Tourer. Numbers aside, this extension is size makes the 2GT one of if not the most useful car BMW has on offer today.

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With the majority of the added length concentrated within the wheelbase, the 2GT offers more than ample space inside for an entire family and a generous luggage compartment that can be extended in capacity from 645 to 805 liters. BMW’s kick motion activated rear tailgate also means an easier time loading up the boot.

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Yes there is ample space in the back for whatever you can realistically think of, and makes quick work of delivery duties.

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Inside, much remains the same from our previously test 2GT. Seats feel slightly smaller than the other BMWs we are accustomed to and the gear knob still looks rather out of place in a premium offering. But like most BMWs we are accustomed to, the driving position is spot on and all controls are within easy reach with the center console angled and focused towards the driver. Fit and finish is also good with lovely contrasting stitching throughout the cabin. The only complaint with regards to cabin ergonomics is the placement of the drive mode selector, right in front of the gear shifter. This makes switching between drive modes while on the move a somewhat tricky affair and sometimes requires the driver to momentarily take his eyes off the road.

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A small but significant detail we do appreciate is BMW maintaining the floor hinged action of the accelerator pedal which makes throttle modulation so much easier.

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Like most other “entry-level” BMWs on offer, the iDrive unit on our 2GT is the slightly smaller variant, basic but does what is needed and has navigation easily called upon.

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Controls for the iDrive are also on a reduced scale with a smaller diameter rotary knob handling most of the selection process and a familiar set of buttons for  quick jumps across menus.

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With a massive glass roof on our 2GT, the atmosphere inside is airy and light. Even with the roller blinds in place, diffused lighting will still be penetrate into the cabin adding to the sense of space, all of which combines to create a very pleasant space for all occupants.

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For those times when cargo turns out to be an additional pair of humans, the 2GT’s party piece is an additional set of rear seats that lift out from the boot floor. Similar in concept (and probably space) to the big X5’s 3rd row of seats, two smaller sized adults can fit nicely in the back, but we recommend you leave it to younger folks or teens as ingress and egress might pose a challenge to those of us who are a little less “athletic”. Middle row passengers are best catered for with seats that can slide forward and back, ensuring plenty of room available if no one is seated in the boot. A set of picnic tables behind the front seats are also provided, perfect for any long road trips with kids in tow.

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So how does it drive? The steering feel is on the light side with not much feedback transmitted to the driver, but it goes where its pointed and with a chassis derived from the current crop of Minis, handling is surprisingly good even when the car does exhibit much more dive and body roll than most other BMWs. I’d imagine for buyers in this segment, throwing the car into tight turns and corners is not something they’d do much, but it’s good to know BMW have spent time honing the 2GT’s handling capability.

Our 216d comes with a 3-cylinder 1.5 litre Twinpower Turbodiesel with a total power output of 116bhp and 270Nm or torques. Enough to get moving but to be honest, not much of a firecracker. There is still enough mid-range punch for simple overtaking manoeuvres but once its initial torque curve, power starts to taper off and thrust starts being replaced by noise.

Keep your driving attitude on the less “enthusiastic” side and the 2GT does a good job of insulating the interior from the clatters of the diesel engine and when on the move, few would guess that this MPV runs on diesel power.

At the end of the day though, i still wasn’t convinced, that is until we gave it one last test. The “babysit my girlfriend’s nephew” test.

Yes, for our final rundown of the 2GT, we enlisted the help of a new entry into this World and became babysitters for half a day. For the next few hours, we lived the life of this car’s target segment. If anything i learnt, it was how much work and energy goes into looking after one of these little humans as well as all the “barang barang” that accompany these little people. Why are there so many things to carry around!?! Big bags, small bags, harnesses, and so so much more! And with a little tike to ferry around, we didn’t get much time to gingerly position everything neatly, it was always just drop everything in and go, repeatedly.

With a little toddler along for the ride, the space inside became a Godsend and 116bhp now feels more than enough. The rear picnic tables were great for placing toys and other knick knacks, the sliding middle row seats ensured that there was ample room for  strapping on a harness in air-conditioned comfort and the giant glass roof ensured that little toddler would never feel claustrophobic. Our 2GT suddenly became the perfect car.

While it might not be a traditional BMW, we think the 2GT remains a highly competent car in this segment and when called upon, delivers what those badges promise and allows the driver to show unsuspecting passengers just what an MPV from Bavaria can do. So yes, the 2GT can wear its roundels proudly, with little toddlers in tow.

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