Pleasant perception changing surprises don’t come by very often when you are handed the test keys to almost every new BMW that rolls off the showroom floor, but I think we’ve just experienced one of these moments after driving the BMW F45 2-series Active Tourer 225xe iPerformance (phew).
Utilising a 134bhp 1.5 inline 3 petrol engine combined with an 87bhp electric motor to provide a combined 221bhp of forward thrust, the BMW marketing folk were keen to draw similarities between the drivetrain of our little Active Tourer and the Bavarian marque’s swoopy flagship i8, only reversed a full 180. Interestingly, this comparison is not as far fetched as it might seem. In concept at least.
We will dive deeper into that drivetrain later, for now, let us run you through what slightly above twenty grand over the standard 216i gets you.
Aesthetically, there are a few touches that set the top-of-the-line 2 Series Active Tourer apart from the rest of the cars in this range.
These include a couple of BMW i and eDrive badges on the rear pillars, splashes of blue trim adorning various parts of the car, most obvious being the blue tinted kidney grilles, and a set of sportier looking 17″ wheels which i do feel really need to be standard across the entire range.
While the exterior design of the Active Tourer will not set anyone’s heart ablaze, I applaud the designers for having the restraint in penning a clean and inoffensive shape which should endure longer than most other modern automotive styling efforts.
Inside though is an entirely different story. The appointment of a higher spec interior package can be immediately seen and (more importantly) felt. And with the integration of a full-sized iDrive screen, a heads-up display and a pretty good sound system. It truly feels a cut above the standard Active Tourers and has transformed what was a rather utilitarian (for BMW standards) interior into a rather nice and relaxing splace to be in. Especially when quietly cruising around in full eDrive mode.
Boot space as you would expect from a car in this segment is rather ample at 400 litres and even though the seats are now mounted slightly higher due to the batteries underneath, it’s not something you’ll notice due to the vehicles generous headroom.
Now we get to the most interesting bit of this car, the way it drives. We’ve driven the standard car, as well as it’s diesel variants, and while they might drive rather decently for what inevitably amounts to a small MPV, they still lacked a certain pizzazz, a certain fizz or a certain feel that has come to characterise cars bearing the blue and white roundel badge.
There are 3 selectable eDRIVE driving modes you can choose via a toggle switch on the center console, in addition to BMW’s driving experience control modes. We all know what those do so let’s just go into the electric driving modes.
AUTO eDRIVE basically lets the car’s computer do its hybrid thing, switching on the combustion engine as and when needed. I will have to give this transition much praise as it is near seamless on the move and sometimes, the only way to find out if the 1.5 litre Twinpower Turbo engine has come on, is to look at the rev counter. Well done.
Mode number two is MAX eDrive, this pretty much means what it says, electric power all the way until you’ve either drained most of the battery or if you bury your foot into the carpet for maximum thrust.
Mode three is SAVE BATTERY mode, which is also self explanatory and helps you to save your battery. Take note though that in this mode, you will not get more than 50 per cent charge as once that mark is hit, the car will decide to maintain the charge level in lieu of amping it up further. This can be rather frustrating if there wasn’t a forth driving mode that can be engage. Yes, a forth mode of driving.
How do you access this forth mode? A simple bump on the gearknob to the left to engage sportier gear shifts will not only mean faster (but slightly more obtrusive) gearchanges but will more importantly, keep the combustion engine running non-stop and will considerable bump up the car’s battery charge in the quickest amount of time without having to plug it in.
Speaking of plugging in, in a perfect World, BMW claims the 225xe will manage up to 38km in eDrive mode, but unfortunately, in the real World, i found that this range drops to between 20-25km depending on how you drive and how many gadgets you have turned on. Yes, driving this car in Sunny Singapore with the all important A/C turned on will unfortunately drop your electric range. We can’t have it all right?
Official numbers put combined torque output at an impressive 385Nm and this translates into a rather brisk takeoff with 100km/h achieved in 6.7 seconds, hot hatch GTi territory. Sitting inside, it feels even quicker as all 4 wheels hook onto the tarmac when propelling you forward. At the stop lights, nobody, i repeat, NOBODY, will anticipate what this car is capable of.
The 225xe does suffer from it’s slightly higher body when taking on sharp turns as some degree of body roll is to be expected, but through long meandering bends, the urge to continuously feed power through your right foot is very strong as the car engages all wheel drive to power you out. It can and will do rather unsociable speeds when you call upon it. I reckon having the batteries mounted low have also altered the car’s center of gravity in a good way as it now drives a whole lot better than before.
Of course, driving a Plug-in hybrid in an “enthusiastic” fashion does mean fuel and electric charge consumption will take quite a hit.
The 225xe might command a premium over its fossil fuel siblings but with a much more engaging drive coupled with tech that trickled down from the i8, that premium is justified. If you are looking to buy a 2 Series Active Tourer, this is the one to pick.
With the 225xe's substance over style approach, I feel that the 2 Series Active Tourer has finally found a proper place in BMW's stable. It used to drive decently for an MPV, now, it drives decently for a BMW.