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Eccentric and practical. The BMW 2-series Active Tourer actually makes so much buying sense for a young and growing family. Best of all, it could even better a D-segment saloon any day, all thanks to its well-rounded packaging. Keegan Dorai takes it for a review, all done in courtesy of BMW Quill Automobiles Malaysia.

words by KEEGAN DORAI

BMW.

A brand known especially for its sporting saloons, great driving dynamics, class and motorsports heritage. In order to prove this, just head out to a busy street and ask anyone about the brand, and your answer will closely match the stamps aforementioned. However, let’s take off the rose-tinted glasses and imagine this; a front-wheel drive, practicality-focused hatchback with a 1.5-litre engine wearing the ever-prestigious Bavarian roundel?

Could it be a rather controversial outcome? It definitely was to the eyes of enthusiasts. But it was the car that helped BMW in broadening its market spectrum, appealing and luring more young buyers, with or without a family, to join the bandwagon. I mean, come on. It’s still a BMW that’s powered by the same engine in the improved BMW 318i, and essentially the i8. The marque’s range-topping flagship supercar.

And that car, is the BMW 218i Active Tourer. A humble five-seater that simply ticks all of the right boxes. First off, let’s check out the interior. While at the driver’s seat, you’ll get a rather high-riding view out. Nifty as it aides outward visibility and manoeuvrability while you need to get to that florist or provisions store situated in front of a narrow neighbourhood street. Thanks to the split A-pillars that reduces blindspots.

While at the standstill, you’ll soon be greeted with a nice dash fascia padded with all the right use of plastics and trimmings. Yes, it still feels like a BMW throughout on the inside, all thanks to the use of supple leather for the seats — and a nice wood veneer finish running along the main dashboard and door cards. Likewise, we do like the silver accents patched on the switchgears, too.

The storage area situated beneath the radio controls is a great addition as well, enabling drivers to store items in that proximity. And the large door bins do hold a respectable amount of clutters as well. Want to keep some small-sized valuables but afraid of it being exposed? There’s a small compartment situated beneath the light switch that fits a Smart Tag perfectly well.

Ergonomically, there’s nothing much you can fault about as all buttons are situated within reach, and your left elbow will thank you and the 218i due to its height-adjustable centre armrest. Passengers at the back will appreciate the supple bench, legroom and headroom ambience.

Hauling cargo goods is easily done by folding the rear seats flat via two switches from the boot area. If folded flat, you can practically load anything by making use of the vast 1,510-litres worth of cargo area. With both two rear seats up, there’s still a respectable spread available at 468-litres.

Being a wagon owner myself, the 218i won’t cease to impress when it comes to accessible storage. You can even slide the back seats forward by 150mm, increasing boot space by a slight margin. With this, you can still carry two kids at the back, but forget about hauling adults by any means if this is performed.

And unlike traditional rear-wheel drive BMWs, the 218i sits on the front-wheel drive focused UKL1 platform, and uses a motor mounted transversely, which in return reduces the dependency on a huge transmission tunnel obstructing legroom space.

Being a family-focused car, BMW has given the 218i a series of innovative material use during construction. It uses a plethora of high and ultra-high tensile steel at vital areas. With this, it reduces excess weight in exchange for better efficiency, and consequently — greatly enhancing crash safety standards. To some extend, the manufacturer has even opted for aluminium swivel bearings to shed off unnecessary weight.

Powering the front wheels is a new three-cylinder turbocharged engine that pushes out a respectable 136bhp and 220Nm. Capping at 1.5-litres, the peppy motor channels its power through an eight speed automatic transmission, and latterly to the front wheels. Power delivery is relatively smooth, and it takes 9.2 seconds to reach 100km/h from a standstill.

Being a three-cylinder, you’d expect it to shudder and vibrate all the way inside, but it didn’t. In combined driving, the 218i did return a remarkable 12.9km/L. Not really impressive? Well mind you it involves wandering in terrible traffic, suburban speeds and spirited driving.

Wearing the hallmark title of being the BMW out of all front-wheel drive vehicles, the 218i Active Tourer does steer well with lots of grip ready at reserve. It impresses at talking bends with easy predictability despite being a rather upright vehicle in profile. Body roll is relatively minimal, and the steering does muster a nicely-weighted feel.

For the enthusiastic driver, you can still turn off the stability control completely, like how all BMWs are — to have unrestricted fun while powering your way though some nice empty B-roads. But for those seeking a less taxing alternative, you can just leave it activated throughout your commute by securing you while you’re driving over slippery road conditions.

On a run-off-the-mill highway cruise, it glides effortlessly well. Though a touch firm over uneven surfaces, the suspensions are pliant. At smaller roads, it soaks up bumps and broken patches adequately. In all, the 218i does drive and ride better as a whole than its closest rival, the Mercedes-Benz B-class. Wind noise is well suppressed at speeds above 110km/h.

Aesthetically, the 218i does differ from the usual BMWs. Being the first model to adopt a high-roof hatch profile — or best known as the one-box approach, it doesn’t use any traces of historical lineage from models of the past, apart from the familiar kidney grille and corporate-matching, dual-rounded DRLs. However, the Hofmeister kink is largely present at the C-pillar.

However, the 218i Active Tourer does succeed in its own right when it comes to packaging. The clever use of space, storage and coupled with an efficient powertrain immediately turns it into a viable buying sense, which wears an attractive price tag readily to tempt you even further into securing a superb deal. Yes, you can get one at BMW Quill Automobiles at a starting price of RM178,000 and above.

BMW 218i Active Tourer

Engine: inline-3, 1499cc, turbocharged

Power: 136bhp at 4500rpm

Torque: 220Nm at 1250-4300rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 1435 kg
Power-to-weight: 94bhp/tonne

Price: RM178,000 and above at BMW Quill Automobiles

Evo Rating: ★★★★

I mean, would you get yourself a traditional D-segment saloon that serves a space half-less than the 218i? Or the least, not wearing the awe-inspiring Munich roundel both front and back? I would settle for this in all honesty. It’s such a complete all-rounder that commands a worthy adversary of buyers looking for something different, but yet distinguished at the same time.