It wouldn't usually be a big deal to launch a front-wheel drive family car, but when the firm in question is BMW it very much is. Famed for promoting 'Ultimate Driving Machines' and being a long-time promoter of the benefits of rear-wheel drive sports saloons, its 2 Series Active Tourer is a considerable departure from the norm.
Until the arrival of the 2 Series Active Tourer, BMW's line-up consisted of mainly the conventional models you'd expect to see from a premium car maker. But with one eye on closing the gap between its entry-level cars, the mainstream competition and providing a lifestyle vehicle that wasn't an SUV, the firm wanted to expand into new, more lucrative markets.
The Active Tourer is the car BMW hopes will help it make that leap. And with the need to combine practicality with a modest footprint plus the requirement to deliver low fuel consumption and emissions, the only sensible route was to opt for a conventional front-drive platform.
Whisper it, but the Active Tourer sits on the same platform as the third generation Mini and borrows some of its engines - the three-cylinder petrol units for example. The result is an agile car boasting good levels of versatility and, unusually for a BMW, a pleasingly high level of standard kit. You'll struggle to find parking sensors, a powered tailgate and sliding rear seats at this price point elsewhere.
The end result is a car boasting many of the attributes you'll find in a mainstream compact people carrier - lofty riving position, flexible seating layout - but with the addition of a premium badge. For many this will be the deal breaker as, despite being in possession of a family and aspiring to an active lifestyle, a traditional SUV was never on the shopping list. Too vulgar or too big, you see.
Our verdict on the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 218i SE
Only the BMW purists will be jumping up and down at the prospect of a front-drive, small-engined people carrier. For sensible types with a family or the need for more space than a regular family hatchback, BMW's 2 Series Active Tourer delivers a competent mix of space, refinement, value for money, economy and desirability.