Mildly divisive front-driven MPV returns in second-generation form; more convincing than before, with solid performance, outstanding usability and practical family appeal

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The first-generation 2 Series Active Tourer never sat well with BMW traditionalists, but it sold some 430,000 units worldwide over the past eight years, so a second- generation model was inevitable.

It is no surprise, then, to find the second-generation model follows its predecessor closely. New detailing and tauter surfacing gives a much sharper appearance, and it is more aerodynamically efficient.

Some 80% of 2 Series Active Tourer buyers are new to the brand. No other model in the BMW line-up has such a high conquest rate

At 4386mm long, 1824mm wide and 1576mm high, the new Active Tourer is just 67mm longer and 25mm wider but a good 142mm higher than the latest BMW 1 Series hatchback. The generous height and wide-opening doors make for easy entry to both the front and the rear seats.

Inside, the new BMW is modelled closely on the new iX. The interior has a more premium feel, with a curved screen housing both 10.3in instrument and 10.7in infotainment displays. Notably, there’s no iDrive controller; instead, most functions are controlled via the touchscreen.

A pod between the front seats houses a gearbox controller and an electric handbrake. Ahead of it is a large stowage bin, and there are largish bins in each door. You sit a good 120mm higher than in the 1 Series hatch, with a commanding view ahead and excellent all-round vision, making the Active Tourer well conceived for city driving.

A further draw is the clever use of space by combustion engine car standards. As well as offering greater head, elbow and shoulder room than before, there are up to 470 litres of boot space, or some 90 litres more than the 1 Series hatch, when the rear seat is pushed all the way forward.

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There are seven new models: 218i, 220i, 223i, 218d, 225e xDrive and 230e xDrive. The turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol four in the 220i and 223i, driven here, now has 48V hybrid assistance. All engines use a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and the 223i gets optional xDrive all-wheel drive.

This top-of-the-line 223i delivers a good turn of speed, agreeably precise handling and impressive low-speed manoeuvrability. The heavily revised petrol engine works with an electric motor offering up to 19bhp to deliver a combined 215bhp and 265lb ft. It is quite an eager powertrain, accepting revs happily while remaining smooth and a lot less vocal than many rival engines when worked hard.

The new dual-clutch automatic gearbox is quick and smooth, and BMW claims a 0-62mph time of 7.0sec. With a WLTP figure of between 42.8mpg and 47.1mpg, it also delivers impressive economy.

In a move BMW says is driven by customer demand, the steering is very light. It is also quite synthetic in feel. The system is, however, very direct and provides impressive response, even if it lacks any real communication.

Firm damping helps to keep body movement in check over winding roads. There is inevitable lean when lateral forces begin to build in corners, but it is progressive and well controlled. There is a good deal of grip, too: you can load up the front tyres and rely on the purchase. Overall, agility is impressive.

There is familiar BMW-style tautness to the ride, but with generous wheel travel and optional adaptive damping, there is also the compliance and absorption to provide greater comfort than before.

The 2 Series Active Tourer isn’t an obvious choice for family car buyers, but it does offer far greater practicality than the 1 Series and is quite satisfying to drive. With the earlier decision to discontinue the larger 2 Series Gran Tourer, it will also be the sole MPV offering in the BMW line-up from now on.

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BMW 2 Series Active Tourer First drives