- Agile handling
- More luxury than its competitors
- BMW premium price
- Still a box
Ben Griffin reviews the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer, a premium seven-seater designed to carry your family around in Stuttgart luxury.
For families with a bit more disposable income there are few options on the market if you want a seven-seater MPV that can sit on the drive without taking it over completely. BMW, ever keen to fill new niches, has seen a great opportunity to produce exactly that with the 2 Series Gran Tourer, the 2 Series Active Tourer‘s bigger brother.
Ben headed off to Sheepdrove organic farm in Berkshire to put the car through its paces and found it to be practical, but also a much more agile beast than you might expect.
Those familiar with the 2 Series Active Tourer will recognise the front end, but the rest is much boxier so as to accommodate a total of seven seats. It’s 21cm longer, too, 11cm of which is the body and the rest the overhang. Yet it’s still smaller than a 3 Series Touring, meaning you can easily park the thing.
The 2 Series Gran Tourer is also 5cm higher so there’s more room for tall people, yet the drag coefficient is an impressive 0.28 so it moves through the air as efficiently as a box on wheels can. A sporty rear spoiler at the back helps with the aerodynamics and adds a touch of sportiness.
Even with the stylish kidney grille and aggressive bumpers, particularly on the beefier M spec model, the 2 Series Gran Tourer is hardly a swoon-mobile. But just the badge alone helps elevate it above the larger, even boxier competition like a Citroen Grand C4 Picasso or VW Touran.
Side by side with the 2 Series Active Tourer, the Gran Tourer looks easier on the eye because you can tell what it wants to achieve. It’s practical, not awkward, and so it will at least never offend your eyes or make people wonder what the hell you are driving.
Here the 2 Series Gran Tourer really comes into its own. It has masses of legroom for front and rear passengers, while the roof height is ample for all but professional basketball players. It is possible to fit three child seats in the back seats, making it ideal for those with multiple young offspring.
Rear tables let your offspring amuse themselves as you travel along and they can be removed for more space, or simply to remove any dried food/vomit/pen marks. The door pockets, meanwhile, can eat up a 1.5-litre bottle so there’s no chance of anyone ever being thirsty on long trips. All seats have storage spaces underneath so you can hide away just about every ounce of clutter, sweetening the deal.
There’s an extra cubby hole in the dashboard in addition to numerous storage areas. The rear seats can be split 60:40 for loading long items while maintaining some rear seating. Boot space is 145 litres with the rearmost two seats up, but these can be folded flat into the boot floor to increase it to 560 litres. Slide the rear bench forward 13cm and you get 760 litres. Fold those down and there’s a whopping 1,820 litres.
That means you have the room to accommodate not one but two washing machines and items up to 2.6 metres in length, making it the perfect shopping trip accompaniment.
The ride position is lower than most cars of its nature so you feel less like you own the road and from certain angles visibility could be a tad improved, but there is enough glass around you to make driving easy and the seats and steering wheel offer a great deal of adjustment.
Admittedly only small people will want to ride in the rearmost seats and the middle seat in the second row is somewhat hampered by the transmission tunnel running down the middle. Tall people will also start to get uncomfortable with the seats pushed forward but the boot is ample in its smallest state. All in all, this is a car that has been designed to look after you and your loved ones – and it really shows.
Performance & handling
Like the Active Tourer, the 2 Series Gran Tourer is front-wheel drive – how very un-BMW. You can spec four-wheel drive, although the system tends to favour the front rubber unless you really try.
Despite this, BMW’s clinical driving feel has been recreated marvellously. Turn into a corner hard and there’s very little body roll, with plenty of grip keeping you going where you want to.
Take liberties and its shortcomings will become all too apparent, but we’re guessing most owners will be driving as slowly as possible so as not to wake up the kids or keep them from getting travel sick. Drop the kids off and it’s really quite rewarding, however.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine and xDrive all-wheel-drive system offers a good amount of grunt and grip to let you overtake families in less of a rush, with 0-62mph taking 7.8 seconds. BMW’s seven-speed automatic is, as always, clever enough to stay quiet when it needs to and pick up speed when you want.
The diesel makes most sense as it’s more frugal (more on that in a second), but the 136hp 218i offers a surprisingly addictive engine noise and a little more punch. It’s hardly breathtaking but it certainly adds a bit of extra fun.
Whichever engine you choose, you can expect a distinct lack of road noise and a thoroughly pleasant and relaxing ride, unless you decide to go for the firmer M Sport suspension option. But at no point did we feel uncomfortable during our test drive.
Economy & environment
All engines offered in the 2 Series Gran Tourer are frugal, at least on paper. The 218i 1.5 petrol offers up to 53.3mpg and CO2 emissions up to 128g/km, so it’s cheap to run. The 192hp 220i is even quicker, but fuel economy drops to 47.9mpg and 138g/km of CO2 with the automatic gearbox.
Given this is a car for people with lots of kids and therefore considerable monthly outgoings, the diesels make much more sense. The entry-level 216d, for instance, can go up to 68.9 miles on a gallon of fuel, while emitting just 111g/km of CO2. Even the four-wheel drive 190hp 220d offers around the mid-fifties.
The C4 Grand Picasso may be bigger but its 1.6 eHDi does what the 2 Series Gran Tourer is unable to, offer lower than 100g/km of CO2 so it’s free to tax. Even its most powerful diesel is about as good, but real world figures are much closer.
Equipment & value
In terms of market positioning, there’s very little to compare this with directly. With that said, you can expect to pay a premium on other seven-seaters for the privilege of extra luxury and a more involving drive.
The 218i SE Gran Tourer 1.5d starts from £24,710, £6,000 more than the C4 Grand Picasso and nearly £5,000 more than the Touran. But bear in mind navigation is standard, as is an automatic tailgate for opening and closing the boot easily and a system that calls the emergency services in the event of an airbag being deployed.
There’s also a 6.5-inch display and BMW’s highly usable iDrive controller, electronic parking brake, front arm rest (ooh, fancy), automatic headlights and wipers, two-zone automatic climate control, front fog lamps and a multi-function steering wheel.
It is easy to pile on the extras but some are worth going for, one example being the highly useful head-up display that lets you view navigation directions and other useful information without taking your eyes off the road.
The £290 Reversing Assist camera is useful, and the £395 sport seats are worthwhile if only to jazz up the interior, though it’s rather good as standard.
A top-spec 220d xDrive M Sport starts from £34,555, which is a lot of money, but the list of standard equipment is healthy and there’s really nothing on the market that offers the same practicality in such a premium package. Even the bog-standard entry-level 218i SE is stylish.
But, and here’s the problem, you could spend that money on a Land Rover Discovery Sport and get an even nicer interior, off-roading credentials, seven seats and a bit more street cred. Even bigger families, meanwhile, will perhaps find the larger MPVs like the VW Sharan more useful and – if specced right – nearly as comfortable.
The 2 Series Active Tourer is built by BMW so it’s a hardy steed. There’s a lengthy crumple zone between you and whatever you hit, not to mention the aforementioned emergency call system that is clever enough to know how many people are in the car and submit your exact GPS coordinates to the emergency services.
Park distance control is standard on the front and rear so there’s less chance of a low-speed prang, while the head-up display keeps your attention on the task at hand. Not that the iDrive system is particularly attention-sapping. There’s also Collision Warning with City Brake function for warning you and intervening you if an obstacle catches you off guard.
The 2 Series Active Tourer is just a bit confused, a car that tried to juggle too many plates before dropping most of them. The Gran Tourer has no such issue, as it cares mainly about being practical, comfortable and spacious.
The engines are more than up for the job, while the handling goes way beyond the call of duty. It makes you realise that you needn’t totally sacrifice driving enjoyment even if your most common journey is the school run.
Keep the spec basic and you can enjoy a premium-feeling MPV that will handle all but the largest family duties. Go wild with the extras, however, or ever crave the big outdoors and you may be better offlooking at the Discovery Sport, which is a different beast but similarly practical.
The 2 Series Gran Tourer is, therefore, rather niche like its 2 Series Active Tourer sibling. But if you’re in the market for a family wagon with a luxury edge, seven seats and care little about off-roading or keeping it cheap, it’s money well spent.
|Acceleration||0-62mph in 7.9 seconds|
|Emissions||129g/km of CO2|