First Drive Review: BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer 2016
The 2 Series Gran Tourer is streets ahead of Mercedes' B-Class and offers much better quality and dynamics than the likes of the Ford C-Max and Vauxhall Zafira
BMW may have been slow to embrace front-wheel drive for its cars, but it’s making up for this with the launch of its second front-driver in less than a year, the 2 Series Gran Tourer.
It doesn’t take Benedict Cumberbatch in a deer stalker to work out this is a version of the 2 Series Active Tourer. The difference is the Gran Tourer is longer (by 214mm), taller (by 53mm) and offers seven seats.
The grander silhouette creates enough space for the third row of seats while still being 50mm shorter overall than a 3 Series saloon. There has been no need to cram the sets into this space either as this car has a transversely mounted front engine, unlike BMW’s usual north-south layout. It frees up space and allows the 2 Series GT to be decently practical and versatile.
There are three seats in the middle row and two separate third row seats that fold flat into the boot floor when not needed. Depending on the seat and load combination you opt for, there’s everything from 560 litres with the third row seats stowed away, all the way up to 1820 litres with the middle row tipped flat. Use all seven seats and boot space is negligible.
The middle row of seats is divided 40-20-40, so you can vary people and load mixes even more, plus the rear bench slides fore and aft for more fine tuning.
It’s all very easy to use and rear seat space is excellent with the middle bench slid to its rear-most setting, though it does mean anyone in the third row will need to be a small child. Access to the third row is reasonable for this breed of people carrier and BMW has made it a little easier by moving the C-pillar as far back as possible.
Doing this also means the middle bench can be wider and BMW says the 2 Series Gran Tourer (2SGT) can accommodate three child seats side by side in here.
Up front, the dash and driving position are much the same as the 2 Series Active Tourer’s, so there are the usual crystal clear dials and a pleasingly unfussy dash design. Our only criticism here is the electric parking brake button is positioned for left-hand drive models rather than right-hookers, so it’s a tad awkward to reach around the gear lever.
There’s a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes, depending on the model you choose. A total of five petrol and diesel engines are available, covered by 218i and 220i for the petrols and 216-, 218 and 220d turbodiesels.
For the frugal-minded, the 216d is the most parsimonious with 68.9mpg average economy and CO2 emissions of 108g/km. While BMW says it expects more buyers to opt for the 220d that provides 57.6mpg and 129g/km, plus xDrive four-wheel drive, we reckon they are missing out on one of the real gems in BMW’s line-up in the 216d.
The three-cylinder turbodiesel of the 216d does a sound, hushed job of propelling the 2SGT and is more than happy to lug along motorways. Okay, it only manages 0-62mph in 11.4 seconds to the 220d’s 7.8, but we’re talking about an MPV here, not a hot hatch, even if it’s an MPV built by BMW.
We found the 218i petrol didn’t quite make the mark on acceleration or grunt to pull from low revs. This was a car with a manual gearbox, so the optional eight-speed automatic might help counter this.
As for the 220d, it’s more than nippy enough for an MPV and its four-wheel drive will give added confidence in slippery winter conditions. Our test car was fitted out as an M Sport, which comes with 10mm lowered suspension. Frankly, this trim is best left on the configurator as it makes the ride too pattery and brittle on the UK’s typical A-road. There is also the option of Dynamic Damper Control, which offers two suspension settings for softer or firmer springing.
BMW also fits the 2SGT with its Driving Experience Control that lets the driver choose between Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport modes. We’ll tell you now, leave it in Comfort and forget about it as Sport ruins the ride (a point discussed in greater depth here). Comfort is all you need as it offers supple progress along bumpy, battered roads while enjoying the same excellent handling balance you’d expect of a BMW.
BMW has pulled off an impressive feat with the 2SGT’s handling, to the point where you might wonder if an MPV needs to be this agile and free from much body lean. Still, we’re not going to complain about this and simply enjoy an MPV that is fun to drive, refined and easy to manoeuvre thanks to steering that is light yet direct.
We’re also not going to quibble about the amount of standard equipment fitted to the 2SGT. It comes in Sport, Luxury and M Sport versions and all have satellite navigation, E-call, air con, electric windows and all the safety kit you could want.
Where we might grouse a bit is the pricing of the more powerful 2SGT models. Yes, they have a BMW badge and are pretty swift, but does anyone buy an MPV for these attributes?
Stick to the lower consumption, lower emissions models and the 2SGT is streets ahead of its obvious rival, the Mercedes B-Class while offering much better quality and dynamics than the likes of the Ford C-Max and Vauxhall Zafira.
Business contract hire rates on the 2SGT currently start at £271.42 and average at £335 (on a 6+35 10k p/a agreement).
Personal users can pick up a 2SGT for £336.52, with deals averaging at £393.
2 Series Gran Tourer at a glance:
Kerb weight: 1520kg
Boot space: 560 / 1820 litres
Fastest: 220d xDrive 8sp auto– 0-62mph 7.8s, 135mph
Greenest: 216d SE 6sp manual – 68.9mpg, 108g/km
Cheapest: 218i SE - £24,175 OTR
Priciest: 220d xDrive M Sport Auto - £34,420
Rivals: Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Ford C-Max, Vauxhall Zafira
Available: Since June 6