First drive: BMW 225xe Active Tourer

BMW’s expansion of its non-i hybrid portfolio continues, as hot on the heels of the 330e is the 225xe Active Tourer. Yes, that means it’s a petrol-electric version of Munich’s unusual mini-MPV, but a tour on mixed roads near the company’s Bavarian headquarters revealed a few surprises in the 2 Series’ armoury…

BMW marries hybrid and 4WD in new 225xe Active Tourer (Image: BMW)

BMW marries hybrid and 4WD in new 225xe Active Tourer (Image: BMW)

What’s this?

A BMW 2 Series Active Tourer that has been given the drivetrain of the i8 sports car. Sort of. But turned through 180 degrees. So, for the 225xe you get all three modes of traction in one: in Auto eDrive, the car’s software chooses from and mixes up the 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol’s 136hp and the rear-mounted electric motor’s 88hp, giving you all-wheel drive; switch to Save, and only the engine and the front axle are used, while the on-board lithium-ion battery pack is replenished by both the combustion engine and the regenerative brakes; and finally, in Max eDrive, providing you have charge, then the 2 Series becomes rear-wheel drive and fully electric with zero emissions.

This clever system, all packaged up in the practical if rather cumbersome Active Tourer body, makes this an ideal car for daily commuters with young families who live in cities where there are extremes of weather. Which might sound like a narrow window of opportunity, but actually there’s a bigger market for such a 2 AT than you might expect. BMW reckons that after the US and Japan, the UK, Holland and Germany will lap this thing up.

Prices are extremely competitive for the PHEV. It starts at £35,155, so with the £5,000 Government grant that brings it down to a little more than £30,000; cheaper than the 225i xDrive’s £32,010. However, from March 1 the rules change and the 225xe will be a Category 2 Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV), meaning the grant reduces to £2,500, making the 2 AT PHEV at least £32,655. Pricey, perhaps, but for that, you’ll get a part-electric, all-wheel drive, premium, five-seat MPV, which puts it in a class of… one, for the time being. And, visually, it looks like any 2 Series Active Tourer, save for the external ‘225xe’ and ‘eDrive’ badging, the ‘extra filler’ charging port flap on the front nearside wing and an interior that features a lot of blue lighting and stitching, a few extra hybrid-related screens in its digital displays and an eDrive button on the centre console. Pretty, the 225xe ain’t, but with regards to its primary purpose of shuttling people about, it is at least functional.

How does it drive?

On the face of it, marvellously well. It’s another blinding integration of electrification by BMW, as the 225xe feels superb on first acquaintance. The petrol-electric drivetrain is great at nipping what is a fairly hefty machine (1,660kg) through town and once the roads open out, the Two’s full punch is pretty impressive. The steering’s great, the six-speed Steptronic auto is an utter gem, the brakes are… well, they’re good, although the task of harvesting energy for the battery under deceleration always makes them feel just a little odd underfoot, but generally it proves to be a likeable, premium motor to cruise about in. The three-cylinder engine also makes a great noise under hard acceleration, which is a boon.

Read more: Car Enthusiast

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