Open gallery Close by Rory White 23 April 2015 Follow @RoryWhite12 Share
How we test cars
Diehard BMW fans best find another sideboard to prop themselves against. Having only just got over the introduction of the front-wheel-drive, practicality-first 2 Series Active Tourer, here’s the less driver-focused Gran Tourer version, which comes with seven seats as standard in the UK.
It gets the same front-drive layout and engines as the shorter, five-seat Active Tourer, which includes BMW’s three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol and diesel engines in the shape of the 218i, including its hybrid option, and 216d respectively. There is also an 187bhp 2.0-litre petrol and a series of 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel units which sits under the bonnet of the 218d and 220d. Our test car driven here is the range’s most expensive offering, the 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which comes exclusively with BMW’s eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.
The Gran Tourer seems like a collection of niches before you even get to this very niche version itself. You need a specific set of requirements for it to make senseRory WhiteReviewer
BMW claims it’s the only premium, four-wheel-drive, seven-seat compact MPV on sale and, depending what ‘premium’ means to you, it’s right. However, if a badge isn’t important to you, are classier versions of a larger MPV or a seven-seat ‘proper’ off-roader better value?
To cater for the wide spectrum who may want a seven-seater BMW-badged MPV, there is four trim levels to choose from each offering a decent level of equipment. The entry-level SE models include BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, with a 6.5in screen, sat nav, DAB radio, and Bluetooth and USB interface. There is also dual-zone climate control, an automatic tailgate, rear parking sensors and automatic wipers and lights.
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Upgrade to the a Sport trimmed Gran Tourer and you’ll find bigger alloys, front sports seats and interior LED lighting, while the Luxury models get a leather upholstery, and the range-topping M Sport versions get a sporty bodykit, suspension, detailing and 18in alloy wheels.
To ensure there’s room for everyone, BMW has made the Gran Tourer 21cm longer and 5cm taller than the Active Tourer. The wheelbase is also 11cm longer, the result being that there’s decent front space for tall adults and enough room for two more occupying the outer seats in the middle row, provided both parts of its 60/40 base configuration are slid as far back along their 13cm range as possible.
Access to the middle row is good thanks to rear doors that open wide, but seating three adults across it will be as much of a squeeze as it is in the Active Tourer. The Gran Tourer is no wider inside and still lacks three individual middle row seats.
The sixth and seventh seats can be pulled up from the boot floor using one hand. Folding down and sliding forward an outside middle row seat creates good access to these rear chairs. However, as an adult, you won’t want to be in them for long. Shoulder room is good, and the seat bases are individual but even for teenagers, head, leg and foot room is very tight indeed.
That said, you can slide forward the middle row to free up kneeroom in the third row but as an adult, by the time you’re happy, there’s very little legroom left for the middle row passengers.
With the third row folded away flat there’s a 560-litre boot benefiting from a wide opening, a low lip and a usefully square shape. The middle row seats can be folded 40/20/40 electronically using buttons on the boot walls. This is a standard feature and one that works well, increasing boot space to 1820 litres. The front passenger seat can also be folded flat to leave a 2.6m-long load bay.
For the driver there are the same large, split front pillars as in the Active Tourer, so forward visibility isn’t great, but aside from some cheap-feeling switchgear – present in all BMWs – cabin quality is impressive.