The BMW 2-Series Active Tourer has always been something of an orphan in the BMW lineup; but it’s also something of a pioneer. The 225xe model introduced clever plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology to the German brand almost a decade ago: petrol engine driving the front wheels, electric motor at the back.
It was based on the Mini Countryman platform of course, which shared that same powertrain setup.
Now there’s an all-new 2-Series Active Tourer, the 225e, and all of the above still applies. Now, as then, it’s the cheapest EV in the current BMW lineup. Now, as then, it’s clever. Now, as then, it’s still tricky to figure out where it fits in.
But let’s have a go. It’s no relation to the 2-Series coupe, which is a completely different thing. No, we don’t know why they insist on calling it a “2” either. It’s closer to the 1-Series, as both are Mini-adjacent.
BMW calls it an Active Tourer, but that’s just code for a people mover (albeit a compact one). There are styling cues in the new car that align it more with BMW’s SUVs, but the fact of the matter is the 225e has low ground clearance and a tall roofline to make it more spacious for passengers and cargo. It’s a mini-MPV, plain and simple.
The 225e does owe the X1 quite a lot, though. Not just the styling vibe but also its interior architecture.
And it’s quite small, fitting underneath the new X1 SUV in terms of size, although it’s actually $6k more expensive at $78,500 – which you can attribute to that PHEV powertrain.
The 225e does owe the X1 quite a lot, though. Not just the styling vibe but also its interior architecture: the dashboard is virtually identical, save the head-up display which goes from a proper windscreen-reflected setup in the X1 to a flimsy bit of pop-up Perspex in the Active Tourer. Something to do with the extreme angle of the windscreen?
It’s probably not the kind of PHEV you’ll buy if you enjoy fiddling around with drive modes and power delivery.
The flash interior is one area where the BMW has it all over the Mini Countryman Hybrid (which is roughly the same price, at $75,850). It sports the latest widescreen curved instrument panel, full of lovely graphics and bright colours. You can even minimise the information displays and enjoy some digital art instead.
What both the Active Tourer and X1 are missing is the BMW iDrive rotary controller, which has been designed out of this particular interior layout. That's a shame, as it’s really good now; but this is a small car, the main screen is touch-operated and the “Hey BMW” voice assistant is pretty good too.
The tiny battery-charge indicator simply glows blue if the car is in EV mode, or white if the petrol engine is running.
It’s probably not the kind of PHEV you’ll buy if you enjoy fiddling around with drive modes and power delivery. The electric stuff mostly just happens in the background, although there is a shortcut button that brings up a menu to “Activate Electric” (or deactivate for that matter). It doesn’t lock the car into EV mode completely: the petrol engine will still fire up if you put your foot down, but at least it lets the car know what you want.
Nor does the instrument panel trumpet the powertrain’s workings. The tiny battery-charge indicator simply glows blue if the car is in EV mode, or white if the petrol engine is running.
Adaptive mode (again, there’s a shortcut button) lets the car decide everything, Efficient makes greater use of EV running and Sport fires up the thrummy three-cylinder engine straight away, which is also quite good at feeding charge back into the battery – presumably so maximum power is available as much as possible.
There’s plenty of battery power to play with. The claimed EV range is 87km and after daily wallbox charges, our car was showing 75-80km consistently. It’s AC-only, but it can charge at 7kW-plus, so you can take it from flat to full in under three hours.
When it’s in electric mode, it’s rear-drive of course; but it can also be FWD or AWD depending on what’s happening with the PHEV tech.
It’s a great eco city car, running silently on electric power and riding beautifully on sensible (if modest-looking) 18-inch wheels. No massive BMW rims for this baby.
But it’s also decently quick if you want it to be, with 180kW combined on tap: enough for 0-100km/h in 6.7sec. Not a heroic handler by any stretch (the Mini is more fun in that regard), but confident and offering great traction thanks to fast-acting AWD.
The 225e also has BMW’s IconicSounds EV noise generator in the cabin, just like its full battery electric vehicles (BEVs). It runs in EV mode, but also when you’re accelerating hard with the petrol engine running. So you get the thrummy three-cylinder soundtrack and the spaceship EV noise singing along together, which is weird. But good-weird.
Space and practicality are the USPs of a people mover and the 225e is impressively configured for what is a fairly compact car on the outside. It’s comfortable transport for four adults, and while the 406-litre boot is only average in sheer numbers, the rear seats can slide or have their backrests locked in different positions to make the most of the available space: an extra 90l if you want it… although the angle become a lot less pleasant for rear-seat occupants.
BMW NZ has obviously worked hard to get this car at the right price. There are no extra-cost options listed, just some minor trim choices. In some ways it’s a shame it looks so low-key (there are styling packages available in Europe that give it a real visual lift), because at heart it’s a quick, clever and eco-aware little hatch/MPV/SUV thingy. It might be confusing, but it’s also a pleasing little PHEV package.
BMW 225e ACTIVE TOURER
ENGINE: 1.5-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder (front axle) with 14.2kWh plug-in battery pack and electric motor (rear axle)
GEARBOX: 7-speed automatic, AWD
CONSUMPTION: 0.7l/100km combined, CO2 16g/km (WLTP), EV range 87km