Green pioneer test: BMW 225xe Active Tourer
BMW is the only carmaker offering a plug-in hybrid model in the compact minivan segment. Roomy, hi-tech and dynamic? Yes. TCO-competitive? It all depends on how the extra investment is offset by tax benefits... and lower fuel bills.
The 2-Series Active Tourer is perhaps not the most sexy BMW out there, but critics – mostly appalled by its “blasphemous” front wheel drive architecture – have been proven wrong. The compact MPV has boosted the carmaker's sales worldwide, demonstrating that there was a place on the market for another premium player next to the Mercedes B-Class. The 2-series Active Tourer also offers two fleet-relevant things ‘the Swabian Star’ regretfully doesn’t: seven seats in the case of the Gran Tourer (the elongated model) and a PHEV version – which seems to have a lot going for it.
The hybrid powertrain of this BMW 225xe Active Tourer consists of a 136 hp 1.5 three-cylinder petrol engine, an 88 hp electric motor, a 7.6 kWh Lithium-ion battery, four-wheel drive and an automatic transmission. In terms of fuel efficiency, this eco MPV consumes just 2.0 litres of petrol per 100 km (NEDC), equalling 46 grams of CO2 per km. Realistically speaking, you can achieve this formidably low petrol consumption if you fully charge the batteries and drive less than 50 km, thereby completely draining the electricity reserve.
BMW claims an electric-only range of 41 km, but under wintry conditions, this number quickly drops to 28 km – as we found out. If you mostly drive on motorways and charge the batteries every 80 km, like we did with our test vehicle, a fuel consumption of 5 litres per 100 km is feasible. The longer you travel at high speed, the higher the fuel consumption – it is as simple as that. By the way, charging takes just 2 hours and 15 minutes with a Wallbox, or 3 hours and 15 minutes if you use a standard domestic socket.
Practicality, comfort and convenience
This 2-Series Active Tourer is the first front-wheel drive BMW ever built. This ‘new’ architecture allows for a better packaging, resulting in a roomy interior and plenty of boot space. Compared to the other Bavarian products, it doesn’t feel quite as premium when you pull the driver’s door and take a seat. But it is not because the doors are lighter and the trim a bit less baroque that this is not a quality product – on the contrary.
Driving the car is as easy as any automatic – with the added benefit of doing it in absolute silence as long as the batteries are charged. During strong acceleration and at motorway speeds, the three-cylinder engine gives a helping hand or even takes the lead, making this a surprisingly dynamic car. We would have expected wind and tyre noise to be less present in the cabin, though. The Renault Scénic remains the benchmark in this area.
The ride is a bit firm – the price you pay for BMW-worthy handling and sharp cornering. Due to the relative shortness of the front seats, your legs are not supported as much as you would like them to be. Here too, we warmly recommend the optional sports seats and the electrical lumbar support, especially if you are a tall person.
Safety and connectivity
There is no arguing that BMW has the most complete and user-friendly infotainment system available today, offering real-time traffic info, intelligent emergency call and concierge services, amongst others. You can control your car from your phone – as long as it is an Apple (Android is still under development). Checking the range, pre-heating or cooling the interior, finding your car in a crowded parking lot or viewing it on a map: the possibilities are endless. Naturally, the sat nav indicates the nearest charging points – including the technical specs. The iDrive interface between the front seats is easy to use. The note pad function is simply brilliant: writing letters with a finger is so much more efficient than turning and pressing a rotary commander.
When it was launched in 2014, the Active Tourer was awarded 5 stars by EuroNCAP and got a score of 70% on the safety assist aspect. Autonomous emergency braking, which uses a camera in front of the rear view mirror to detect pedestrians and activate the brakes if the driver doesn’t, comes as standard on most markets. An active cruise control is available as a (recommended) option, and so is lane-keeping assist. The Traffic Queue Assistant takes the stress out of congestion.
The bottom line
The 225xe is a fun to drive, well put together and practical 5-seater. If the tax benefits are high enough to compensate for the higher list price, and if you use the 225xe mainly as a short distance commuter (50 km single way), it makes perfectly good sense. With a realistic e-range of 30 km and a petrol tank of just 38 litres, this is not a long-distance cruiser. Looking at the average lease rates, lessors believe in the attractiveness of the vehicle on the used car market. With the city braking function, insurance premiums should be interesting, too.
|Fuel efficiency/TCO savings potential||Thirsty petrol engine when not battery-assisted|
|Safety and convenience features||High list price, many expensive options|
|Practical and fun to drive||Limited electric and ‘thermal’ range|
Power: 224 hp (136 hp 1.5 petrol engine + 88 hp electric motor)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, 4x4
CO2 emissions: 46 - 49 g./km
NEDC Fuel efficiency: 2.0- 2.1 l/100 km
Distance travelled: 540 km
Average speed: 52 km/h
Litres of petrol filled: 30
Times charged (100%): 8
Average fuel consumption: 5.8 l/100 km + 5.3 kWh/100 km
Audi A3 e-tron, VW Golf GTE