2023 BMW 216i Active Tourer Review : The lesser of 2 Equals
Singapore - The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer fills an important niche, catering to buyers who are keen on a premium small family mover. When the second generation car was initially launched here as the 218i, the small MPV brought with it a huge leap in-terms of in-cabin tech. It presented itself as a very capable family car, with very good versatility… and of-course brand appeal.
Unfortunately, with COEs climbing across the board, it drove the price of the Category B car to unrealistic levels. Soon, Not was the 218i Active Tourer priced out, but some Premium C-Segment cars found themselves in the same pickle - having the correct engine capacity but stuck in the wrong power bracket. This included the Audi A3, the Mercedes-Benz A Class, and of-course the latter’s direct competition to the 2 Active Tourer, the B Class.
So against this backdrop of high-trending COEs, BMW brings us the 216i, a Category A-friendly version of the same car. Both externally and internally, the 216i does not differ from its (slightly) higher-powered sibling. In essence, it looks grown up-yet-playful… a Tonka toy-like exterior with a large kidney grille to match.
On the inside, there is no escaping the fact that the dashboard is a simplified take on the one found in the iX SAV. Its single curved display panel contains both its 10.7-inch control and 10.25-inch infotainment screens; while the gearshift stub, together with a few essential controls are located on the “floating” centre console. The infotainment’s interface is powered by the now-familiar voice-activated Operating System 8 infotainment firmware - able to determine if it is the driver or front passenger who is making a request. To keep mobile devices powered, there is a large upright mobile charging pad, and a good scatter of USB-C ports available around the cabin. This same dashboard can be found in the new BMW X1 and iX1 cars.
The versatility game has also been well taken care of. The Active Tourer’s rear seats can be rolled forward into “cargo position”, adding up to 90 litres of trunk space to the 470 litre double-floored boot.
Under the hood, the 216i uses the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder mill. Over here, it produces 122hp and 230Nm, 14hp less than the 218i. However, both cars produce the same amount of torque. The small power “adjustment” takes away some performance. The lower-powered 216i clocking 100km/h in 10.3 seconds, as opposed to the 218i’s nine-second run.
But while it may be lower in performance, the 216i holds its own, be it in traffic or when on the highway. The 3-cylinder engine is surprisingly smooth while cruising, and when you need to give it a squeeze, it delivers the goods with a certain fluency than even the 1.3-ish litre engine from Mercedes-Benz, with its four-cylinders struggles with.
Also, the small MPV’s suspension feels well sorted-enough for a spirited drive; something which is quite uncanny for a tall family car. However, the M Suspension can come across as a little too harsh; that is when you are piloting the car on bumpier B roads… or in our case, plastered-over road surfaces. Officially, the 216i averages 14.7 km/l, versus 15.9km/l for the 218i, and I attribute the worse-off fuel figures to the tendency to squeeze on the accelerator harder to bring the car to speed. As for me, I managed a round number of 15km/l.
The new Active Tourer feels better-sorted than the car it replaces, and I feel that it now has more extroverted styling to match its brand appeal, and the in-car tech to please most owners. While it may qualify as a Category A car, it is still very expensive; but if you are keen on a premium compact, which is easier on the back when strapping the kids in, the 2AT starts at a lower price point than an X1.
TEXT & PHOTOS Clifford Chow
BMW 216i Active Tourer M-Sport
Engine 1,499cc, inline 3, turbo
Engine Power/rpm 122hp/4700-6500rpm
Engine Torque/rpm 230Nm/1500-4000rpm
Transmission 7spd dual-clutch
0-100km/h 10.3 secs
Top Speed 206km/h
Fuel Consumption 6.8L/100km