First Drive: BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer
Welcome to BMW's take on a modern MPV, offering families the versatility and comfort of a standard people-carrier but combining those qualities with the refinement and performance expected from a premium German machine. Prices start at an attractive £24,710.
What is it?
It's the first premium compact MPV to offer seven seats. The 2 Series Gran Tourer is designed to provide customers who have outgrown their luxury saloons, with a family-friendly - though no less luxurious - alternative. The new people carrier builds on the foundations of BMW's new 2 Series Active Tourer, which is £2,000 cheaper, only it's slightly bigger and more practical, featuring a third row of seats as standard. The new 2 Series Gran Tourer is typically BMW, with an appealing, drive focused edge. But is this what you want from a practical people mover?
What's under the bonnet?
Five turbocharged petrol and diesel engines are available, with buyers having a choice of three or four-cylinders and the pick of a stands six-speed manual or an optional eight-speed gearbox.
The four-cylinder 192bhp 220i, which heads the petrol range, is smooth through the changes and is notably responsive to a squeeze on the accelerator. But for something a little more punchier and economical, the new range-topping four-cylinder 220d xDrive diesel churns out 190bhp and, paired to automatic box, can sprint from 0-62mph in just 7.8 seconds, while emitting just 129g/km of CO2. To top that, the 220d xDrive is the only car in its sector to combine four-wheels-drive with seven seats.
What's the spec like?
The 2 Series Gran Tourer comes equipped with range of gadgets as standard. Entry-level SE models are fitted with BMW Navigation, a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, seven seats and an electric folding rear seat with a sliding bench for easy access to the third row, which can be folded into the boot floor. Unfortunately, access to the third row of seats is slightly undignified and can be quite a squeeze. They offer minimal legroom too, but are perfect for young children. The Gran Tourer does redeem itself with a 645-litre boot space though, which increases to 1905-litres with the third row of seats folded away. All models feature front fog lamps as standard, as well as an automatic boot and Dynamic Stability Control.
Customers also have the choice of three alternative trim levels: Sport, Luxury and M Sport. Sport adds 17-inch Star-spoke alloys, exclusive door-sill finishers, a chrome exhaust tailpipe and sport seats with cloth upholstery. Step up a level to Luxury and customers will receive 17-inch Multi-spoke alloys, chrome exterior trim and leather upholstery with contrasting stitching. The top of the range M-Sport, adds the largest 18-inch M-Sport light alloys wheels, a sporty body kit, a multi-functional M-Sport steering wheel, sports suspension and run-flat tyres.
In the metal, the Grand Tourer clearly shares BMW's design DNA, featuring a long, sweeping bonnet and hawk-eyed headlights.
Being the first premium car to feature seven seats in this price bracket, and with a four-wheel-drive top of the range model, the 2 Series is a somewhat unique proposition. Ford's Grand C-Max features the same multi-functional seating arrangement, which is also easier to access, and the top of the range model is more than £6,000 cheaper than the range-topping Grand Tourer xDrive. However, the extra cash does buy a more stylish design, a luxury cabin and better driver engagement. The Gran Tourer also faces some tough competition from Citroen's Grand C4 Picasso, which is just as unique in its design language and boasts a more spacious third row. It could be difficult to justify spending the extra zeros if design or punchier performance isn't a necessity.
What's it like to drive?
The Gran Tourer is as happy on the motorway as it as around town or even on country roads. Although the suspension, particularly with the M-Sport pack, is noticeably firm on uneven surfaces, which seems to defeat the purpose of owning a comfy people-carrier. On the plus side, little road or engine noise enters the cabin and the sports seats aren't too solid, making long stints at the wheel a doddle. Although it's a full-size seven-seater, the Gran Tourer feels small and wieldy from the driver's seat, the steering wheel is nicely-weighted and the car doesn't suffer from too much understeer in the bends, making cornering surprisingly satisfying.
The AOL Cars Verdict
The Gran Tourer is exactly what it says on the tin. It boasts all the qualities you'd expect from a family vehicle but, unlike its rivals, places more emphasis on premium quality and driver engagement. It's bursting with the latest kit and is certainly one of the more entertaining family-friendly cars to drive, but this does tend to compromise the relaxed driving experienced you'd usually expect from a seven-seater. Unless sportier characteristics and stylish tweaks are at the top of your essentials list, it would be hard to justify the extra cash over more mainstream rivals.
Model: BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer 220d xDrive
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, diesel
Power: 190bhp, 400Nm
Max speed: 135mph
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
MPG: 57.6 (combined)
Emissions: 129g/km CO2
Author: Sophie Williamson Stothert