2 Series Active Tourer: A Brand Killer or a Masterstroke?

Hello overhang. That was my first thought upon opening up the first photo release of the new 2 Series Active Tourer. Then there’s that belt-line making even the optional 18” wheels look tiny. Even thought they share the same platform, clearly BMW went in a different direction as compared to the new MINI. Where the F56 is just as low as the previous MINI, the new BMW 2AT is designed to be much more of a people mover.

And yet this is a BMW right? The front wheel drive is generally thought of as sacrilegious by enthusiasts but we’re not so sure we’re ready to condemn the car on that fact. First off we have yet to drive the new 2AT. But from our seat-time in the new F56 MINI (which this car is based on) we can imagine the 2AT may surprise quite a few of you.


The issue that I have is simply with the way the car looks. BMW has created a very tall, narrow front wheel drive car that is then saddled (stylistically) with having to comply with ever increasing European pedestrian crash standards. Add to the fact that the transversely mounted three and four cylinder engines are mounted out on the front axle (as opposed to RWD BMWs which have the engines generally located behind) and the designers suddenly have lots of strikes against them before they even began the process.

The results will take some time to get used to. This is not the little front wheel drive run-about that the F56 MINI is. And maybe that’s the point? BMW doesn’t want to overtly cannibalize MINI sales and these new vehicles seem to be taking a very different tact. Even the forthcoming MINI four door and Clubman models look to be quite a bit shorter than the new 2AT.

Where does that leave us? The BimmerFile stamp of approval is not anywhere near the 2 Series Active Tourer yet. But as much as we the BMW faithful hate the idea of a FWD Roundel badged hatchback, we have to give the engineers and designers behind the car the benefit of the doubt. We know that BMW has invested heavily in the UKL platform and everything that has gone into it. We also know that the first fruits of that labor, the 2014 MINI, is exceptional and quite a bit better than what came before it.

The 2AT may just be a fantastic front wheel drive four door hatch for small family and urban dwellers. Stocked with technology and luxury it will surely stand out in the market place. What we don’t know is if the 2AT will be a good BMW.

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  • Nick Dawson

    BMW made it absolutely clear right at the outset, that in every case where BMW and MINI share the same UKL1 platform, the MINI version will always be the smaller of the two. In other words, the MINI’s clothes will be shrink-wrapped to fit, because MINI will always offer the smallest model in its market segment.

    Now for specifics. The UKL1 platform effectively has two wheelbase lengths, short and long. F55/56/57 are ALL built on the short wheelbase. F55, however, has a ‘slightly’ longer wheelbase, but it is still the short wheelbase version.

    F54, however, is built on the long wheelbase which it shares with the 2-series Active Tourer in both 5 and 7 seater versions, and in due course with the next generation FWD/4WD X1/X2 and Countryman 2.

    BTW, 2AT is not a small 5 door hatchback. That role is filled by the RWD 1-series, and in due course by the next generation FWD 1-series. 2AT is an Active Tourer for those customers who want more flexibility than a conventional 5 door hatch can offer.

  • RKCA1

    IMO it’s a masterstroke. I wish the best of success for UKL1 platform. I for one am very interested in 2AT diesel (hopefully a more powerful diesel engine will be offered). The interior design is very pleasing to me as with the rest of the new/current bmw line up. I don’t particularly like the bumper treatment but I’ll wait until I see the M sport bumpers to pass judgement. The other two items that I may have issue with personally is range (looking for 500mile per tank) and price. Ideally I don’t want to spend more than $35K with options. I typically spend 50% of the msrp price on options and when I configured F56 (s) it was no different.

  • Nick Dawson

    BMW employs some of the best trend spotters in the global automotive industry. It will not have escaped their notice, that the Mercedes B Class accounts for 20% of Mercedes’ overall sales. That’s a significant amount. BMW would like some of that market, hence the 2 Series Active Tourer.

    The 2AT is, by any standards, a stylish and classy vehicle. It should be noted that there are actually two models, the 5 seater Active Tourer and the larger 7 seater Active Gran Tourer. Both models were well received at all the car clinics around the world where they shown, and scored high marks.

    Global sales of large premium Saloon (Sedan) cars, two door Coupes and Sports cars, are falling year on year, and premium car makers have to diversify if they are to survive. Any premium car maker that ignores the rising trend in the premium MPV, does so at its own peril.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      I think this will be a huge success. Driving around Bavaria all I see are MB B Klasse cars (countless numbers) and there has been nothing for BMW to compete with. A premium MPV is something they needed- MB has been selling these things in droves since the late ’90s or thereabouts. BMW has been slow to bring such a vehicle to market because of the idea it would taint the other offerings- but MB and Audi have done well with FWD last time I checked and even the Germans don’t care what wheels propel the car or the only cars on the road here would be RWD.

      BMW needs to adapt to a dynamic market in which people are looking for people movers that are efficient/drive well enough/and luxurious- gone is the one sausage of different lengths with the same dynamics.

      The truth is MINI should have filled this market but it never really happened.

      • Dr Obnxs

        Care to elaborate? Do you think MINI wasn’t going for it, or that the Countryman just didn’t make the cut to be a hit against the MB B series? Was MINI spending to much time doing the twins (fun cars, but anything but high volume….)

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          It is more like the Clubman was never the product they envisioned and it was not anywhere near the B Class. The Countryman also could have been more (recall it only sat 4 for a while) but for reasons that can;t be figured out they did not make the vehicle more passenger friendly.

          Also MINI as a whole was supposed to sell volume in the premium A/B class market and never really dented the foothold of MB. MINI was from the get go the answer to the A/B offerings (A2 and later A1) but the market while passionate was never volume.

          BMW had no real choice put to make this move in the grand scheme- they are way late to the party but hopefully they learned a thing or two from the competition to make the AT the best in the segment and that is what will sell.

  • glangford

    I agree with the comments below. A masterstroke. In Germany a couple of years ago i was amazed at all the b class MBs around. I told myself, I’d like one hear as well. Most people for ordinary driving could car less about FWD vs RWD, I’m looking for someone to bring a small SUV in diesel form for my wife to go with my 328d. If they bring the 2AT here in 218d trim (or 225d) I’ll surely go for it.

  • Dr Obnxs

    One of the dads on the AYSO team I coached had a MB B class car. He is working for Tesla and if I were to read the tea leaves, MB is looking for an electric version. Anyway, it’s a good looking car for what it does, and he loved having it here to drive!

    But I guess that trend (The MB B class sales) was one of those trends that the BMW trend spotters didn’t catch! 😉

    But I do think this is an interesting example of how a corporate idea of what should be just doesn’t match with what the public wants to buy.

    Even if this is a good car, it’s got a long row to hoe as it’s now breaking into a market that has been filled for years by MB! Fun to watch for sure!