The BMW 225xe M Sport Active Tourer aims to combine a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a family-friendly body style and a BMW driving experience.
BMW wants to be known for producing ultimate driving machines, but the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is aimed at families rather than driving enthusiasts. When combined with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, does this produce a family car that’s practical, good to drive and economical?
The aim of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is to offer maximum room inside for the minimum footprint on the road. Therefore the car has a relatively short and tall shape compared to most BMWs; our test car was in M Sport trim, which makes the car look more sporty. The interior will appear familiar to BMW drivers.
Under the bonnet is a 136hp3-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine together with an 88hp electric motor, which gets its energy from a 7.6kWh lithium-ion battery under the rear seat, and you can plug the car in to the mains to charge it. The 225xe has a six-speed ‘Steptronic’ automatic transmission.
Another difference between this 2 Series and most other models in the BMW range is that the engine powers the front rather than the rear wheels (the new BMW 1 Series is also front-wheel drive). The electric motor drives the rear wheels, thereby giving (electric) all-wheel drive.
The total system power output is 224hp with 385Nm torque. Electric power can be used up to 78mph.
When you get into the driver’s seat of the BMW 225xe Active Tourer it mostly feels very familiar if you’ve driven a BMW before. In M Sport trim, you even get a nice thick rimmed steering wheel, so you’re left expecting a sporty driving experience. And overall the 225xe is good to drive. It’s refined, especially on electric power, and it feels like a premium product.
The larger BMW 3 Series has virtually all interior controls in very easy to reach places, however this isn’t quite the case with the 225xe. Because this is a plug-in hybrid, in our view the most important controls are for the electric powertrain. Unfortunately the eDRIVE button is hidden away behind the gear selector and therefore not easily accessible.
There are three eDRIVE settings: AUTO eDRIVE, MAX eDRIVE and SAVE BATTERY. The car decides whether it uses petrol or electric power in AUTO eDRIVE. MAX eDRIVE means that the car stays in electric mode, and SAVE BATTERY means that the car will use the petrol engine to conserve its battery charge for later.
You also have the ‘BMW Driving Experience Control’ switch, in other words, the choice between SPORT, COMFORT and ECO PRO settings – and again, these options are more difficult to access than in a 3 Series.
And finally there’s even the option to choose transmission settings of D or S. You can select gears manually in S mode, however this is done using the gear selector, as there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles.
One interesting combination is the ability to select SPORT mode and MAX eDRIVE at the same time, ie. giving a responsive all-electric driving experience.
So does the 225xe handle like a BMW? Well, this is a family car, which is predominantly front-wheel drive, and although it’s fairly compact, it weighs 1735kg. So it’s perfectly competent, but if you’re looking for the amazing handling and ride combination of the new 3 Series, you won’t find it here.
We weren’t able to test the all-wheel drive system in slippery conditions, but it coped with some very gentle off-roading perfectly well.
During our week with the 225xe it was used ‘around town’ and on a long journey to North Yorkshire. This showed that the car, with its 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine as used in a MINI (but also a BMW i8) and electric powertrain, is more suited to local rather than long distance driving. On long journeys there’s not a huge amount of power, there’s some engine, road and wind noise, and there isn’t a huge driving range from the two combined powertrains.
BMW’s iDrive infomedia system is probably the best in the business, and our test car also came with a head up display.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the BMW 225xe Active Tourer is 113mpg, with CO2 emissions of 52 g/km.
Like any plug-in hybrid, the real-life fuel economy completely depends on whether you drive 20 miles on electric power – when you could use no petrol at all – or whether you drive 200 miles without the battery having any charge – which could result in 30mpg.
During our week with the car we used it locally as well as on a trip from Manchester to North Yorkshire and back. On A and B roads, using the petrol engine, it returned 35mpg; on the motorway we managed 44.4mpg. Overall we averaged 47.5mpg after a week comprised of 80% long journeys (when the car wasn’t charged en route).
What was a shock was the incredibly small fuel tank, which is just 36 litres in size. This ended up with the total real-world driving range being less than 300 miles. The official electric driving range was 28 miles, the real-world electric driving range was 20-23 miles.
Charging the 225xe at home will take around two and half hours using a three-pin plug, or around one and a half hours from a home charge point.
The BMW 225xe M Sport Active Tourer costs £35,995. However our test car had the typical long list of options, including Comfort Pack (£1,040), Driver Pack (£630), Tech Pack (£1,260), Vision Pack (£1,175), Roof rails (£245), Panoramic glass sunroof (£945), Luggage compartment separating net (£105) and Sun protection glass (£300), bringing the total price to £42,480.
In addition to the plug-in hybrid powertrain, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is available with two petrol engines and three diesel engines.
There’s also the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer – this has seven seats but there’s no plug-in hybrid option.
The BMW 225xe M Sport Active Tourer is a BMW so it’s essentially a good car. It’s refined to drive – even if it doesn’t offer the normal BMW rear-wheel drive handling characteristics. The interior does exude the BMW design style. It’s also practical for family use. As with any plug-in hybrid, it makes sense if you drive it predominantly on electric power. If your driving is mainly local, and you can charge it regularly, there’s no reason why you couldn’t enjoy more than 100mpg. However it isn’t as well-suited to longer journeys. The 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine doesn’t endow the car with huge performance, and the economy on the petrol engine isn’t great. And then there’s that 36-litre petrol tank, which means that you’ll be visiting petrol stations very frequently if you can’t charge it.
So this car makes sense for mainly short family journeys, when you could save decent amounts of money on running costs if the car was driven primarily on electric power. But then you have to consider the price: £35,995 before options (or £42,480 after options). That’s quite a lot to pay for an ‘urban run-around’. So the BMW 225xe M Sport Active Tourer ends up with a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.
It’s worth noting that the last generation 3 Series plug-in hybrid (the 330e) was an excellent car, and based on driving the new 3 Series in petrol and diesel forms, we would expect the forthcoming 330e to be even better. So our preference would be for a 330e Touring, but the last 330e didn’t have this option, and our current understanding is that the new 330e will also only be available in saloon form, which is disappointing.