The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer will launch in Australia later this year with a higher price of entry than its Mercedes-Benz B-Class arch rival, but the Bavarian brand’s local arm says it will more than even the ledger with a substantial list of standard equipment from entry level.
While the company cannot yet reveal an exact starting price, the four-variant local range will kick off at about $45,000 plus on-road costs and top out at $55,000 when it arrives here in November. This will not only push it above the B-Class, but also into competition with the BMW X1 crossover with its higher ride height, priced between $48,300 and $59,900.
Four variants will be available, kicking off with the 218i that shares its 100kW/220Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine with the new Mini.
The sole diesel, the 110kW/330Nm 218d that chews just 4.1L/100km on the combined cycle, and the 220i petrol versions will add a few thousand dollars apiece, with the range to be book-ended by the top-line 170kW/350Nm 225i petrol performance variant.
This pricing structure will make the BMW more expensive than its only real rival, the B-Class, which retails from $40,900 and tops out at $50,400. But BMW will not scrimp on standard equipment, and will outgun its three-pointed star rival at each specification level — or so it says.
The 218i and 218d variants will get features including 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, satellite navigation, park assist with a reversing camera and front/rear sensors, a Sportline package with racy artificial leather seats that fold 40:20:40 in the rear, an electric tailgate and a mechanism to lower the second row seats from inside the cargo area.
Also standard will be elements of BMW’s ConnectedDrive technology including a system that can call emergency services in a crash and contact a dealer when an issue is diagnosed, while active safety equipment such as lane-departure warning and forward collision warning with low-speed autonomous braking will also be thrown in as standard — not on the options list.
The 220i will add a more powerful turbo engine but also get 18-inch alloys, full LED headlights and anti-dazzle exterior mirrors, among other features. The 225i will get on top of this adaptive dampers, aluminium inserts in the cabin, a sharper and variable steering rack and a sportier eight-speed automatic transmission with (hush hush) launch control.
All versions, as we know, will sit upon a variation of the Mini’s UKL front-drive platform, making this car the first BMW to send its power exclusively through the front wheels. The controversial move was deemed necessary because it liberates space, and thereby makes the MPV more practical.
However, BMW says it aimed to inject the Mini’s sporty dynamics into the car, and claims it will be the sharpest dynamically in its segment.
CarAdvice will attend the global launch of the 2 Series Active Tourer in Europe next week, so watch this space for our verdict on that particular claim.
Inspired by the 2012 BMW Concept Active Tourer, the production model measures 4342mm long, 1800mm wide and 1555mm tall, giving it almost identical proportions to the B-Class.
With all driveline components contained to the Active Tourer’s front half, BMW says the five-seater boasts a spacious and versatile cabin. The 40:20:40 split rear seats fold and slide forwards independently, allowing owners to expand the 468-litre boot to 1510L.
According to BMW Australia general marketing manager Toni Andreevski, the local market will mirror global projections and return around 75 per cent conquest sales — in other words, three in four people who buy the car will be hopping out of another brand’s product, rather than swapping one BMW for another.
Many of these buyers will be younger families making a conscious move away from SUVs and stepping up from a ‘non-premium’ brand, Andreevski said, while another set will be older buyers wanting to downsize. At this early stage, BMW is projecting a fairly even sales split between the four variants to be offered from launch.
When asked why the company was not gunning to undercut the Mercedes-Benz, Andreevski said a sharp opening gambit was not the be-all and end-all at this end of the market.
“When you look at the customer buying behaviour, we looked at what was the average option content of that competitive product and the average was $5000, so nobody is buying the list price version basically,” he said. “When we looked at that we said ‘why don’t we just price the car and have that equipment plus more in it?’
As we have reported, B-Class sales are down 43.4 per cent this year, something Mercedes pins on cannibalisation from cars such as the A-Class. But BMW says there is still a strong market there for cars like the B-Class and 2 Series Active Tourer, especially if you take a longer-term view.
“We think we’d rather focus on the potential of the segment in then longer term,” Andreevski said. “There might be some short-term reasons why B-Class sales have reduced… but that is (still) a substantial number of cars.”
Andreeevski added that even with the negative growth, the B-Class still stood a chance at out-selling BMW’s own (rear-drive) 1 Series this year, which the company hopes will achieve 2300 annual deliveries.
“What the competition have shown us is that customers are ready to embrace this concept,” he said, adding that the 1 Series’ younger and sportier demographic should keep any cannibalisation and cross-shopping with the BMW range to a minimum.
It is also worth pointing out that overall premium small-car sales are up 31 per cent this year thanks to the Audi A3 and A-Class, and that luxury cars overall are about the only part of the market not going backwards.
As such, an entry-priced car with a premium German badge is a sure way to bolster volume, and with BMW the slowest-growing of the German ‘big three (up ‘only’ 8.7 per cent this year against 18.5 per cent for Audi and 14.3 per cent for Mercedes) any new model with the potential for incremental growth will be deemed of high importance.