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The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer MPV will kick off from $44,400 plus on-road costs when it arrives in Australian showrooms from November this year.

The local starting price, which reflects our report last week, means the first front-wheel-drive BMW sits $3500 over and above its Mercedes-Benz B-Class B180 arch rival, though the Bavarian brand makes up for it with specification and what it boldly claims to be a sportier drive.

While the B-Class is the 2 Series Active Tourer’s only total conceptual rival, BMW will be targeting a broad spectrum of buyers who may also be looking at cars as diverse as a high-spec Volkswagen Tiguan 155TSI ($43,490) or even a top-of-the-line Kia Rondo Platinum ($38,990).

See our first drive review from the European launch of the 2 Series Active Tourer here.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 17

According to company projections, as many as three-quarters of all buyers will be ‘conquest buyers’, meaning they’ve come to the BMW brand from somewhere else — typically, they will be trading up from a mainstream brand, drawn to the allure of the propellor badge and kidney grille.

However, consideration will also be given to one within BMW’s own ranks: the rear-drive and AWD X1 crossover, which is sportier but less utilitarian than the Active Tourer, priced between $48,300 and $59,900.

The Active Tourer will tap into a phenomenon occurring within the Australian market in which buyers are flocking to entry level fare from ‘premium’ brands with ‘badge cred’. In a market down 3.4 per cent, all mainstream luxury brands are well up on sales compared to last year.

“The 2 Series Active Tourer will facilitate the company’s entry into a whole new customer segment,” said Shawn Ticehurst, head of product and market planning for BMW Group Australia.

While not an all-wheel-drive offering like price-equivalent compact SUVs, the 2 Series Active Tourer features an elevated driving position and what BMW claims to be similar passenger and cargo space.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 19

The inherent packaging benefits of the less-dynamic front-drive configuration are the reason for this. The UKL platform underneath the tallboy body is also under the new Mini, and could in time spawn a whole family of compact cars a la the Mercedes-Benz MFA platform.

The entry price applies to the 218i Sport line, which sports the same 100kW (at 4400rpm) and 220Nm (between 1250 and 4300rpm) 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine as the new Mini, matched in Australia to a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The European six-speed manual is a no-go for us.

The little triple-cylinder consumes a claimed 5.2L/100km on the combined-cycle and emits 122g/km and meets Euro 6 emission requirements, along with the rest of the engine family. Importantly, each petrol engine in the 2 Series Active Tourer can also run on cheaper 91 RON fuel.

Stepping up to range’s economy leader, the equally-equipped 218i Sport Line, adds a $3400 premium with a starting price of $47,800. The oil-burning engine is a 2.0-litre turbo unit that develops 110kW at 4000rpm and 330Nm between 1750 and 2750rpm and chews as little as 4.2L/100km and emits 111g/km.

BMW Active Tourer

Australian versions will get an eight-speed Steptronic auto as standard.

The range-topping variant will be the 225i Luxury Line petrol, priced at $54,900, more than a 316i. Under the snub bonnet sits a 170kW (at 5000rom) and 350Nm (between 1250 and 4500rpm) 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that can hustle the car from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds, but restrict fuel use to 6.1L/100km under gentler treatment.

As with the diesel, the eight-speed automatic transmission is standard fit for Australia. But unlike the diesel, not even the European market can get a manual version of this car.

Shortly after this trio around the second quarter of 2015, a mid-range 135kW/270Nm 220i will launch, likely priced around the same ballpark as the 218d.

As we reported last week when we got preliminary pricing details, this pricing structure will make the BMW more expensive across the board than the B-Class, which retails from $40,900 and tops out at $50,400.

BMW Active Tourer

But BMW says base pricing is less important than equipment levels, and is confident cross-shoppers will look beyond the headline of the dotted-line. Frequently, base cars are optioned-up to the hilt, so BMW says it simply made what would usually be options, standard.

The 218i and 218d variants will get features including 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, satellite navigation on a 6.5-inch screen, 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. There are six airbags as standard, though no NCAP rating as yet.

The forthcoming 220i will add the 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.

A head-up display with 8.8-inch screen, a full-length panoramic sunroof and radar-guided cruise control will all be options.

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At this early stage, BMW is projecting a fairly even sales split between the four variants to be offered from launch, though typical market behaviour is for the flagship version — in this case the 225i — to be disproportionately popular in the first few months of the life cycle.

Even though the B-Class is down on sales by 44.0 per cent this year, and even though MPV sales traditionally lag behind SUVs — an area in which BMW is stronger than its German rivals — the company expects the Active Tourer to be one of its biggest-sellers, though specific targets remain unclear.

Dimensionally, the 2 Series Active Tourer is 4342mm long, 1800mm wide and 1555mm high — pretty much on par with the B-Class — and sits on a relatively long 2670mm wheelbase. Cargo space is 468L to 1510L with the 40:20:40 rear seats folded flat. There are also sliding rear seats, a hidden storage compartment under the rear floor.

This makes the Active Tourer about 130mm shorter than the rear-drive/AWD X1, which thanks to its design and underpinnings offers an inferior 420L/1350L of storage.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 2

The new chassis has aluminium single-joint spring strut suspension up front and a multi-link steel setup at the rear.

The electromechanical steering system is claimed to iron out torque-steer thats to what BMW calls “precisely calculated elastokinematics and precise software calibration”. There are also specially-designed engine ‘pendulum’ mount and what is said to be a “very stiff” front end to aid precision.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer pricing (plus on-road costs):

  • 218i Sport Line $44,400
  • 218d Sport Line $47,800
  • 225i Luxury Line $54,900