BMW is confident the 2 Series Active Tourer (AT) will give it incremental growth as it draws from a fast-growing pool of entry-level ‘premium’ buyers, and snatches sales from rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
Pitched as a rival for the B-Class, as well as compact SUVs, the 2 Series AT is perhaps best identified as the first front-drive car from the Bavarian car maker. But BMW insists nevertheless that the FWD model is not entirely a compromise and maintains its trademark driving-oriented DNA.
BMW Australia finance director Peter Buchauer told us at the local launch this week that there is room within the market for this type of MPV model, even though sales of the B-Class are down 26 per cent this year as rivals such as the A-Class and Audi A3 have eaten into its sales.
“The compact segment is growing, while the premium segment remains strong, that’s where the 2 Series Active Tourer has its place in the market,” he said.
The move to FWD may have purists up in arms, but packaging realities dictate the shift to this configuration, brought about by the construction of a new company architecture called the UKL1, a platform shared with subsidiary Mini.
Speaking at this week’s local launch, BMW Australia’s head of product marketing and planning, Shawn Ticehurst, said front-wheel drive configuration frees up space, allowing for greater flexibility inside the vehicle, later describing the interior as a space that defies its exterior.
“As a company, we’ve had quite a lot of experience through the Mini brand,” he said.
To make things even more interesting, the German car maker is tipping the majority of sales will come from buyers new to the brand.
“75 per cent of sales are expected to be attracted from other brands,” said Mr Ticehurst, no doubt many of which are more mainstream.
Such a figure would bolster BMW’s position in the rapidly expanding premium small-car market, giving it a valuable foil for its 1 Series that has ceded share this year to its German nemesis’.
Globally BMW sales were up 9.1 per cent at the end of the third-quarter, in Australia that figure jumped to 10.7 per cent, though Audi is up 20.4 per cent and Mercedes-Benz has grown 14.6 per cent.
The new 2 Series AT has a higher driving position than a hatch or van, flexible seating and cargo space, a premium interior and features such as satellite-navigation come standard across the range – plus BMW claims the sporty 225i variant drives almost like a hot-hatch. Our review goes live later this week, so we’ll be testing the veracity of that claim.
To sweeten the pot, standard features include an automatic tailgate, LED DRL’s, USB and iPod connectivity, emergency call through BMW Connected Drive, plus parking assist, speed limiting, voice control, lane-departure warning and high beam assist.
The company projects buyers who might have been looking at the mainstream options might be tempted by the AT’s entry price. As we have reported, the 2 Series is priced at $44,400 to $54,900 before on-road costs. The 2 Series Active Tourer will be available in the 218i, 218d, 220i and 225i specifications. The 225i due to arrive in January and the rest in early December.