2023 BMW 223i Active Tourer U06

2023 BMW 223i Active Tourer U06

The 2 Series Active Tourer returns with a bolder look, more tech and a solid line-up of engines to choose from.

Words: Dave Humphreys

Photographs: BMW

U06 2 Series Active Tourer

2023 BMW 223i Active Tourer U06

Among the expansive range of models in BMW’s current offering the 2 Series Active Tourer is arguably one that stands out the most by way of its silhouette. The original introduction of the compact MPV in 2014 saw the company break away from its established range of coupés, saloons and SUVs. Even the name, Active Tourer, suggested that this was something entirely new for BMW, and while dyed-in-the-wool purists might not have liked its arrival on the scene, the model did serve an important function in bringing new customers to the brand without cannibalising sales of its other models. BMW says that the vast majority of its Active Tourer buyers are conquest sales, meaning they are new to the brand. In the subsequent years BMW has shifted more than 430,000 Active Tourers including all-wheel-drive and plug-in hybrid variants, not to forget the seven-seat Gran Tourer model, too.

2023 BMW 223i Active Tourer U06

With such success BMW has chosen not to alter a winning formula all that much. The new design gives the car a slightly larger footprint than its predecessor, with an increase in length and width of 32mm and 24mm, respectively, while the roof is 21mm taller than before, placing it closer to the X1 in terms of exterior dimensions – though that model is also set for renewal later this year.

Whereas the original 2 Series Active Tourer featured more classical BMW design elements, now the car has a look that is bolder and contemporary with a sprinkling of ingredients from other models in the line-up. The kidney grilles appear comically oversized, broad enough to almost fill the gap entirely between the sleek LED headlights, and high enough to rise from the registration plate and over the sloping bonnet. Entry-grade Sport models get a slightly subtler set, unlike the Luxury and M Sport cars that are adorned with glossy black and chrome details. As with other BMW models the vertical slats can open and close according to the cooling requirements of the engine. The radar sensor for the driver assistance systems is nestled discreetly in the central section of the grille.

2023 BMW 223i Active Tourer U06

The Active Tourer’s increased height is noticeable along its beltline and doors that feature less obvious surfacing details. Flushfitting door handles ape those of the electric i4 and do take a bit of getting used to. Whereas you previously reached down into the handle and pulled it out to open a BMW’s door, now you reach under and lift a flat latch that could do with a grippier surface.

As is increasingly the case, the specification grade has a significant impact on the overall appearance and while those who cherish ride comfort might be drawn to the standard 17-inch wheels on the Active Tourer Sport, the bi-colour multi-spoke 19-inch alloys that are optionally available on the M Sport version do look quite appealing and complement the Portimao Blue metallic paint, which really pops in the sun. An increase in exterior dimensions reflects positively on the interior where the cabin couldn’t appear more different to the model it replaces. While the previous 2 Series Active Tourer featured a basic and button-heavy dashboard layout, this all-new approach looks radically different, not only in a more modern sense but also in terms of quality and technology.

Physical buttons are now few and far between thanks to the bulk of the car’s functions being done through the beautiful frameless Curved Display that also features in the electric iX and i4 models. In this application the touchscreen is brought closer to the driver, which in turn led BMW to decide that the rotary controller was superfluous, resulting in its omission. Not since the introduction of the innovative iDrive system in the E65 7 Series has a BMW not had such a feature, providing the Active Tourer with an unusual, shared bookend with the Z8.

Some will undoubtedly miss being able to quickly navigate through the iDrive system with that controller, but the latest Operating System 8 is superb to use either through voice control or touching the screen. The dual-screen setup uses two slightly different sized displays though you tend not to notice as they’re housed behind a glass surface to give a uniform appearance. The 10.25-inch instrument display looks great, and the 10.7-inch touchscreen has the same feel as using a top-notch tablet or smartphone.

Very much a BMW for the modern era, wireless mirroring of Android and Apple devices is possible onto that gorgeous display and there’s a neat wireless charging pad that includes a moveable bar, not too dissimilar to what holds you in place on a rollercoaster, to ensure that your device remains in contract with the upright unit while it charges. USB-C ports are now the order of the day and the area between the front seats seems more useful thanks to the floating armrest and open-sided storage area underneath. Like on the iX, volume controls, drive mode select buttons and a rocker switch drive selector fall easily to hand. Manual gearboxes are yet another casualty of the Active Tourer’s evolution. A variety of materials are available for the interior including a new Aluminium Hexacube design and open-pore fine eucalyptus wood. There’s contrasting blue stitching on certain models and the front seats are a new design that provides a nice balance of comfort and support. Those seated behind do quite well out of the new proportions with ample amounts of headroom and impressive kneeroom. Practicality is a key aspect for many prospective buyers and the BMW puts in a good account of itself in this regard. The wide boot aperture and low loading height give it a slight edge over some taller SUVs and the 470-litre boot capacity (with a maximum of 1,455-litres) is reasonable, though that volume does fall to 415-litres (with a maximum of 1,405-litres) in engines equipped with the 48-volt mild-hybrid system, while the plug-in hybrid gets a 406-litre boot capacity with a maximum of 1,370-litres.

Meanwhile, the rear seat backs can not only recline to boost passenger comfort and slide fore and aft, but can also be set upright to 90- degrees to make it easier to store bulky items in the boot. All positive and useful, but does the 2 Series Active Tourer still drive like a BMW? Yes and no, as the engine you choose has some influence on that. Improved engines and an increase in the use of electrification have positive implications for both emissions and fuel consumption. The 1.5-litre three-cylinder 220i benefits from a 14kW (19hp) boost from the electric motor resulting in a total of 170hp. A typical three-pot thrum accompanies but doesn’t intrude and if you’re sticking to mostly urban driving this is the engine to have. There’s a certain degree of punchiness to it though don’t expect huge fun or engagement levels.

Without being stressed the seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch transmission makes decent progress without being very noticeable and it is quick to react in most circumstances. An increase in front and rear track widths does make the Active Tourer seem a touch more planted and there’s decent feedback from the steering when you find a suitable ribbon of tarmac.

To help the mild-hybrid system be more efficient the Active Tourer utilises BMW’s Adaptive Recuperation in the Personal and Efficient settings of MyModes. Drawing on information of its surroundings such as map data, the car will automatically initiate energy recuperation if it detects that it’s due to slow down, such as when approaching a roundabout. A braking energy of up to 0.075g doesn’t quite result in the one-pedal driving feel that you would get in an i3S, for example, but it does its bit to pump some energy back into the smaller secondary battery.

In turn, that can then either accommodate longer engine-off moments when in stationary traffic or enable brief periods of coasting at various speeds, including motorway speed limits, with the engine off to help save fuel. The engine restart is close to seamless too. The addition of an extra cylinder on the 223i adds a generous dollop of polish to how the Active Tourer drives. A bump in power output to 218hp gives it more legs for the higher speed stuff away from towns and cities.

Getting up to speed when joining a motorway is done with less fuss and the engine is quieter and smoother when dispatching its performance as well. We sampled this engine in M Sport guise, which drops the ride height by 15mm and, combined with the frequency-selective damping, it made for a car that handles better than it needs to in the corners. Body lean is kept well in check without detracting from overall comfort.

Although not present at the car’s international launch, there will also be a solitary diesel offering in the form of the 218d. While diesel is falling in popularity the four-cylinder engine has come in for some developments such as friction-optimised pistons to enhance efficiency and reduce noise levels.

Knowing that many prospective buyers will be families that typically face shorter urban driving routes, BMW has high expectations for the plug-in hybrid variants of the Active Tourer. Both the 225e and 230e benefit from xDrive by way of an electric motor driving the rear wheels. That motor is fed by a 14.2kWh battery that is located within the floor of the car and can provide an electric-only driving range of up to 56-miles, while charging can be completed in less than 2-hours 30-minutes. A brief drive in a pre-production 230e xDrive left us in no doubt as to its performance. Some would argue that the combined 326hp output is perhaps overkill for such a car, though the engineer that accompanied us was keen to point out that this practical MPV has almost as much power as an E46 M3 and is only 0.4- seconds slower to 62mph. Despite the added weight of the plug-in hybrid powertrain the handling is, as compact MPVs go, quite decent and the novelty of having a ten-second power boost activated by holding down the left shifter paddle is something that some kids in the back seat will be demanding on a regular basis. The 2 Series Active Tourer has done well to carve out a niche for itself in BMW’s range since 2014 and now this all-new model, with its broad choice of engines, is set to continue to offer buyers a practical alternative to an SUV.

Cabin space is plentiful and quality noticeably high. Right: Practicality is key, the boot is capacious. Engine choices include a range of petrol hybrids BMW has high expectations for the plug-in hybrid variants.

TECHNICAL DATA 2023 BMW 223i Active Tourer U06

  • ENGINE: four-cylinder turbo petrol with 48v mild hybrid
  • CAPACITY: 1998cc
  • MAX POWER: 218bhp @ 5000-6500rpm with 19hp electric motor
  • MAX TORQUE: 265lb ft @ 1500-4000rpm
  • 0-62MPH: 7.0-seconds
  • TOP SPEED: 150mph
  • ECONOMY: 42.8-47.1mpg
  • EMISSIONS: 149-137g/km
  • PRICE (OTR): £32,715 (Sport)
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