PREMIUM German car manufacturer BMW has surprised the world of motoring by launching their first ever front wheel drive car since they were founded 85 years ago and not only that it is powered by their first three cylinder engine plus it is also their first MPV writes Bryan Longworth.
The 218i Active Tourer which I have just been testing is therefore something completely different for the company who have a top reputation for producing fine sporting and executive cars with superb multi cylinder engines all with rear wheel drive which is why the 218i is such a major change in policy for the Munich manufacturer.
So the 218i which is available with the turbo charged three cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine and a diesel is a significant addition to the BMW portfolio which should attract a new type of owner to the marque especially younger owners with families who have not aspired to a Beemer previously because they did not have such a model in their range.
My test car was the 218i Sport Active Tourer with the three cylinder engine but a wider variety of engines will eventually be available and there will also be a four wheel drive model which will considerably add to the appeal of this type of car.
The 218i has styling that is similar to other MPVs but that very prestigeous BMW badge and double kidney grille up front makes a lot of difference for buyers wanting a top class model to impress the neighbours and inside there was a leather clad very roomy luxurious interior with that splendid BMW fascia including user friendly controls and instruments.
It seemed strange having a three cylinder engine in a BMW but once I got used to it it certainly did the business being quite lively and while it had that distinctive sound that three cylinder engines make it was smoother especially at higher speeds than other three cylinder engined cars I have tested and at 70mph on the motorway it sounded just like any four cylinder engine.
The 136hp power unit had a top speed of 124mph a zero to 62mph acceleration time of 9.3 seconds a combined fuel consumption of 57.6 mpg and CO2 emissions of 115g/km being priced at £24,295 on the road although the test car was loaded with optional extras.
Apart from the engine the 218i was very much like driving other BMW models that are so enjoyable with their excellent handling and steering qualities which are inherent with the marque and will give this model extra appeal.
Family owners in particular will appreciate the spacious boot which can be increased by folding the rear seats and the hatchback on the test car was operated electrically making it much easier for accessing the load area especially when carrying shopping bags.
I particularly liked the head up speed display right in front of the steering wheel making it easy for the driver to see the speed of the car in all light conditions although it would have been even better if the digital numerals had been larger.
Overall BMW should be congratulated on their first front wheel drive car, first MPV and first three cylinder engine because the 218i is such a good car in every way.
The 218i may not be quite the real thing for some BMW purists but after driving the car for a week I can assure them it is an excellent premium MPV although it is something completely different from the traditional BMW range and it will widen the appeal of BMW cars increasing their sales and front wheel drive will be especially useful for winter motoring.
Model: BMW 218i Active Tourer.
Engine: 1.5-litre three cylinder petrol.
Transmission: Six speed manual.
Top speed: 124mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 9.3 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 57.6mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: ll5g/km.