Big Beemer sets a high bar

You’re looking at BMW’s first seven-seat MPV, built on the same architecture as the 2 Series Active Tourer but with 11cm slotted into the wheelbase and a useful bit of extra boot length. The Munich-based firm has already trodden new ground with the Active Tourer and has taken its fair share of flak for it, but thanks to models like these BMW is in for a bumper sales year.

2015 BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer
2015 BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

There’s no getting away from the fact that the 2 Series Gran Tourer is a bit awkward in shape and size, the high roof line dragging the visual weight upwards from the waist line. But it’s all for a purpose, or purposes: the many-
faceted principle of practicality. It’s a BMW that is unashamedly aimed at people who just want a family car to work for them, every day.

There is so much to talk about here that it simply won’t fit, but there’s a sliding middle row of seats to allow three rows of adults to get comfy (enough) if needed. The door pockets are sculpted in various ways to hold large bottles. The huge boot is very flexible, with near-flat folding seats including the front passenger chair for potential load length of well over two metres.

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Around the boot you’ll find a dedicated slot for the luggage cover, hooks for shopping bags and a handy button to close the automatic tailgate. Keep looking around and you’ll find the cupboard space underneath the two front seats, but the removable tray tables for row two passengers are more obvious.

A BMW demo showed that with the third seat row folded you can even fit a washing machine – in its box – in the boot behind the middle bench. Handy.

Some writers will tell you that the Gran Tourer feels no different to drive than any other (inevitably cheaper) compact MPV, but they’d only be right up to a point. The Bee-Em is very stable and handles neatly via uncommonly direct steering – the first difference. The second and more pronounced one comes if you take it by the scruff of the neck and drive it hard through some corners. It behaves like a hatchback, and a good one at that!

True, no one will drive it like that but the relevant fact is that in a desperate swerve to avoid a collision, the Gran Tourer is more capable than you’d expect. Watch out at roundabouts because the thick A-pillar assembly blocks the natural view, and be warned that all the engines will record disappointing fuel economy if abused. But then again, with effort I squeezed 63mpg out of the petrol 218i.

If budget is the key concern you won’t buy this car. It’s built specifically to retain business among BMW owners whose needs outgrow the likes of the 1 Series, 3 Series or even the five-seater 2 Series Active Tourer. For the amount of usefulness it crams so cleverly into its compact shell, along with the sheer spectrum of kit on high-spec models, it’s not too bad value at all.

The fact that you can get as many as four child seats into the car is impressive enough for parents, and there are options for cleverly-integrated folding tow bars and bike racks that tilt to allow the boot to open without removing the bikes. It’s clearly a family car, either for parents at the head of growing families or for grandparents keen to carry all their grandkids at once.