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First UK drive: BMW 220i Gran Tourer LCI. Image by BMW.

First UK drive: BMW 220i Gran Tourer LCI
BMWs odd-bod MPVs get their midlife facelift, but can you actually tell?

   



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BMW 220i Gran Tourer LCI

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

BMW treats both the shorter, five-seat Active Tourer and longer, seven-seat Gran Tourer MPVs to their 'life cycle impulse' (LCI), which is BMW-speak for a midlife facelift. Here, we drive the 220i Gran Tourer.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW 220i Gran Tourer Sport
Pricing: 36,825 as tested; range starts at 26,775
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed DCT twin-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: seven-seat MPV
CO2 emissions: 134g/km (VED Band 131-150: 205 in year one, 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 47.9mpg
Top speed: 137mph
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Power: 192hp at 5,000-6,000rpm
Torque: 280Nm at 1,250-4,600rpm
Boot space: 145/560/1,820 litres (depends on seating adjustments)

What's this?

The black sheep of BMW's wider 2 Series family, the Active and Gran Tourer MPVs, being refreshed for the 2019MY. Technologically, there's nothing much to talk about - the same range of turbocharged three- and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are employed as they were pre-LCI, while drive continues to go solely to the front axle unless an xDrive AWD model is selected; underneath, these two BMWs share pretty much everything with the revised MINI, so about the only main talking point on the drivetrains front is the adoption of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) as a cost upgrade on certain models. We're testing it here, in conjunction with the 220i engine that is essentially the unit that powers the MINI Cooper S.

Visually, extremely minor tweaks have been made to a model which is not BMW's finest stylistic hour. OK, in terms of a two-box MPV, form very much follows function, but even so the beaky 2 AT and GT models are not attractive; not in the way, say, the (admittedly larger) Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer, ne Picasso most undoubtedly is. When it comes to the BMW pair, we think the rear of the extended Gran Tourer sits just a little more comfortably with the overall proportions of the car, so it's the one we (marginally) prefer. Which is a little bit like saying Swindon is ever so slightly more attractive than Slough, but we digress.

The changes, then, amount to these: up front, enlarged and deeper kidney grilles are framed by revised light clusters (that can optionally feature the 'twin hexagon' Icon LED graphics), while down below there's a wider apron with horizontal foglamps; along the sides, nothing has been altered, so this is an ideal juncture to inform you that two new colours - Sunset Orange and Jucaro Beige - have replaced the dowdy old Atlantic Grey and Platinum Silver in the 2 Series AT/GT palette; and, at the back, the exhausts have increased from 75mm in diameter to 90mm now - almost all models gain twin tailpipes, too, instead of lowlier engines making do with a single peashooter. Inside, the amendments amount to the adoption of iDrive 6, a 5.7-inch black panel display, new upholsteries for the seats (addendum: the front chairs have enlarged seat bases for increased comfort) and a different design of gear lever.

How does it drive?

Brilliantly, in that slightly perverse way that the Active and Gran Tourers always have. This is the MINI floor pan, remember, and while front-wheel drive might have long been anathema to BMW, it's still a chassis that's leagues ahead of any other MPV we can think of for driver involvement. There's nice, sharp turn-in, good steering, impressive body control and even a tiny feeling of lift-off oversteer agility; yes, that goes for the longer Gran Tourer, too. Strong engine as well, this 220i - it has that slightly coarse four-cylinder sound when being extended, but it provides more than decent straight-line urge for the Gran Tourer, while the new DCT is a real star. However, that isn't such a big surprise, as we'd now invite you to try and remember the last BMW automatic that was a clunker. Anyone who says SMGIII from the V10 M5 will be instantly deported.

The thing is... do MPV owners want lift-off oversteer? A slightly-too-firm ride? What might, by less charitable souls than us, be deemed hyperactive steering? Or do they actually want pillow-smooth comportment, a little bit of floppiness to the body control and a generally laid-back demeanour that encourages the children riding in the back NOT to be violently sick all over the finest Nappa leather? We happen to think the latter. And so, the 2 Series Gran Tourer just comes across as a bit confused. Oh, it's not bad for refinement, but you'll pick up on more of the road surface's imperfections than is strictly necessary and there's more wind noise in this car than we remember in other, similarly upright MPVs.

And, while the BMW has a reasonably spacious and intelligent interior, it doesn't feel like it has been designed with a thoroughly fastidious focus on how people will interact with it in every scenario that doesn't involve 'spirited driving'. There's above average space in the second and third rows, nothing more, while the cabin isn't exactly replete with the sort of clever little touches and hidden storage lockers that you might find in what - on the face of it - look like more prosaic MPVs.

All of which leaves the expense of the thing, which is yet another 'hmm' moment for the 2 Active Tourer/Gran Tourer twins: yes, the opening list price of the seven-seat version starts at around 27,000, but a 220i Sport Gran Tourer with a few options on it is by no means top of the tree, even though our test car clocked in at a frighteningly hefty 36,825. We were soon disabused of the notion that this was a 'chuffing lot of cash' for such a vehicle, by then going on to drive a 43,000+ 225xe Active Tourer later in the day. Even with Government grants and the promise of highly competitive PCP deals, that's still a startling figure that makes us wince, involuntarily. Just remind us how much an M2 manual is, again...?

Verdict

If you really, really want a BMW MPV, the 2 Series Gran Tourer LCI is about as good an execution of this formula as you could expect of it - even though we think it's ugly, it's not that practical and it can get monstrously expensive, mighty quickly. However, the sprightly chassis and prestige image it gives off will be enough to convince plenty of buyers to take a chance on it, whereupon they'll find an intriguing people carrier that has some meaty performance and class-leading infotainment.

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 29 Jul 2018



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