BMW raised a few eyebrows when it debuted its front-wheel drive-biased 2-Series Active Tourer model, and people quickly called it “not a BMW,” it was a model which dilutes the brand, and just plain ugly. However, after spending a few days with the top-of-the-range plug-in hybrid version of the 2 AT, the 225xe iPerformance, its many qualities did start to shine through, in spite of my initial hesitation to like it.

And I did like it in the end, even if not for the usual reasons one traditionally appreciates a BMW. I found it very spacious to sit in, with surprisingly comfortable seats, I liked its excellent fit and finish, and even the one-box design started to grow on me.

The driving experience is also pretty good, but again, not very BMW-like. It drives like one of the larger models in the MINI lineup, and that’s no accident because they all use a shared (modular) architecture.

My tester was also made even more likable thanks to its plug-in hybrid powertrain which works very smoothly and seamlessly, allowing it to change its character from silent side street cruiser to a hissing, turbocharged all-wheel-drive people carrier with hot hatch performance.

Photography by Andrei Nedelea

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid Exterior

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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While the 2-Series Active Tourer is not bad to look at it isn’t the prettiest BMW on the dealer lot.

There’s nothing offensive about its design, but its shape was clearly penned for maximum interior room and then styled around it.

Looking at the car head on, it looks like any other BMW, with its twin-kidney grille (with blue-tinted vertical bars on this plug-in hybrid model) and familiar headlight design; you really couldn’t confuse it with any other model from any other brand.

From the side it’s definitely more anonymous - to me it looks a lot like the Kia Carens, but I don’t mean that with any negative connotations attached - I actually don’t mind the look of the Carens, which is handsome enough for a people mover, and the same holds true for the 2-Series Active Tourer. At the back, I would have liked it to have slimmer light clusters, because the ones it has seem a bit oversized, but again, nothing really bad to report here either.

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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Being the plug-in hybrid model, it also has eDrive badges on the C-pillars, as well as iPerformance badges on the front fenders, behind the wheels. The left front fender also houses the charging port which is hidden behind a door just like the one that hides fuel filler.

My top trim tester, which was finished in one of BMW’s best and boldest colors,

Sunset Orange, it looked just as great on it as it does on any other model.

It also rode on 18-inch star-spoke wheels to really drive the point home that this is a people carrier with some sporting pedigree.

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid Interior

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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The first thing that strikes you about the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer’s interior is how high you sit behind the wheel - this is very unusual for a BMW, but it’s pretty much the same as other similar vehicles.

It also feels very airy and spacious inside, and whichever seat you happen to be in, you get a decent view of the area around you.

Both front and rear seat comfort levels proved surprisingly high, even if second-row passengers sit quite high and this may not be to everyone’s liking.

Materials are pretty good on most surfaces, although if you compare its interior to that of, say, a 5-Series, it won’t look so hot. But again, for a vehicle designed to swiftly carry a small family in, and one which isn’t crazy expensive like some larger BMWs, it’s really quite good.

The 2-Series Active Tourer has several interior particularities that make it quite unique, even among other similar vehicles: its front center armrest can be raised out of the way, and underneath it there’s a small tray where you can leave and easily access your phone or wallet - I used it to transport a small cake that needed not to be tilted at all or really be moved that much, and by the time I got home, it was perfectly intact.

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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Then there’s the cubby in the center console - it’s usually under the center console, or between it and the transmission tunnel, but here it actually splits the center console in half. I’ve not seen this solution in any other car, but it makes reaching whatever you have in there very easy - the space itself is deep and cavernous enough that you can even store a pair of glasses in there safely.

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid Drivetrain

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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The 225xe iPerformance is powered by a 1.5-liter, turbocharged, three-cylinder that drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. An electric motor drives the rear wheels.

The three-pot makes 136 metric horsepower quite low in its rev range, at 4,400 rpm, and its peak torque of 220 Nm (162 pound-feet) arrives between 1,250 and 4,300 rpm.

Its electric motor (which makes 88 metric horsepower and 165 Nm / 121 pound-feet of torque) rounds out the car’s peak power to 224 metric horsepower combined they are able to push the car from naught to 100 km/h or 62 mph in a very brisk 6.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 202 km/h or 125.5 mph.

But the numbers don’t do the 225xe driving experience justice - it sprints instantly from any speed and any combustion engine rpm since the electric motor is always on hand to provide its maximum shove. Sometimes you floor the throttle, and before the three-pot turbo even has time to wake up, the car starts accelerating - once the engine is fired up, acceleration builds in a linear manner.

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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It doesn’t feel particularly quick from the driver’s seat, though, and it’s definitely the kind of car where you have to constantly look at the speedo in order to not break the law. It’s really hushed most of the time, and even when the three-cylinder springs into life, you only hear it at very high revs. BMW has definitely done a good job insulating the cabin from what I know from MINI models is quite a rough engine that sends vibration into the cabin - not the case in the 2-Series Active Tourer, though, as it’s far more refined than a MINI.

Out on the road, the 225xe stands out through its super sharp steering which is maybe a bit too sharp off-center - but you get used to it quickly and then it takes you time to adapt to your own (considerably older) car.

Take a corner a bit too fast, and it will start to safely transition into understeer, but bravely plant your right foot on the throttle, and the back will come around more than you’d expect from a front-wheel drive-biased car such as this.

It’s not the most fun to drive BMW, though, not even at this price point, as it does sometimes feel heavy to transition when tackling successions of bends. This is the case because the 225xe is actually not that light, weighing in at 1,735 kg or 3,825 pounds.

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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Probably the most fun thing you can do in one of these is launch it hard off the line - press the brake with your left foot, then as you gradually squeeze the gas, the torque from the electric motor will make the rear wheels chirp as you set off.

Regarding efficiency, BMW claims the 225xe iPerformance uses a mere 2.5 l/100km of gasoline (or 94.09 mpg) and, while it could match that value if you constantly keep the battery topped up (which I wasn’t able to do) and are light on the throttle, it's not a realistic number.

I did drive the car in quite a spirited manner, not trying to be efficient in any way, and my final efficiency figure was closer to 8 l/100km (29.40 mpg) with about equal measures city and highway driving.

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid Pricing

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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BMW will sell you a base 216i Active Tourer in Romania from €26,537 ($30,503), but the plug-in hybrid 225xe iPerformance kicks off at €37,188 ($42,746). My tester, however, had plenty of extra kit, starting with the Sport Line pack which added another €3,272, the €1,378 Business Class pack, the €2,459 Innovation pack and those snazzy looking rims which cost €1,087. These are the most expensive options (not all of them) and all in it cost exactly €50,467 ($58,019) and you probably can’t make it much more expensive than this - it really wasn’t lacking for gadgets.

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid Competition

Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Exterior
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Kia launched a plug-in hybrid version of its Niro crossover earlier this year, and so far it’s been receiving good reviews from automotive journos. It’s nowhere near as fast as the 225xe, and it lacks the kudos associated with a premium badge, but it is very comfortable, spacious and not bad to look at - I actually think it’s the more handsome of the two cars, although the BMW is more honest since it’s not trying to tempt you with high-riding crossover looks like the Kia does.

The Niro plug-in retails locally from €33,451 ($38,416) and comes decently well equipped. While it may not feel like a premium vehicle, it more than makes up for that with its spaciousness and decent levels of standard tech.

Read our full review on the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

2017 Mini Countryman High Resolution Exterior
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BMW will also sell you the same powertrain from the 225xe in its MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid. It feels very similar to drive because both share the same chassis architecture, although the MINI is slightly slower to accelerate to 100 km/h or 62 mph from a standstill, completing the sprint in 6.8 seconds, one-tenth slower than the BMW.

Its interior feels just as spacious, but with the usual MINI touches, it feels more youthful and characterful. You can’t even split them on price as the plug-in Countryman starts at €37,247 locally, which is negligibly more than the BMW.

Read our full review on the MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

Conclusion

2018 BMW 225xe iPerformance plug-in hybrid - Driven
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While the 225 xe may be seen as expensive and kind of pointless for most buyers who would just rather get a cheaper version with a lower power output, for some buyers who have access to a car charger it will make a lot of sense. It may not come close to BMW’s claimed electric-only range, but it manages about half that with no effort, so you’re looking at figure of around 25 km (16 miles).

It drives well, looks decent, and it can carry four people quite comfortably, even on longer journeys. It’s practical, unique, and high tech enough to justify its price tag, but I doubt many will go for the iPerformance model when BMW offers great conventional gasoline and diesel choices.

It’s great for a small family looking for a low-key premium electrified runabout, especially if they have a home charger or easy access to one.

Some will simply avoid it based on its design which is nowhere near as attractive as that of pretty much any other BMW in the range, but for a particular niche, it will prove to be a great vehicle that they will enjoy driving and being in, especially in the city - it also grants free access to city center congestion zones, so maybe it could also work as a posh, compact minicab.

Further reading

2014 - 2020 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.

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