For the past few years, BMW has been hard at work filling every available niche in the new car market, but the latest addition is the most ambitious yet. The 2 Series Active Tourer is not only the company’s first-ever MPV, it’s the first model to feature front-wheel drive. 

This departure from the brand’s sporty image and rear-wheel-drive roots is sure to upset loyal fans, but will also open it up to a vast array of buyers who’d never before have considered a BMW. And with its spacious and beautifully finished five-seat cabin, upmarket looks and low running costs, the Active Tourer is sure to appeal. Plus, bosses claim the car should be as fun to drive as a traditional BMW.

In its first test, it faces two formidable family car rivals. Citroen’s stylish C4 Picasso mixes bold looks, a versatile interior and great refinement, and is as desirable as it is practical. Then there’s the Mazda CX-5, which boasts rugged looks, lots of space, fine handling and ultra-low running costs. But which family car takes the spoils?

Space

The roomy Citroen crosses the line first in the space race. Even in its smallest configuration, the 537-litre boot is the biggest here, while there are three full-size rear seats with plenty of head and legroom.

The BMW is almost as spacious inside, although its 468-litre boot is the smallest with the seats in place. Slotting between the two is the Mazda, which features a bigger boot than the Active Tourer but a more cramped rear bench.

Counting the cost

Not only is the Picasso the most practical car, it’ll cost the least to run. Emissions of 113g/km make it the cheapest company choice, and we recorded an excellent 48.6mpg. The £27,755 BMW is the priciest option, but its BIK tax bills are only slightly up on the C4’s. Still, neither car can beat the Mazda’s excellent 48.1 per cent predicted residuals.

On the road

The Active Tourer is the first-ever front-wheel-drive BMW, but thanks to the know-how of sister brand MINI it feels composed and capable from behind the wheel. Even so, it can’t match the agile Mazda for driver fun, while the soft Citroen takes the honours for comfort.

Verdict

1st place: Citroen C4 Picasso

It’s another win for the C4 Picasso – although its margin of victory is slim on this occasion. Bold styling, a hugely practical cabin and excellent refinement are highlights, plus it doesn’t cost a lot to run and comes with loads of standard kit. It’s not quite as sharp to drive as its rivals here, but as a versatile and spacious family car, the Citroen has the edge.

2nd place: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

If you’re looking for a classy, refined and beautifully built family car, the Active Tourer takes some beating. Its slickly designed cabin has a real feelgood factor, while the all-new front-wheel-drive underpinnings deliver assured handling. Yet it can’t match the best in the class for space and practicality, and it’s not as generously equipped
as the Citroen and Mazda.

3rd place: Mazda CX-5

In isolation, the smartly styled, frugal and spacious Mazda makes a strong case for itself. Its 2.2-litre diesel is one of the best in the business, while the sharp handling is remarkable for such a high-riding car. Unfortunately, the CX-5’s cabin isn’t as thoughtfully designed as the Citroen’s, while it can’t match the premium appeal or low running costs of the BMW.

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