BMW's Grand Tourer is the ultimate ferrying machine

The seven-seat Gran Tourer is comfortable and quiet and offers plenty of boot space when the middle and rear seats are folded down.
The seven-seat Gran Tourer is comfortable and quiet and offers plenty of boot space when the middle and rear seats are folded down.PHOTO: BMW AG
The seven-seat Gran Tourer is comfortable and quiet and offers plenty of boot space when the middle and rear seats are folded down.
The seven-seat Gran Tourer is comfortable and quiet and offers plenty of boot space when the middle and rear seats are folded down.PHOTO: BMW AG

BMW's 2-series Gran Tourer is a family-friendly MPV that can hold three child seats

If you are in the market for a seven-seater BMW, but cannot quite afford the X5 sport utility vehicle, there is hope yet. Behold the 2-series Gran Tourer, BMW's first seven-seater MPV.

Its ability to carry the extended family is not the only thing worth rejoicing over. Under the bonnet is a 1,496cc three-cylinder turbodiesel engine producing just 116bhp, which crucially puts the car in Category A COE.

Add to that the snobbery of the BMW badge and you could have yourself a people-carrier that drivers want, rather than need.

The car, based on the 2-series Active Tourer, has two extra seats in the rear, which can be folded when not in use, and is 21.4cm longer than the Active Tourer, with 11cm more between the wheels.

While it is a BMW, practicality and usability take centre stage for a car like this. With the rear seats folded, boot space is 560 litres. Fold the middle seats down and it increases to a generous 1,820 litres - more than enough for that trip to Ikea.

Climbing into the rear seats requires the skills of a contortionist, but once you are settled inside, the headroom is surprisingly generous, even for adults, thanks to low-mounted seats and a ceiling that is 5cm higher. The downside to this is paltry legroom, which can be mitigated by sliding the middle seats forward.

  • SPECS/BMW 220I; 216D GRAN TOURER

  • Price: To be announced when the car arrives in November

    Engine: 1,998cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged; 1,496cc 12-valve inline-3 turbodiesel

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift; six-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 192bhp at 5,000rpm; 116bhp at 4,000rpm

    Torque: 280Nm at 1,250rpm; 270Nm at 1,750rpm

    0-100kmh: 7.6; 10.9 seconds

    Top speed: 222; 192kmh

    Fuel consumption: 6.1; 4.3 litres/100km

    Agent: Performance Motors

Young children will find little to complain about. There is enough space and comfort for little ones, even on long journeys. They might find fault with the lack of air-con vents and charging points, though.

For those looking to take full advantage of the new baby bonus scheme, BMW says the car is the only one in its class that has space in the middle row for three child seats.

Upfront, you get the same ergonomically designed cabin as in the Active Tourer.

Our test car is decked out in the M Sport package, which includes, among other things, a sportier, chunkier steering wheel, blue contrast stitching and M designations littered around the cabin.

Even without these embellishments, the cabin oozes typical BMW quality. The driving position is high and commanding and the cockpit easy to navigate. Buttons and switches still feel premium to the touch, so first-time BMW owners will not feel themselves short-changed when it comes to build quality.

The Gran Tourer holds out pretty well around bends, too. Underneath BMW's first front-wheeldrive architecture lies a willing and eager performer. Body roll is minimal for a car of this type and the helm is BMW-like - accurate and communicative.

The extra weight and length over the Active Tourer are hardly noticeable, but compare it with a BMW 3-series and it may prove underwhelming. Still, it is streets ahead when compared with rivals such as the Volkswagen Touran and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.

The drawback to this dynamism is a slightly firmer ride. But even so, the car is comfy and quiet enough for even the fussiest of families.

The test car is a 192bhp 220i variant, instead of the 116bhp 216d local drivers will be getting. What you lose in terms of power and refinement with the diesel, you gain in efficiency (4.3 vs 6.1 litres/100km) and the distinction of being in Category A. This alone will likely win the car many fans.

It is generously equipped too. Besides BMW's excellent iDrive system on a 5.7-inch TFT screen, you get cruise control, lane departure and collision warning, dualzone climate control and a motorised tailgate, among other features.

Do not let the frumpy looks and front-wheel-drive platform fool you. The 2-series Gran Tourer is a proper BMW in its own right. With seven seats, an esteemed badge and its Cat A status, it ticks all the right boxes for bigger families looking for a premium yet affordable MPV.

•The writer is a contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Ultimate ferrying machine'. Print Edition | Subscribe