This is clever. Take the 218i Active Tourer. Then turn it into a four-wheel drive vehicle that can cover 25 miles of city driving on solely electric power. We use the word ‘vehicle’ deliberately because it’s a bit difficult to decide what this is. It could be an SUV. Or maybe an MPV. Whatever it is, it works exceedingly well.
BMW have taken elements of the front-wheel drive 218i Active Tourer and then added elements of the i8, which also sends electric power to the front wheels. The result is electric power to the rear wheels, petrol power to the front.
The electric power comes courtesy of an electric motor on the rear axle that turns out 87bhp and a rather impressive 122lb ft of torque. The petrol power comes from a three-cylinder turbocharged engine under the bonnet. This sends 134bhp and 162lb ft of torque to the front wheels.
That all seems rather neat, but the petrol tank has been reduced in size to 36 litres and has also been strengthened. This is because of the lithium ion battery pack which sits under the rear seats which have been raised 30mm to make room. Even with that, the boot is now smaller by 70 litres because of the space the whole electrical power system takes up.
That’s a lot of fidgeting about because of the complex nature of this car. But on the road it all translates into a working drivetrain. You can have front- or rear-wheel drive or a combination of the two, with a torque vectoring function to further enhance traction.
BMW 225xe Active Tourer
On sale: Now
Price: £32,655 (after £2.5k grant)
Engine: 3cyl, 1499cc, turbocharged, petrol, plus electric motor
Power: 221bhp at 4400
Torque: 284lb ft at 1250-3000rpm
Gearbox: 6spd auto
Top speed: 126mph
Economy: 141.2mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 46g/km, 5%
The driver has three driving modes to play with: Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery. The range of modes allows you to run purely on battery, for use in zero emission zones, or with some battery with petrol support, or with pure petrol power to conserve the electrical charge.
In theory you have 25 miles purely on silent running, but if you do anything other than waft then that total soon plummets. But the combination of drives works seamlessly. In towns that high torque of the electric motor from standstill is noticeable and welcome. When you’re driving faster out on the open roads, the combination of the two drives or just the petrol engine gives you a sense of loping ease.
Handling is excellent, with predictable and low levels of lean, good turn-in and a sense of confidence. The four-wheel drive really does tie this car to the road, even in poor conditions.
The cabin is good, well made as you’d expect, and the whole machine works seamlessly whether pootling round London or battling down the M62. It makes a complex vehicle with four-wheel drive, full electric capability as well as a very modern petrol-electric powertrain, seem both sensible and attractive.
Since it costs just £1310 more than the 225i xDrive Active Tourer, at £33,050, it makes a very compelling case in the real world.