Key facts at glance

  • Prices: Petrol - £22,150/diesel £24,205
  • Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo
  • Transmission: Front-wheel drive, six-speed manual •
  • Power: 136bhp; 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds;top speed: 127mph
  • Economy/CO2: 57.6mpg/115g/km
  • On sale: now
  • Diesel: 2.0-litre diesel, Power 148bhp 0-62mph - 8.9 seconds.
  • 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km.

PRACTICAL doesn’t necessarily mean dull - how many times have you heard that said about a car?

But it’s worth reiterating when you consider the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, the brand's first foray into the MPV market, and its first front-wheel drive car. It is eminently practical, but it's also a very beautiful, understated car, which is a joy to drive.

This is very much a family model, vying against other competitors in the same class such as the Mercedes B-Class and Ford C-Max. As such, it's kitted out with all the features you expect to find - generous seats and leg room, excellent boot space and a solid safety feel - it's yet to be Euro NCAP crash tested - but it should do well as it comes fitted with pedestrian warning with city braking function as standard. This function automatically applies the brakes if a driver fails to respond to an obstacle in front of the car.

So should you expect more than practicality and family-friendliness? Well it's a BMW, so you do get more – rather a lot more.

Hereford Times:

The 218i I borrowed from Cotswold BMW Hereford  has a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder producing 134bhp and 162lb ft at 1250rpm.

With the standard six-speed manual transmission it registers 0- 62mph in 9.3sec and has a top speed of 124mph, while returning an optimum combined fuel economy of 57.6mpg and emitting 115g/km of CO2.

The equivalent two-litre diesel model gives you 68.9mpg combined.

As with larger BMWs there are three driving modes – sport, comfort and eco pro. The on-board computer will tot up your journey's mpg for you so you can pick your mode accordingly and learn how to maximise your consumption.

The acceleration is very noticeable in sport mode - handy for overtaking, or just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Even flipping in and of modes, I still managed an overall 39.9mpg combined over a 91-mile trip taking in towns, trunk roads and tiny single-track lanes in the Brecon Beacons at very steep gradients.

And while we're on those little country lanes, the Tourer handled them nimbly, demonstrating both agility and responsiveness throughout what proved to a highly pleasurable test drive. In town it's light enough to be easily manoeverable, while on the open road, the drive is smooth and silky.

In fact it's pure pleasure to drive. We floated in comfort as the gorgeous Beacons scenery drifted by, listening to 6music on the excellent BMW sound system - DAB tuner is standard.

So we've established the Tourer is fun to drive, let's return to the practicality question.

Despite being only mere centimetres longer and wider than the 1-Series hatch, inside, it feels very spacious indeed. It uses the sameUKL1 front-wheel drive system as the new Mini, but it's been elongated to increase passenger space inside.

The Tourer is 434cm long, 180cm wide and 156cm high, actually not much longer than a Golf, but there's more than enough room for four tall adults. There's plenty of elbow room and in total around 35 litres of spare storage space in the cabin including the glovelbox, and under the front armrest, as well as door pockets.

The angle of the rear seat backs can also be altered to improve the boot capacity, while the boot itself has a wide, tall aperture and useful hooks and tethering points on both sides. The floor can be folded up to reveal an extra compartment.

The standard boot space is 468 litres, but with the 40/20/40 rear seat folded down this increases to 1510 litres.

Control-wise it's pleasingly uncluttered , and easily signposted. There's nothing worse than a dashboard that looks like a flight deck, and leaves you struggling to find the wipers or lights. No such problems here, though you can simply rely on auto mode for the lights and wipers.

As you'd expect , there are plenty of standard goodies.

These include, two-way air conditioning so passenger and driver can have different temperatures - a feature which solves a long-standing gripe in our car; electronically folding rear seats; DAB tuner; parking distance control, alloy wheels; BMW radio and CD player with MP3 playback ability.

That's just a few of the highlights.

The Tourer isn't cheap compared to some of its competitors, but you get a whole lot for just over £22,150 OTR for the petrol 218i.

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Hereford Times: