Easy Rider: Driving the BMW U06 216i Active Tourer M Sport

We like to imagine that back in the day, life was simpler. Through my rose-tinted glasses, it certainly appeared that way. Decision-making wasn’t burdened by countless options and algorithms telling us what to do. Choosing an ice cream flavour meant deciding between chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry, rather than being overwhelmed by a myriad of exotic combinations. Radios had physical dials that required you to commit to a station, testing your musical taste with the age-old question: rock, pop, or guilty pleasure ballad?

The simplicity of the past also extended to the world of BMW motoring. Choosing an entry-level BMW was a breeze: a 3-Series with a 4-cylinder engine or a 3-Series with a 6-cylinder engine. Add a transmission, pick a colour, and play around with some interior options. Easy.

But alas, times have changed, my friends. Selecting an entry-level BMW today is as complex as decoding the latest social media algorithm. We’re faced with options like the 1-Series hatchback, the 2-Series Gran Coupe (not to be mistaken for the 2-Series Coupe), the X1 we recently took for a spin, and the 2-Series Active Tourer. It’s almost enough to make your head spin!

Now, we’ve had the pleasure of driving the latest 2-Series Active Tourer in its 218i version. However, due to the fluctuating COE levels, BMW Asia has decided to reduce the power across the entire range of entry-level cars to fit into the slightly discounted Category A segment.

So today, we have the 216i Active Tourer. It sports the same 1.5-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder engine with 230Nm of torque. However, due to the Cat A COE rules, it now delivers slightly less power on the top end—121 horses compared to the 218i’s 134. But fear not! Despite the loss of 13 ponies, the difference in performance on the road is negligible. It still offers decent mid-range punch, allowing for swift lane changes, overtakes, and relaxed cruising on the highway.

Speaking of the highway, that’s where the Active Tourer truly impresses. Even with its “performance-based” Adaptive M Suspension, the ride quality is exceptional. It’s possibly one of the most comfortable cars in its segment, gliding smoothly over uneven surfaces and bumps that its rivals seem eager to deliver to their unsuspecting passengers.

But don’t be fooled by its comfort-oriented nature though. The Active Tourer can handle itself rather decently when the roads get twisty as well. It may exhibit a touch more roll in corners, but fear not! Thanks to its Bavarian-tuned chassis, it’s able to handle tight hairpin turns with relative ease. And despite being front-wheel drive (FWD), it maintains its composure; remaining well-behaved and predictable. Market research has shown that the majority of buyers in this category aren’t bothered by the FWD configuration anyway.

Now, in the past, there were concerns about tight interior space in BMW’s rear-wheel-drive 1-Series cars. But fear not, my fellow travellers! The Active Tourer comes to the rescue with its family-friendly layout. It offers ample headroom, and the versatile rear seats can be adjusted to accommodate four to five adults comfortably.

Unfortunately, as mentioned in our review of the 218i variant, BMW has discontinued the popular Gran Tourer variant that featured three rows of seats. However, the Active Tourer remains highly practical, with a spacious cabin and generous cargo space that can be expanded from 470 to 1,455 liters.

So, for those aspiring to own a BMW, amidst a sea of choices and complex decisions, fear not! The BMW lineup has something to suit every driver’s preferences. Whether you crave the sporty allure of the 216i Gran Coupe, the versatile ruggedness of the X1 sDrive16i, the comfortable practicality of the Active Tourer, or the nimble performance of the 116i Hatchback, BMW has a model for you to embark on your journey into the world of Bavarian motoring. The decision is yours to make. Perhaps having a wide range of choices isn’t all that bad after all?

What do we love? It’s low-key aesthetics, excellent ride.

What are we not too sure about? It’s low-key aesthetics, premium price tag despite Category A segmentation.

What can be improved? It’s low-key aesthetics. iDrive display can get rather cluttered and distracting without a larger-sized screen.

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