BMW 2 Series Active Tourer - A weekend test drive in a BMW 225xe plug-in hybrid - craig-pd130

Short version: I test-drove a 225xe plug-in hybrid for nearly 300 miles. It was quick, fun and interesting to drive; I got nowhere near the official economy figures (38mpg in my hands); but it would save a company car driver a ton of BIK tax and contract hire rates are cheap.

Long version: I thought I’d share my impressions of the BMW 225xe plug-in hybrid I’ve just had for an extended test drive for the past couple of days.

I wanted to evaluate one because the contract hire on my current company Volvo V60 D4 is up in July, and plug-in-hybrids currently offer a big saving in BIK tax compared with diesel or petrol equivalents.

The interior is airy and roomy, and the seats felt initially over-firm but proved comfortable (my wife also appreciated the seat-heaters).

After an initial minute of confusion about where to put the ignition key (answer = keep it in your pocket, there’s no special slot for it) and the need to press the footbrake before I could ‘start’ the car using the start/stop button, I was ready.

The car starts up by default in ‘Auto e-drive’ mode. This uses the electric motor on the rear axle only at normal / moderate throttle input, and at speeds up to 50mph. This mode is more than enough for town & urban driving: it’s easy and intuitive to modulate, and it gets away from traffic lights or merges onto roundabouts smartly. It's quite pleasant to be wafted around with zero engine noise and just the faintest high-tech whine from the electric motor at the rear.

Press the throttle harder (or go above 50mph) and the front-drive petrol engine chimes in to boost power. It’s almost seamless – sometimes you don’t actually hear or feel the petrol engine start, the only clue is the revcounter needle moving. If you go full throttle, you will hear the petrol engine, but it’s not at all intrusive and has a nice 3-cylinder warble.

‘Sport’ mode uses the petrol & electric motors together all the time (obviously using more fuel too), and is good fun – the throttle response becomes very eager, and it delivers surprisingly (and amusingly) rapid performance both from a standing start and when merging from slip-roads, overtaking etc. The combination of electric and petrol power delivers instant, strong acceleration at any legal speed, and above.

Handling is neutral and accurate – almost zero understeer. It rode well on low-profile tyres on all types of surface, and was a very quiet, relaxed cruiser at speed. Hardly any wind or road noise.

I fully charged it once (via the supplied conventional 13A plug & lead), which took 3 hours. This got me from my house to the M60 motorway (10 miles) without engaging the petrol engine at all, and without trying to run economically on the various minor roads and 40mph limits. This took the battery from 97% to about 20% charge. On the motorway, the petrol engine gradually recharges the battery so that after an hour at typical motorway speeds, the battery was above 50% charge again.

Overall, I did 285 miles, of which 220 was a long motorway run at a steady cruise-controlled 80. This together with some, er, enthusiastic testing of performance gave fuel consumption of 38mpg during the time I had it (measured brim to brim, not on the computer). From experience, if I’d driven my Volvo over the same journeys and in the same manner, I’d have got around 10mpg more.

For my 8-mile round trip daily commute and usual short trips around town etc, I’d be able to use battery power a lot more (I can charge it in my work’s car park) which would reduce overall petrol consumption, and I’d save around £1000 per year in BIK tax compared with my current car, while getting better performance. It's a very strong contender for my next car.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer - A weekend test drive in a BMW 225xe plug-in hybrid - RafflesNH

"Short version: 8< I got nowhere near the official economy figures (38mpg in my hands); 8<"

38mpg?!!

That's a very far cry indeed from even the least economical (99.9mpg) 225xe PHEV variant listed here:
www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/bmw/2-series-active-...a

Have I missed something?

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer - A weekend test drive in a BMW 225xe plug-in hybrid - craig-pd130

That's a very far cry indeed from even the least economical (99.9mpg) 225xe PHEV variant listed here:

www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/bmw/2-series-active-...a

Have I missed something?

Not at all: as I mentioned, 75% of my test drive was on motorways. At motorway speeds, the electric motor is hardly used at all: it's the petrol engine that does the work, so here the fuel consumption is what you'd expect from a 1.5 litre turbocharged petrol engine with an autobox pulling a 1,800kg car.

Hybrids aren't good on motorways: worse economy than diesels, and worse than conventional petrol cars because they're carrying several hundred extra kilos of batteries, electric motors etc.

The 'official' figures that manufacturers quote don't reflect reality.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer - A weekend test drive in a BMW 225xe plug-in hybrid - Avant

Thanks very much for that, Craig. Very interesting, particularly as a 2-series was on my short-list when I started it about this time last year.

The 225xe was very expensive, and I'd have had to add run-flats as there is no space for even a space-saver spare wheel (the electric motor goes there). But even on the 220i and 220d there weren't many discounts, and the brokers at that time were having a row with BMW and weren't quoting. £7000 off a new V60 settled it.

But you're right - apart from the silly name, the Active Tourer was quite impressive. I had some good test drives (inevitably of diesels) and performance was on a par with the V60 D4; the Volvo's seats are much better but the infotainment / iDrive on BMWs is greatly superior to the maddening Volvo system. The 225xe was available at the time but there were no demonstrators.

If you can have one as a company car, I can see why you're tempted. It sounds ideal for your needs.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer - A weekend test drive in a BMW 225xe plug-in hybrid - skidpan

On paper we liked the look of the Active Tourer so went to have a look.

It fell at the first two hurdles. We did not really want the 218i 135 PS triple since I suspected it would be a bit slow (but was happy to be proven otherwise) but the much better looking (on paper) 220i was (is?) only available as an auto and we do not buy auto's

Then when we put the pet crate on the back seat the front seat was so far forward you could hardly get in the front passenger seat. Our old C-Max managed the pet crate fine as does the current Leon and even the Note (in tuth the Note is the best of the lot). How they have managed to make a family people carrier so useless was beyond us.

Suppose that is why they have the Grand Tourer on the books as well.

 

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