The new car’s full title is expected to be 2-Series Active Tourer, which is just a fancy name for what is essentially a compact MPV. It was in the early part of 2010 when BMW first confirmed it was working on a new front-wheel-drive model, designed to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class and to a lesser extent mainstream models like the Ford B-Max and Volkswagen Golf Plus. Now we know what the car will look like.
The model you see here is a five-door with a fairly conventional compact MPV body, although the hood appears to be very low and the overhangs quite short. A larger seven-seat version is also planned and was spotted in prototype form recently.
Underpinning the range is BMW’s new UKL platform, which made its debut in the third-generation MINI Cooper and will eventually spawn close to a dozen different models across the BMW and MINI ranges. The platform comes with front-wheel drive in its most basic form but has the option of all-wheel drive thanks to a Haldex-style multi-plate clutch setup.
The UKL platform is also flexible enough to house a variety of powertrains including three- and four-cylinder units as well as hybrid and plug-in hybrid setups. In fact, we’ve already spotted a hybrid version of the new 2-Series Active Tourer, and the original Active Tourer concept was also electrified.
The engine in this 225i variant is likely to be a unit from BMW’s new family of 1.5-liter three-cylinder engines. One of these engines has already been announced for the 2014 MINI Cooper, where it delivers 134 horsepower.
The thought of a front-wheel-drive model wearing the BMW roundel has always seemed like sacrilege to car enthusiasts, but the realities of the modern auto industry have apparently conspired to make the car a necessity for even luxury automakers. Remember, as much as 80 percent of BMW 1-Series drivers aren’t aware that their cars are actually rear-wheel drive.
A U.S. launch for the 2-Series Active Tourer is looking likely, though it may be some time before we see it in showrooms here. European readers can look forward to the car's showroom appearance shortly after an expected debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show in March.