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Test Drive: BMW 220i GT — For the BMW fanboy with a family

The 2 GT is a capable performer yet overlooked in the Malaysian motoring scene

There are front-wheel drive cars roaming the streets with BMW badges, this everyone knows. The 2 Series Active Tourer was the first, now this 2 Series Gran Tourer, and the next-generation 1 Series will follow. What the market wants the market receives of course, but no customer survey or research team ever told BMW that they must retain the Hoffmesiter kink under all circumstance.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-49

Again, nothing wrong with a FWD BMW. But there is everything wrong with a FWD BMW sporting this famous design feature carried with pride by post-war BMWs to show where the power was being sent to: the rear. Such audacity the 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer have then, to show it off without a propshaft beneath despite how subtle the angle is.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-59

Regardless of purists crying for blood or not, they are here and will very likely stay. On direct rivals, Mercedes-Benz has the B-Class while Audi has said they will never put the four rings on a family mover but as we’ve learned quite quickly in the automotive industry, never say never.

So what does only the second ever BMW to offer three rows besides an X5 have to offer? A lot more than you would think.

Cabin

As you would expect, its all Munich on the inside. Angled dash and iDrive, the centre stack can be accused of sporting safe and boring design but as with every BMW, switchgear is solid in feel and, crucially, sound in ergonomics.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-08

Of all the times we lament on BMW seeming to make little effort to differentiate its cars in the the cabin however, making a interior feel special is not really a priority in a car such as this. Function over form in an MPV anytime.

Overall visibility is commendable as an MPV should offer, with super thin A-pillars made possible by a floating vertical strip holding the rear view mirrors.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-61

Through the iDrive you can select from a few lift gate opening heights, perfect for indoor garages with low ceilings. The second row is foldable from the trunk as well, eliminating repeated trips back and forth to load in long or bulky items — helped further by the absence of a boot lip and an impressive 1820 litres of space.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-42

There are quite a number of storage solutions to be found here too, hooks and small cubby holes in easy to reach places, giving the 220i GT fairly high overall usefulness.

Performance

It should come as no surprise that this is one of the best handling FWD MPVs this writer has ever gotten his hands on. MacPherson struts at the front, a multilink setup at the rear and liberal use of lightweight aluminium in its construction all contribute to this.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-31

And then, as it sometimes does, fate stepped in with an element of tantalising danger during the test drive period. On a dark night on our beloved Federal Highway, this writer had to make a last second lane change when a temporary barrier got knocked into the middle of the road.

The way the 2 GT kept its composure despite a vicious yank at the wheel would more likely cause “do that again, daddy” from the tyke in the back than to scare him.

More than adequately powerful in 220i spec — BMW TwinPower Turbo 2.0-litre for the win — and returning decent fuel economy too, the 2 GT suffers from virtually nothing of the long list of dynamic maladies typically plaguing MPVs.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-36

No excess body roll, no boat-like handling and no excess wind noise cause by an ungainly blocky shape. Yes, we are aware this isn’t one of BMW’s finer designs, but at least its aerodynamic and sort of sleek profile doesn’t compromise too much on cabin space.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-58

Verdict

There aren’t many of these around, the reason for which a little more complicated than just restrictive pricing. The most popular luxury MPVs in the country weren’t even brought in officially until very recently — and people still preferred their friendly grey importer to authorised dealers.

The Toyota Alphard/Vellfire twins do so well because they sit on a very delicate line, you can be chauffeured in them or you can happily stuff your brood in the vast cabin and take the wheel yourself.

The 2 Series Active Tourer, as good as it is, just isn’t a car to be driven in; nowhere near the conveyance of an executive. With a RM280,000 budget for a family mover – with which you can also afford the Japanese duo mentioned above, you wont want a) to sit in the rear of it and be driven around and b) to have such luxurious surfaces smudged, dirtied and damaged by little hands.

BMW 220i Gran Tourer-64

Essentially, relevance to the Malaysian market is the issue here, not competence. The 2 Series Gran Tourer is a good MPV, just not the sort anyone here might be looking for especially when there are other capable models, European to boot, costing a lot less. Do any of them drive this well though? We highly doubt it.

Specifications of the BMW 220i Gran Tourer:

Engine: BMW TwinPower Turbo 2.0-litre

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Max Power: 192hp at 4,700rpm

Max Torque: 280Nm at 1,250 – 4600rpm

Fuel Consumption (combined): 6.2L/100km (claimed)

Price: RM279,800.00 OTR without insurance, BMW five-year unlimited mileage warranty and free service as standard.

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