SINGAPORE – If you’re a family man, most will go for the bog-standard sedan option. Four doors, the three-box shape and a boot, which is as safe as eating chicken rice, although it won’t fit every need.
Mixed riced (‘tsai peng’) is a bit more flexible though, and automotive equivalent of that is a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). But while hotels and the like have rolled out expensive chicken rice, who ever heard of upper-crust mixed rice?
Which is exactly what the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer is and it represents a lot of firsts for the brand.
It uses BMW’s first front-wheel drive platform, dubbed UKL, which debuted on the new Mini, then the BMW X1. It’s almost the same car as BMW’s first MPV, the 2 Series Active Tourer, launched in Singapore last year.
The ‘Gran Tourer’ designation means this machine’s upsized, packing seven seats overall, thanks to a foldable third row of thrones, over the the 2AT’s five seats. That’s achieved by a stretch in size, and as a result the 2GT is longer, taller and heavier than its five-seat cousin.
Leaving aside cost considerations for now, the 2GT is very similar in size to mid-sized MPVs from the Continent, such as the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and the soon-to-be-launched second generation Volkswagen Touran. The latter, for example, is very close to the BMW’s length and wheelbase, at 4,527mm and 2,791mm respectively.
The 218i model, with a 136bhp, 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine has been quietly dropped from the lineup, as now the AT and GT are both powered by the same ‘16d’ engine as found in the strong-selling 116d hatchback.
It’s a great engine and perfect for the urban slog. While we never got to test out the 216d with a full load of passengers, the diesel’s 270Nm of torque made at an appropriately low rpm of just 1,750 means it doesn’t need to spool up to get going. A 0-100km/h time of 10.9 seconds is decent too, as like most small diesels, the 216d feels perkier off the line and is probably quicker to 60km/h than an equivalent petrol car.
The 1.5-litre diesel is a proven performer when it comes to sipping fuel, and consistently delivered sub-6.0L/100km mileage in mixed (50/50) highway and urban driving. There’s also Sport, Normal and Eco Pro modes, the latter tuning down engine/throttle response and air-conditioning for better efficiency scores.
Naturally the larger GT does feel less sprightly than the AT, especially since that weight gain comes from the expanded size and seating system at the rear end of the car. For a BMW it’s staid, but for an MPV it’s a good handling machine that rides decently too. Like many MPVs it has slightly stiff suspension – to cope with a full load – so the ride does get very slightly choppy over bad road conditions, but it doesn’t have the ‘I’m captain of an oil tanker’ feel some large MPVs have, and it doesn’t feel tippy under hard cornering either.
The real question is, does the GT deliver in terms of practicality? Considering it’s $16,000 more expensive than the AT, it needs to. The extra weight and space is noticeable, especially if you’re aiming to carry lots of stuff: Boot space expands considerably, from 468 to 1,501-litres (seats up and down) to a massive 645 to 1,905-litres.
Like all cars of this size, the third row is best reserved for hobbits or vestigial persons, but adults will fit for short journeys, and there are no dedicated air-con vents, only a floor-level one in the second row. Those in that row get considerably more benefits though, as the chairs have forward/rearward and backrest adjustability, while there are variable-height tray tables too.
READ MORE: 3 Reasons To Buy A Five-seat MPV
The equipment list continues on with a full-length panoramic sunroof, full LED headlights, automatic front seats, keyless entry, automatic tailgate and, in what’s a standout in this segment, auto-folding rear seats via a boot-mounted button.
While the BMW is more expensive than other Continental MPVs, you aren’t just paying for the badge – and even if that draws lots of eyeballs – in this case, because it comes with a whole set of tech features like BMW’s ConnectedDrive suite, Bluetooth and navigation. There’s also impressive safety features in the form of a lane keeping assistant, distance warning (if you’re too close or approaching too fast to the guy in front and semi-autonomous braking).
So who ever heard of eating upscale cai peng? Apparently not BMW. Problems with ‘luxury’ products start when they fail to deliver the basics, but this is definitely not the case with the 216d. It’s a high-tech, desirable package that is fully usable and practical – it’s a bit more expensive than its rivals, but in Singapore, like it or not, that counts for quite a bit.
BMW 216d Gran Tourer
Engine 1,496cc, 12V, inline 3, turbodiesel
Power 116bhp at 4000rpm
Torque 270Nm at 1750rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 192km/h
0-100kmh 10.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 4.4L/100km
Price $163,800 with COE