Built on the same platform as the latest-generation Mini, BMW's latest model may have front- rather than rear-wheel drive, but it also offers space for seven without sacrificing inner city maneuverability.
The 2 Series Gran Tourer, which is set to make its official real-world debut at the Geneva Motor Show on March 3, is quite possibly the first premium compact car with three rows of seats. The 2 Series Active Tourer's big brother, the new car should appeal to young families that need the vehicular flexibility a dedicated MPV offers, but live in urban areas where trying to drive and park something the size of a Renault Espace just isn't practical.
Like the 2 Series Active Tourer (which is currently vying for European and World Car of the Year), the Gran Tourer has front-wheel drive as standard (four-wheel-drive is an option) and an elevated driving position.
It measures 4.5 meters from nose to tailgate yet offers 645-805 liters of luggage space when the third row of seats has been folded flat into the floor. That figure varies because the second seat row is fitted on rails so that passenger legroom and therefore trunk space can be increased or decreased simply by moving the seats backwards of forwards.
With all passenger seats folded down, the 2 Series becomes a minivan with 1905 liters of space on offer. But this car is all about keeping a family comfortable and entertained, something illustrated best by the inclusion of the myKIDIO app.
Initially available only to German customers, the app is part of BMW's ConnectedDrive infotainment platform and will stream age appropriate content -- films, TV shows, audio books -- to rear-seat passengers on longer journeys via their tablets (the car comes with a wireless hotspot).
As well as keeping the kids entertained, the app keeps parents in control. It can be managed via the car's iDrive system allowing the driver to check on what exactly the kids are watching and deciding when tablet time is over.
But it's not just the passengers that get cool high-tech toys. The Gran Tourer can be specified with a head up display that projects relevant information such as route directions and speed onto the windshield for fewer driver distractions; and there's also the option of the semi-autonomous traffic jam assist system that will help out with accelerating, braking and lane discipline when things start to get congested on the road ahead.
After its debut in Geneva, the car will be going on sale in June with an initial choice of five efficient turbocharged engines, the most potent of which, the 220D XDrive is actually a diesel but one capable of doing 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds and of topping out at 135mph (217km/h). It is also the only launch model that comes with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox as standard.