BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback

Just a few days ago I noted that we at DTW had not treated BMW to some of our ire. Here is some ire. Or something passing itself off as such.

The car above is the 2015 BMW 2-series “active tourer” which is a five-door, front-drive hatchback with a great deal in common with the 2011 Ford C-Max which is five-door, front-drive five seater hatchback (below) that sells for a lot less. And looks better.

While admitting that Chris Bangle’s 5-series was, after all, a very good design which still looks fresh, much of the subsequent output from Munich has been disappointing at first and has stayed so. I admit also a sneaking liking for the last 3-series coupe which had an Italianate elegance; the 1-series two-door coupe also appeals since it’s not a million miles in concept away from the charming 2002 of 1962. And then I run out of nice things to say.

The subsequent iteration of the 5-series looks like a proposal rejected during the elaboration of the definitive 2003 E60. Much to my surprise, the current 7-series dates from 2008 but I had to Google that and only then had a weak sense of recognition.

You know when you have forgotten a holiday and then find a photo which makes you reluctantly concede the fact you did indeed travel to that place: “Ah, yes, so I did go to Belgium in 2010 – there’s little Ed who was born that year, and Auntie Pru who died shortly after….” Much of BMW’s recent work is unremarkable to say the least.

The one car I do like is the one the automotive hacks despise, the GT. Since I get the point of the car, which is that it has a raised H-point, it all makes sense. It’s a car for anyone who finds ingress and egress tricky (usually an age-related problem). The effect is to make for a useful and ergonomically sound car and I can’t see a problem with that. Apart from that we have a stable of cars themed around indifference.

Exhibit “A” here is the hatchback they’ve launched which is, I suppose, asking Ford C-Max and VW Touran customers to consider going Bavarian. It’s a front drive car so it has no USP other than it’s made by a firm who specialise in RWD technology. The appearance has the look of a rejected Opel design. Take away the Hofmeister kink and there’s not much there.

The Ford C-Max runs from £20,600 to £22,800, according to Autocar. BMW want £22,125 – £31,705, say Parkers. What’s underneath the unremarkable styling is Mini mechanicals and Mini engines. Isn’t it time we woke up to the fact that BMW is quite as well able to offer product as cynically contrived as anyone else?

2011 Ford hatchback. With a sliding door.
2011 Ford hatchback.

And just as I have packed away my fond ideas of what Citroen and Lancia might have been, I need to re-set my expectation of BMW. The hard-as-forged-steel tightness of cars like the 1981-1988 5-series or the elegance of the 1986 E32 7-series are things of the long distant past. Alas, just as BMW and indeed Mercedes become so banal, their erstwhile competitors have dropped out of the race leaving Munich and Stuttgart to offer quite unremarkable cars in a lot of sectors.

If Peugeot made a car now as good as the 406 was in its time, they’d now have another chance to claim that place at the high table. But all they sell is the 508

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

4 thoughts on “BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback”

  1. I agree with all of Richard’s views/ observations here (previous 3 Series Coupe, 1 Series Coupe, etc.), except those relating to the 5GT. I appreciate his insight about “hip-point” being a prime driver of this car’s looks, but, surely it should not have resulted in such a bulky rear/ rear 3/4 aspect. The trick boot-cum-hatch was probably another contributor to the awkwardness of this design, and I note that the Skoda Superb suffers similarly, but given a) the real world usefulness (or otherwise) of this feature and, b) the fact that (as Richard knows) that the XM demonstrates a far simpler and more elegant solution, it’s scarcely acceptable. BTW I note Citroen is now using the XM in its C-line car brochures, which feels a bit like its resurgeance in its reputation in the company’s heritage.

  2. I don´t want to appear contrarian but I don´t find any problem with the rear of the GT, I saw a few of these during the summer and they looked quite alright, especially with some of the more luxurious and warm interior colours. The hatchback shown here though is another matter. It´s so incredibly ordinary.

  3. My soft sport for all things propeller’d is not exactly vast, or, to be more precise, strongly limited to the company’s most traditional and most radical output.

    Call me boring and/or conservative, but I’ll always appreciate a Bavarian saloon or coupé with a straight six under its bonnet and powering the rear wheels. That admittedly isn’t the recipe for innovation, but sticking to one’s strengths is a virtue at a time when compromise rules.

    At the exact opposite end of the spectrum are the i models, which, albeit hardly flawless, I find among the most inspiring cars on sale right now. The i8 is the first time in ages that a sports car convincingly acts as a styling vanguard, while the i3’s cabin does the same trick with its interior. The Tesla S may be the more convincing package, but I don’t fancy how that car almost tries to hide its innovative nature underneath such an ordinary appearance. And I also happen to like buttons in cockpits.

    This mini MPV is the most uncharacteristic car BMW has ever brought to market, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s not that I find its styling terribly offensive – in that regard, it’s certainly ahead of the car whose sales it’s intended to limit (the Active Tourer’s single Raison d’être, according to people within BMW) – but it is neither an innovative deviation from the BMW formula, like the i cars, nor a convincing, thoroughbred variation of the traditional BMW recipe.

    It is cars like these that will at one point in the future be seen as the first indications of the ending of German automotive supremacy: this may very well be the first step too far from the brand’s core value. Maybe. Hopefully.

  4. Of course BMW have made great strides since the wretched 316i Compact, but this remains a fine example of what happens when the premium manufacturers decide to slum it. It won’t be a bad car by any means, but it will be an overpriced one. Fortunately, in their favour, in fact the only real thing in their favour, is the snobbery of the buying public. Just as Opel and Peugeot could build perfectly fine large cars for years, yet never compete with the ‘quality’ makes due to badge prejudice, so people will happily pay a premium over an equivalent Ford to get a car that, objectively, might not be quite as good and, even considering Ford’s styling downturn of recent years, doesn’t look so crisp.

    I was following a 5GT the other day and, although a bit heavy around the rear, it’s no X6. If it offers a tradititional BMW driving experience combined with a lot of room, it seems nothing to sneer at. Of course, the young lads at TWBCM can’t see the need for the GT since they only have to fit in the odd skateboard, a bag from McDonalds or a couple of their mates, who are normally so legless that kneeroom isn’t a problem.

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