BMW 216d Gran Tourer | Singaporean Dad

BY Azfar Hashim

Family-oriented drivers looking for a ‘not too small, not too big’ MPV would find this compact MPV an appealing proposition

Photos by Azfar Hashim

Lets face this head-on: When the number of family members grow, even the type of car changes. Which should be no rocket science figuring out why some of your friends who, once upon a time drove pocket-rockets, suddenly drive less glorious cars… like an MPV.

And MPVs are known to be rather boring little boxes. You do not hear them clocking crazy timings in Sepang, nor of anyone spending two months’ worth of salary just to do some tuning to the engine and chassis.

On a more personal note, it must be said the last sub-2.0-litre MPV that really entertained yours truly was Volkswagen’s Touran TDI: There’s class-leading agility, enough punch to allow even illegal three-figure speed cruises along the North-South highway, and in that same drive, a round trip to Melaka still left me with slightly less than half a tank of diesel by the time I returned to the east side of our island. But along came Dieselgate…

Anyway, here comes another equally entertaining small MPV. This is the 7-seater 216d Gran Tourer, which is usefully bigger than the 5-seater Active Tourer (that received exceptionally good response locally). But despite being bigger however, it remains - excuse the repetition – entertaining, which is a contrasting trait of the car when you look at its exterior.

I kid you not, oh dear readers. That unexciting bodyshell, which seem to mimic Ssangyong’s Stavic (try parking the two next to each other), hides a delectable chassis that adds a wide grin to the driver’s face. Paired to a turbo’d 116 bhp, 270 Nm 3-cylinder 1.5-litre diesel powerplant with a 6-speed automatic, there’s actually brilliant power/handling ratio which allows you to weave through tight traffic and even, at times when you’re all alone behind the wheel, to go find a series of bend and go nuts through it; such antic will also showcase the nicely weighted steering and responsive chassis along with well-controlled body movements.

That said, pushing the car more would expose the bane of front-wheel driven cars: understeer.

Like your mood, this switch allows you to choose the different characteristics of both the engine and transmission

Like your mood, this switch allows you to choose the different characteristics of both the engine and transmission

True to BMW’s fashion, the suspension errs towards the stiffer side of things; but in a surprise twist, it still seems to deliver the right amount of comfort. Thus ensuring expressway cruises with the family in tow remains both a relaxing and drama-less affair. And although we didn’t get the chance to fully load the 216d, with five adults on board (driver included), the engine did not need much coaxing to remain on the fastest lane and keep up with traffic.

Despite being an ‘entry-level’ model, the cabin thankfully did not project that. BMW maintained quality, fitting a good mix of soft touch plastic, leathering up the seats, door panels and dashboard, which is then finished off with minimal panel gaps that are similar to other models higher up the BMW range. I am also glad to report that control buttons are all perfectly labeled and positioned.

With three rows of seats, you can definitely carry more passengers. While the brochure may give you the impression it can accommodate six other friends or family members, the reality is the second row is best for two average sized adult with a pre-teen seated in the middle whereas the last row is best for (up to) two slow blooming teenagers. At 1.68-metres tall, I tried sitting there – ten minutes later I was already feeling claustrophobic and have half a mind to jump out through the boot.

But if you rarely use that last row, simply stow it away and you have a highly useable 645-litres worth of space. For a young family, it means the stroller can be kept there without compromising space for other barang-barang; then for a family with wheelchair-bound member, you have ample space to place it flat. That said the rear doors open almost 90-degrees wide, which means any passenger can enter and exit the 216d without much hassle. Smartly, BMW included a compartment under the boot for you to place the removable boot cover.

As a whole, the BMW 216d Gran Tourer is a well thought-out small MPV. The cabin is well organized, paired with good quality; power delivery is decent and lastly, is quite an entertaining car to drive when you want it to. Its sub-$160k asking price should be able to attract buyers who have always wanted a BMW.

The one and, perhaps, only downside? That exterior which needs getting used to…

Yes, this come standard with the 216d Gran Tourer - the steering will vibrate as a warning

Yes, this come standard with the 216d Gran Tourer - the steering will vibrate as a warning