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January 9, 2018

Review: BMW 218i Gran Tourer

You normally buy a BMW because either a: it looks good, or b: it makes you look good. Practicality may be part of the mix somewhere, but let’s face it—it’s just something to convince the wife. But what if there’s a car out there, with a blue-and-white propeller badge, that’s got practicality written all over it? What if there’s a BMW that you could buy and honestly say, it’s practical without having to sound like you’re eating your words?

Well, the downer in all of this is that “the BMW of your dreams” is actually the 218i Gran Tourer. Labeled by the German automaker as the only premium compact MPV in the market today, it’s also a synonym for “mommy mobile” if your eyes are the sole judge. Stretched from the Active Tourer (F45), the Gran Tourer (F46) gains roughly 210 millimeters in overall length while also gaining 110 millimeters between the front and rear axles. This allows the Gran Tourer to sprout an additional row of seats, bumping the body count to seven.

In all honesty, BMW has done well to hide the additional girth and give the Gran Tourer a clean and aesthetically pleasing look. It could have gone the way of the stomach-churning 5 Series GT, but thankfully this one ends up being sleek and well-proportioned. However, there’s only so much you can do with a car designed to seat people. Hide the trademark fascia and what you’re left with is “generic modern European MPV.” Maybe bigger wheels and a more colorful shade apart from Alpine White would have helped, but as it stands, it’s clean but also very “un-BMW.”

Thankfully, all those worries about BMW selling out in making the Gran Tourer go away when you step inside. In true BMW fashion, the cabin oozes with luxury, designed and built in an avant-garde manner. The minimalist controls, with the large analog gauges, central LCD screen, and iDrive controller may take some getting used to for the uninitiated, but they work to create a driver-centric cabin. The tiller and seats also offer an excellent range of adjustment; although the latter is mounted higher and more upright than conventional BMWs. Visibility would have been perfect if not for the thick split front pillar which creates some problems at the front three-quarters.

As mentioned, the Gran Tourer’s biggest draw over its smaller Active Tourer sibling is its wheelbase stretch and third row of seats. Be forewarned though, Passengers 6 and 7 better learn to live in what are essentially jump seats.

Converting the Gran Tourer from a roomy 5-seater into a 7-seater MPV is an easy feat. The rolling cargo cover neatly stores in an area below a false floor while the seats themselves fold up at the pull of a lever. The large rear doors and a middle row fitted with a single-action tilt/slide function aids access to the back. Though it’s possible to configure the Gran Tourer so you can carry seven average-sized adults (at least for short journeys), the third row is best left for small children. Shoulder room may be good (there are even cupholders at the back), but head, and especially legroom are limited. It’s definitely a knees-up affair too. An often-overlooked bonus to the Gran Tourer’s extended wheelbase though is that the middle row clears the rear wheel wells. This means three adults can seat abreast comfortably or allow three child seats to be mounted side-by-side.

When not having to ferry the extended the family, the Gran Tourer transforms into a ginormous wagon. The wide opening, square-shaped loading bay, and low load height equates to an SUV-like 560 liters of cargo space with the third row folded away. With the second row’s 40/20/40 split-folding seat collapsed, it brings that figure up to 1,820 liters or larger than any other BMW barring the X5.

No one expects an MPV to feel sporty, but this is where the Gran Tourer shows its mettle. On the road, for as long as you don’t expect it to behave like a 3 Series, you’ll still end up with a smile. Despite its front-wheel drive architecture and tall body, it still steers, handles, and rides with authority and precision. At lower speeds, it’s light on its feet, only to weigh up nicely as the pace builds up. It keeps you grounded, always reminding you that you’re lugging along a MPV body, but at least everything is kept in check even as you tackle long, winding roads. Perhaps the only Achille’s Heel of the Gran Tourer is its relatively large 5.8-meter turning radius.

On the surface, it’s hard to fathom why BMW would decide to develop an MPV on a stiff and sporty platform; after all, the average family man (or woman) wouldn’t know or care if the car they’re riding in had the rigidity of putty. But this yet another aspect where the Gran Tourer shines. As it stands, it’s comfortable at all speeds and on most road conditions. It absorbs potholes big and small while keeping the cabin insulated from outside noise.

Carrying a “218i” badge at the back means this particular Gran Tourer is equipped with a TwinPower Turbo 1.5-liter direct-injected 3-cylinder engine. It differs from a conventional turbo in one aspect: the lack of lag. It does this by using a distinct exhaust manifold to catch more exhaust pulses to feed the twin-scroll turbocharger. With 136 horsepower and 220 Nm of torque, it does the admirable job of pulling all of the Gran Tourer’s weight effortlessly. It’s quiet, but punchy when needed. The accompanying 6-speed automatic is well-matched to the engine as well. There are no paddle shifters, but it’s slick and responsive to throttle inputs nonetheless. The Gran Tourer may have some changeable driving modes under the BMW EfficientDynamics suite, but it doesn’t seem to result in stellar fuel economy. As it stands, it manages just 7.81 km/L at an average speed of 14 km/h.

Priced at P 2,790,000, the 218i Gran Tourer may look expensive, but factor in its high-quality construction and generous list of standard equipment, and things start to work in its favor. For this asking price, it comes with a passive entry system with push-button start/stop, powered seats (with memory for the driver), a dual-zone climate control with rear vents, changeable mood lighting, and many more. Comparisons between this and other choices such as the Volkswagen Touran and Caddy or even the Peugeot 5008 are inevitable, and that’s why, the Gran Tourer ultimately responds to a very specific niche. It caters to people who can’t seem to let go of their desire to drive something sporty, even if that sportiness brings them to their kid’s afternoon soccer practice. The Gran Tourer is the BMW for practical people.

2018 BMW 218i Gran Tourer
Ownership 2018 BMW 218i Gran Tourer
Year Introduced 2017
Vehicle Classification Luxury MPV
The Basics
Body Type 5-door MPV
Seating 7
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Direct Injection
Fuel Delivery Turbocharged
Layout / # of Cylinders I3
BHP @ rpm 136 @ 4,000-6,000
Nm @ rpm 220 @ 1,400-4,300
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control None, Limiter
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 7.81 km/L @ 14 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,556
Width (mm) 1,800
Height (mm) 1,608
Wheelbase (mm) 2,780
Curb Weight (kg) 1,395
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Struts
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Continental ContiPremiumContact SSR 205/60 R 16 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Other Safety Features None
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front and Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric (front)
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 40/20/40 (2nd row); 50/50 (3rd row)
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Automatic, Dual, with 2nd Row Vents
Audio System Stereo
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. This reminds me of a Kia Carens. A more premium one.

    1. Well pretty much. But you remember the line about MPVs having the rigidity of putty? The Carens is a prime example 😅

  2. Sir uly when will bmw release their 2018 price list? Thanks!

  3. Hi Uly, are the tires runflat.. No space for spare tire? Thanks.

  4. Hi Uly, any word on if they plan to release a diesel variant here? And is this more spacious inside (including the 3rd row) than a Mobilio or a Touran?

    1. It’s about the same as the Touran. The third row feels more cramped than the Mobilio. As for diesel? Maybe in the future but I guess that depends on the price. If it’s going to be too close to the X1 they might not.

  5. Uly! Need help choosing.

    Already have a day to day SUV. Looking around in the secondary hand market for an alternate/Sunday car.

    budget around 800k-1.5M (stretch)

    2012 - 15 BMW 3 series (1.3M ++)
    Toyota 86 (900k - 1.2M++)
    Veloster Turbo (800K ++)

    Currently: leaning towards Veloster Turbo because it is the cheapest in the 2nd hand market. Ive been reading reviews and it seems pretty good. It has space, decent power and still a head turner. 86 is tempting but too common even though it has the legendary Toyota reliability. Bimmer is well, a Bimmer - but price is kinda stretch for me right now. Should i still go for the Bimmer? Pls advise.




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