SCARLETT JOHANSSON is a very beautiful woman.
Her looks alone may place her atop my list of the world’s most desirable women (other half excluded, of course).
But while I’ve not met Ms Johansson – yet – she entirely comes across as being a good person, with intelligence, class and a good heart at the core of her qualities.
But while I’m drawn to a specific type of beauty, others have their own, alternative, views – some strange folk find Kelly Brook enchanting, for example.
So what BMW have done with the new 2-Series active tourer is take a wonderful package of perfection – Scarlett Johansson, if you will – and retain the vital qualities, but replace the looks with something a little bit more … common.
[quote_center]There’s no denying a modern-day Ford and Citroen among the exterior design influences”[/quote_center]The 2-Series, I’m informed, is the Bavarian Motor Works’ attempt at drawing customers who wouldn’t normally splash their cash on its German cars.

So with that in mind, they’ve made some changes and the body is just the first.

It’s also BMW’s debut in the front-wheel drive arena and involves a bit of cost-cutting to make them “affordable” to those new buyers.

Both the above points are helped by sharing the front-drive system as the new Mini – which is the same company, remember.

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It’s also BMW’s debut in the front-wheel drive arena and involves a bit of cost-cutting to make them “affordable” to those new buyers.

Both the above points are helped by sharing the front-drive system as the new Mini – which is the same company, remember.

So far, so concerning. Isn’t BMW risking it’s prestige by playing with cheaper products? Will cost-cut cars tarnish the class of the brand? Will existing owners be a bit peeved that the proles are owning cars with same badge?

As a potential buyer, any fears about this being a nearly-BMW are immediately put to bed the second you get inside.

It’s been hard to find fault with any of the models we’ve tested recently – from the speed of the 425i to the class of the 5-series GT. The 2-Series here is very familiar territory.

There’s the iDrive system, the centre console flat-screen, those dials and, of course, that badge on the wheel.

Yes, there’s a different, more traditional spring-loaded gear lever that’s will burn another calorie compared to BMW’s exquisite premium version and there may well be a bit of cheaper plastic around the dash if you look close enough and know the more expensive alternative.

But you’d have to be mad to think this was anything less than a premium environment.

There’s plenty of head clearance but leg room in the back was a bit on the tight side for taller grown-ups. Electric buttons help flip the rear seats down in a jiffy to make the split-level boot bigger, while the electric tailgate has a kick-open function which, as a musician who often carries heavy loads to the car, is infinitely helpful when loading big items without a free hand.

You literally kick under the bumper and the boot opens itself. Priceless.

But back in the cockpit, and a press of the ignition button puts you straight into that familiar BMW world.

Grip the gear lever trigger, pull it back to Drive, press down on the electronic handbrake button and pull away to find out why this is perhaps the best value Ultimate Driving Machine to date.

Acceleration is smooth and the fantastic gearbox shifts in the blink of an eye, as you’d expect from the German firm’s more expensive products.
Fears of torque steer are short-lived, and the Active Tourer has Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport modes to suit your needs.

It happily negotiates tight Penzance housing estates, can be run ragged on twisting CamCallington country lanes and is classy and composed in the city of Truro.

The 150-brake engine does nought to 60 in under 9 seconds, topping out at 129mph, though perhaps doesn’t feel as agile as some of it’s more costly siblings.

The standard version comes in at around £25,000 but this test model has a fair few optional extras – Park Distance Control, cruise control, extended interior light package, park assist, reversing camera, adaptive LED headlights, sat-nav, sport automatic transmission and heated seats among others, which ups the cost to £31,000.

If you’ve been wanting to dip a toe into the world of BMW driving, then this might be the most tempting car yet.

While it may have streaks of other brands on the outside, it’s a good-looking car with the most vital DNA.

Scarlett Johnasson may not have had her usual makeup applied, but she still delivers the expected award-winning performance where it matters most.

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Gareth Bartlett

Gareth Bartlett

Motors Road Tester at DCMedia
Gareth Bartlett

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