BMW has no direct precedent in making one-box MPVs, but the 2 Series Active Tourer is still able to trace its lineage back through the company's history. The closest that it has to parents are probably the Touring versions of the 'New Class' 1600 and 1500-2 saloons, introduced as they were in the 1970s.
These weren't BMW Tourings as the tag would later be applied, but compact three-door hatchbacks designed to be affordable, practical and small.
Much as it might upset brand traditionalists, BMW’s decision to go with front drive for its smallest models is eminently sensible. If the 1 Series proves anything, it’s that driven rear wheels impose at least as much packaging pain on a compact hatchback as they grant dynamic advantage – probably more.
The only way to expand the brief of that hatchback towards greater passenger space, cargo volume and general versatility is to turn the engine through 90deg under the bonnet to make for a longer cabin and do away with the transmission tunnel. In doing that, BMW joins the rest of the car-making world by adopting the mechanical gospel of small car design written by the likes of Alec Issigonis and Dante Giacosa half a century ago.