The 7 seater 2 Series Grand Tourer represents a step change for BMW, something that’s blatantly obvious when you first clap eyes on its rather van-like form.

Actually, it’s what’s underneath the skin that represents the biggest about turn for the company because it’s front-wheel drive. BMW’s ‘ultimate driving machine’ moniker comes, in some part, thanks to its preference for producing rear-wheel-drive models. But, in a car like the Gran Tourer, powering the front wheels allows for a more spacious interior, which will be of greater relevance to most potential buyers.

Proof of the packaging advantages come in the form of a spare pair of smaller seats that fold into the boot. They mark the Gran Tourer out form the smaller Active Tourer – itself a roomy little number. Just like in the smaller car, there’s space for two adults in the outer seats of the rear three-person bench and loads of room up front, too.

As you would expect, the grand Tourer leads the way when it comes to interior quality in a car of this type and size. Exact trim specifications have yet to be revealed, but you’ll pay a premium to drive the Grand Tourer (over rivals such as the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and the VW Touran) and can expect a decent level of equipment in return.

Thankfully, BMW hasn’t thrown everything it stands for to the wolves, the Gran Tourer is still fun to drive, thanks mostly to being based on the playful Mini hatchback. It shares that car’s grippy front end and direct steering, although there’s significantly more body roll to contend with.

As you would expect of any BMW, the 2 Series gets an excellent range of engines – the majority of which offer spritely performance along with affordable running costs. The 2.0-litre diesel is bound to be a popular choice thanks to being able to shove itself from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and return fuel economy of nearly 60mpg. Its substantial mid-range performance will also prove useful when the BMW’s packed to the rafters with people and stuff.

A well-rounded machine it may be, but to get on the shopping list of family car buyers the BMW also needs to be affordable and its high price means it faces tough competition from the likes of the seven-seater Land Rover Discovery Sport. Potentially the BMW’s biggest selling point is that it has no obvious rivals.

If you don’t need seven seats then the BMW 2 Series Active tourer might be a better buy.