REVIEW DATE: 16 Jan 2009
BMW's reputation for efficiency can only be furthered by the 116d. Steve Walker reports.
In the not too distant past, economy would have been one of the last things you'd have associated with BMW. The German marque traded on the handling, performance and quality of its products while saving money on fuel languished a long way down the priority lists of its customers. How times change. These days, BMW's EfficientDynamics technology sets the standard amongst the premium brands for minimising running costs and the manufacturer is as keen to crow about its most efficient cars as it is about its quickest. In the current range, they don't come any more efficient than the 116d.
BMW's 118d was voted World Green Car of the Year in 2008 but with that trophy gathering dust in the cabinet, the engineers turned their attention to going one better. The 116d uses the same 2.0-litre diesel engine as the 118d and like all EfficientDynamics BMWs, its aim is to deliver its economy savings without sacrificing on the sharp rear-wheel-drive handling that makes a BMW a BMW.
The 2.0-litre, four cylinder diesel engine in the 116d pops up in various states of tune all over the BMW model range. In the 1-Series hatchback line-up, it sees active service in the 123d where it has 201bhp, the 120d with 175bhp and the 118d with 141bhp. In the 116d, it's paired right back to 116bhp but as the performance drops, so do the running costs. The 116d can still manage to sprint from 0-60mph in 10.2s and hit a top speed of 125mph so it's no slouch and the maximum torque of 260Nm at 1,750rpm should give plenty of mid-range muscle for BMW customers who hold cutting costs as their number one priority.
Like all BMWs bar the 4x4 models, the 116d is rear wheel-drive. This sets it apart from its direct rivals in the premium hatch sector which tend to send power to their front wheels. Where front wheel drive has traditionally scored is that it's easy and cheap to manufacture a transverse engined hatch with a front gearbox and drive going to the front wheels. You needn't worry about a bulky transmission tunnel running through the cabin so it works in terms of packaging too. There are also some great front-wheel drive GTis around but after just a hundred metres behind the wheel of the 1 Series, it's apparent they're starting at a distinct disadvantage. The slick body control, the perfect balance in corners and the supremely judged damping shows that BMW's faith in the rear wheel drive layout has not been misplaced and their mastery of chassis dynamics shouldn't be taken for granted.
"Efficiency is rapidly becoming as important a part of the BMW brand as performance."
Open one of the narrow back doors on the five-door model and you'll spot the major drawback of this car right away. There's less room in the back of the 1 Series than you'll find in a supermini like a Honda Jazz. With a six-footer behind the wheel, legroom is shockingly bad and the transmission tunnel means that you won't ever want to travel piggy in the middle on the rear bench. That's not what the 1 Series is all about. If you want a practical car, go and buy a mini-MPV. If you want a trendy urban bauble that will turn heads and get tongues wagging, the 1 Series will be more your thing. It manages to make the Audi A3 look staid.
The rear wheel drive layout has done more than affect the way the car handles. With no requirement to set the front wheels back to accommodate a pair of rear facing driveshafts, the 1 Series has a pleasantly roomy front footwell with no offset to one side. The engine is instead mounted largely behind the front axle which gives rise to the long bonnet and improves weight distribution.
The 116d is available in standard, ES, SE or M Sport trim levels and in three-door or five-door bodystyles. In the entry-level version, buyers get steel wheels, electric windows, a trip computer, a CD stereo and 60:40 split rear seats. It's hardly the Ritz and most customers will step up to one of the plusher trim levels. Safety equipment is more impressive with all models getting DSC stability control and a highly advanced braking system. There are also front, side and curtain airbags.
The core rival of the 1 Series is the Audi A3 but at the lower end of the range where the 116d plys its trade, it's uncomfortably close to some very well specified versions of family hatchbacks from the class below. You can get a lot of Volkswagen Golf and even more Ford Focus for the money that BMW is asking for the 116d, so buyers will have to be convinced by its rear-wheel-drive handling, its general quality and its low running costs.
The 116d can return an outstanding 64.2mpg on the combined cycle and it emits just 118g/km of CO2 (compare with 62.8mpg and 119g/km for the 118d variant which costs £1,000 more). This makes it an extremely cheap car to run and thanks for that must be laid at the door of BMW's EfficientDynamics programme. On the 116d, this takes the form of an Auto Start-Stop system that cuts the engine when the car is stationary, brake energy regeneration that recycles energy when the car brakes to charge the battery, Servotronic electric power steering and an optimum gear shift indicator. All of these features make small but significant contributions to the 116d's sparkling performance at the pumps.
This is a BMW and even though it's BMW's most fuel efficient model to date, it still costs a pretty penny to buy in the first place. Overall cost of ownership will, of course, be buoyed by the strong residual values that accompany the BMW badge but the 116d is still less about saving money than it is about saving it without sacrificing on driving dynamics and quality.
Efficiency is rapidly becoming as important a part of the BMW brand as performance and handling. Making use of the manufacturer's EfficientDynamics technology, the 116d delivers exemplary fuel economy and should still retain the sharp driving dynamics for which BMW is famed.
At this lower end of the 1-Series range, there's stiff competition from family hatchback rivals but the BMW continues to offer a blend of qualities that you simply can't come by anywhere else.
The results below show the top 1 SERIES deals on buyacar
|BMW 1 Series 118d ES 2dr diesel coupe|
|Price £20,155||Save £2,445|
|BMW 1 Series 118i ES 2dr convertible|
|Price £22,147||Save £2,783|
|BMW 1 Series 116i Sport 5dr hatchback|
|Price £19,164||Save £2,116|
|BMW 1 Series 118d Sport 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £20,808||Save £2,432|
|BMW 1 Series 120d xDrive M Sport 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £24,537||Save £3,098|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT 1 SERIES DEALS|
|For 1 SERIES 116d|
|OVERALL||7.1 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||5|
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