REVIEW DATE: 09 Mar 2007
If any BMW 1 Series was destined to be overlooked, it's probably the 118d. It shouldn't be. Andy Enright makes a case for the entry-level diesel
If the BMW 118d featured in a high-school yearbook, it would never be student Most Likely To Succeed or Outgoing Prom Queen. It would be the hard worker who everybody forgot even existed, overshadowed by its more illustrious siblings. The 1 Series line up is currently structured in such a way that the petrolheads will gravitate to the 120i or perhaps the 130i, the bargain hunters will buy the 116d and those looking for some mid-range muscle will opt for the 120d. Which leaves the 118d. Surely a car this good deserves a little play?
Priced around £1,500 less, model for model, than the 120d, the engine is still capable of putting on quite a show. Although there's very little in it when it comes to fuel economy or emissions, the 118d scores a decisive advantage over the 120d when it comes to insurance costs, being rated a full three groups lower at Group 11. For the record, thanks to BMW's EfficientDynamics programme, the 118d will return a combined fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg and emits 119g/km grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre, putting it on par with some superminis. This remarkable showing is thanks, in part, to BMW's Brake Energy Regeneration technology that uses energy that would have been lost under braking to recharge the car's battery.
Where the 118d starts to become a more compelling choice is when budgetary constraints are taken into account. All 1 Series models are pretty pricey when essentials like alloy wheels, air conditioning and metallic paint are factored into the equation. Ignore the base price for the basic three-door model - nobody but the most craven badge snob will drive a 1 Series without the aforementioned kit. The rates BMW ask for the SE variants are far more indicative of 'real' 118d money. At the top of the range, meanwhile, sits the M Sport model with its lower spoilers and sills, bigger alloy wheels and M Sports suspension. The five-door cars come in at just over £500 more model for model.
"Although the heart may say 120d, the head more often than not opts for the 118d"
The only significant difference between the 118d and the 120d is in the engine management software. This limits the junior model to 143bhp and credits the 120d with the full 177bhp monty. BMW played a smart trick with the petrol-engined cars (gearing the less powerful 116i so that its performance disadvantage was nullified somewhat in the lower gears) but have chosen not to do likewise with the 118d. The upshot of this is that the 118d will feel a little sluggish if you drive it back to back with the 120d, but otherwise it's an agreeably swift hatch, notching off the dash to 60mph in less than nine seconds and running on to a top speed of 130mph.
The big selling point of the 1 Series is rear wheel drive and although the 118d doesn't possess tyre-scorching power to capitalise fully, you'll still notice the benefits. Deploying the full quota of 300Nm of torque as you accelerate out of a side turning would, in a front-wheel drive car, generate copious torque steer, that raggedy tugging of the steering wheel as the front tyres struggle to put down the power. Even at higher speeds, front-wheel drive cars with a hefty slug of torque can veer rather dramatically when they come 'on-cam'. Just try accelerating hard in a Ford RS Focus with your hands off the wheel. On second thoughts don't. A ditch could beckon. There's none of this corrupting influence with the 118d. About the most extreme thing that ever happens is that in damp conditions the ESP light will give a little blink as it winds the power back slightly. Most of the time it just grips and goes. No drama, no writhing steering wheel or tramping axle. Just purity.
Things aren't all ambrosia however. Open one of the narrow back doors on the five-door models and you'll spot the trade off 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 the latest urban bauble that will turn heads and get tongues wagging, the 1 Series will be more your thing. At a stroke, it manages to make the Audi A3 look ridiculously staid.
Today's 1 Series now features a larger kidney grille for improved airflow to the engine. The lower front spoiler has also been reprofiled to create a larger air intake, while the spoiler protrudes further for a more pronounced, sporting look. The headlamp cluster remains the same size but a darker cover gives a subtle, more distinguished front end. At the rear a restyled bumper gives the impression of a wider, lower car. The rear lamp cluster now features a new arrangement of lights, but retains its original shape.
The three-door 1 Series features the same styling cues but its side view is naturally different. The passenger doors are longer than those on the five-door model and are also frameless in the style of a coupe. Inside, customers can choose between either a four-seat or a five-seat configuration. In the four-seat arrangement rear passengers are separated by a central storage compartment and sit in more sculptured seats.
It's easy to get a little carried away with the 1 Series. Does it really do a great deal more than the 3 Series Compact did, albeit with five doors and a sassier suit? In short, no, but the concept has evolved very nicely and the unsung hero of the process is the 118d. Rationality has rarely looked so appealing.
The results below show the top 1 SERIES deals on buyacar
|BMW 1 Series 118d M Sport 2dr diesel convertible|
|Price £16,355||Save £2,423|
|BMW 1 Series 118d ES 2dr diesel coupe|
|Price £20,155||Save £2,445|
|BMW 1 Series 116i Sport 5dr hatchback|
|Price £19,164||Save £2,116|
|BMW 1 Series 118i ES 2dr convertible|
|Price £22,147||Save £2,783|
|BMW 1 Series 116d EfficientDynamics 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £18,989||Save £2,106|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT 1 SERIES DEALS|
|For 1 SERIES 118d|
|OVERALL||7.1 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||5|
Let our car quote assistant help you configure your ideal new 1 Series - it's 100% free and easy to use...
Click below for more information: