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BMW 118d

Compact coupé evokes memories of firm’s legendary 2002 Turbo. But how do the two models compare...?

OUR long-term BMW 1-Series Coupé has taken me back to 2002! No, it’s not a time machine – but the two-door body, flat rear deck and squared-off design remind me of the company’s legendary saloon.

The BMW 2002 is one of my favourite classic cars, and the similarities between it and the modern two-door I run on Auto Express’s long-term fleet are clear for all to see. We brought the two models together to prove my point.

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Launched in 1968, the 2002 is one of the most famous BMWs of all-time. It helped to cement the firm’s reputation for making great compact sports saloons, and more than 380,000 were built. The stunning car in our pictures is one of 1,672 rare 2002 Turbos, produced between 1973 and 1975.

Thanks to tricky on-the-limit handling and serious turbo lag, this 2.0-litre machine was loved and feared in equal measure. Even experienced drivers could be caught out if the boost arrived in the middle of a damp bend. Less extreme versions of the 2002 have a lot in common with our long-termer, though. As with the 1-Series, the 2002 represented the entry point to BMW ownership. It proved the manufacturer’s key attributes of robust build quality, involving handling and slick mechanicals worked as well in a small car as they did in the larger models for which the brand was famous.

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Look beyond the bulging wheelarches and loud stickers of the Turbo, and you can see the simple lines of the 2002 bear a striking resemblance to the 1-Series. So is it the spiritual ancestor of our long-termer?

Well, both cars sit between what constitutes a pure coupé and a two-door saloon. While the 2002 ultimately spawned the 3-Series, it’s close in size to the 1, and both use simple exterior styling.

Our 118d isn’t the most hi-tech BMW, but it gets the basics right. All the controls are perfectly weighted, there’s plenty of steering feel and the driving position is excellent.

A strong engine and decent refinement also add to its appeal. I’ve covered more than 7,000 miles so far, and continue to be impressed by its all-round ability. I’m not alone, because the 1-Series turned in a decent performance in a recent green coupé group test – finishing aheadof Honda’s new CR-Z hybrid.

My colleagues have warmed to the BMW’s blend of sharp driving responses and low emissions. The cabin is straightforward, too, and the car has proven a comfortable companion on long trips.

Reliability has also been faultless. Our only issue seems to be down to bad luck! We’d already had one broken windscreen, which was replaced by Autoglass. But then the 118d was hit by a stone while on the motorway – leaving a two-inch crack in our two-week-old replacement!

In every other respect, though, the BMW hasn’t missed a beat.

It has a hint of the 2002’s DNA – yet what makes the 118d great is its abilities in 2010.

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