BMW 1 Series Hatchback review (2004-2012)
The 118d proves that low-emission, high-economy cars can be exciting, too.
Driving Don’t worry that the current generation of ‘green’ cars are dull to drive. The 118d lays that to rest. The engine is mounted far back in the chassis, while the rear-wheel-drive layout gives the BMW crisp dynamics. Quick steering, good body control, sharp brakes and a rewarding gearshift all add to its alert, eager feel. The 143bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel is smooth and refined too, picking up eagerly around town despite long gearing – it’s remarkably flexible. Performance is very strong as well, helping it drive further ahead of its rivals. It hits 60mph in 9.1 seconds, and has a maximum of 130mph. It features engine stop-start, which works seamlessly. Come to a halt, select neutral and raise the clutch, and the engine stops. Press the clutch and it fires instantly, making it a very unobtrusive system.
Marketplace If you opt for a cleaner car, do you need to sacrifice performance and desirability? Not according to BMW. The maker has fitted its EfficientDynamics package across the 1-Series range, and the 118d is the cleanest of the lot. It comes in all trim guises, so buyers can choose from ES, SE and M Sport trims, rather than a specific ‘eco’ variant. Efficiency measures include low rolling resistance tyres, six long gear ratios, engine stop-start and a regenerative alternator that only charges when the brakes are applied. Rivals include the Audi A3 1.9 TDIe, Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion, SEAT Leon Ecomotive and the Ford Focus ECOnetic.
Owning The BMW’s cabin isn’t that practical. Its rear-drive layout means it can’t match more conventional hatchback rivals for back seat room or boot space. But, with a small, chunky steering wheel and an excellent driving position, you can’t fault the 118d’s comfort up front, and there’s a sporty feel to the cabin. BMW hasn’t hidden its eco credentials either: the company has fitted a handy gearshift indicator. It’s not all good news, though. The ride is firm at low speeds, and the taut suspension fails to absorb bumps adequately. The BMW hops on rural roads and there’s a firm edge plus some tyre noise on the motorway. As for economy, though, there’s no doubting the BMW’s credentials. Officially, it returns a remarkable 62.8mpg, and emits 119g/km of CO2 (giving low rates of annual VED). Even our rigorous testing saw it return 49.6mpg – an exceptional result. The 118d also enjoys strong long-term retained values, too.