BMW 118d Coupe

Distinctive two-door is the most expensive choice. Do pace and driver appeal make it worth the extra?

Bosses at BMW have stopped using the famous Ultimate Driving Machine tag in their advertising. But the 1-Series Coupé still majors on behind the wheel appeal. Add distinctive looks and a frugal engine, and it’s a very talented small car.

The styling may not be to everyone’s taste – the Coupé is the least attractive version of the 1-Series. While the five and three-door models look well proportioned, the Coupé comes across as something of a mixed bag, with its stubby rear end. However, from the front the 118d is squat and sporting, and more aggressive than its rivals.

Inside, the dashboard will instantly be familiar to owners of other variants of the 1-Series. It’s a well laid-out cabin with quality switchgear and clear instruments, although the cheap heater controls feel out of place.

The seats prove comfortable and the extendable under-thigh support is a welcome feature.

Yet in our view, the interior would be a drab place in which to spend time if it wasn’t for the optional red leather seats fitted to our test model (£990).

Everything is logically placed, though, and the small steering wheel and short gearlever are a pleasure to use. Plus, while access to the back isn’t great, once inside there’s plenty of room for two. The narrow rear bench can also split-fold, increasing the size of the already impressive boot.

Fire up the engine, and you’re met with the distant thrum of the refined 2.0-litre diesel. The BMW engine has the biggest capacity of our trio, and this is immediately obvious, as it feels by far the quickest car on test.

This was backed up by our figures, with the 118d setting the fastest times at the test track. Just as impressive was its braking ability – the set-up provides solid stopping power and the pedal has a well judged feel.

On the open road, the BMW comes alive, with its superbly weighted steering offering plenty of feedback and the chassis feeling agile and sure-footed. And while the ride isn’t as smooth as the Renault’s, it balances comfort and handling prowess better than the fidgety Honda.

Thanks to its stop-start system and a long sixth gear, the BMW is relatively fuel efficient. Only the slight vibration from the diesel engine as it bursts back into life lets things down.

Considering the 118d’s performance potential, CO2 emissions of 119g/km are impressive. But it struggles on cost. At £21,100, it’s the most expensive car here – that’s over £3,500 more than the Renault. And if you want the same spec as our model, you can easily spend more than £24,000.

Saving graces include a five-year fixed-price service plan and impressive residual value predictions. After three years, the BMW should still be worth 53.3 per cent of its cost new.

The question is whether this, along with the 1-Series’ driver appeal, compensates for the high price and poorer fuel economy.

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: Distinctive styling, clever stop-start technology, a balanced chassis and premium badge guarantee hugely capable 1-Series a spot in this test.

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