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Powerful, polished and frugal – BMW 116D Urban

BMW’s new 1-series might not look much different from the outside, but behind the wheel is a totally different story. The new version is more efficient, more powerful and more spacious!

The 1-series was never universally acclaimed when it first launched in 2004. Criticized for being cramped and badly built none of this did anything to dampen its appeal. Rear wheels drive aided its driving dynamics and the 1 series sold over 2 million since its launch 8 years ago. Still the only real wheel drive in its class the new version is more efficient, more spacious and more sporty.

Test Car
Buyers have a choice of three redesigned four-cylinder diesel units and two petrol engines. The two petrol units are a 102kW(136bhp) 1.6-litre and  127kW(170bhp) 1.8-litre. The diesels range in power from 87kW(116bhp) up to 138kW(184bhp).
Our test car was the BMW 116d, which offers an incredible blend of performance and economy. With a maximum output of 87kW(116bhp) and peak torque of 260Nm between 1,750 and 2,500rpm, the 0 to 100kms dash is completed in 10.3 seconds, before reaching a top speed of 124kms. Our test car was fitted with a slick six-speed manual transmission but a new eight-speed automatic transmission is available.

On the

The rear wheel drive of the 1 series makes it one of the most engaging cars in its class to drive and the 116d is no exception.  It is still firm to drive but is supple enough to deal with any uneven surfaces.  Its nimble handling is beautifully balanced with plenty of grip. Steering feedback is not as good though as you would expect but the gearbox is slick and performance effortless.

Average fuel consumption is a good 4.5 litres per 100kms and with CO2 emissions of only 117g/km grams per kms this puts it in band A for motor tax. There is a range of fuel saving technologies at work including an Auto Start-Stop function in both manual and automatic transmissions. Also ECO PRO mode is a new feature on BMW’s that adjusts various on-board systems to maximise efficiency.

Inside there is an immediate sense of quality. Head and leg room is good  and the seats are firm but comfortable. The displays and controls of the central instrument panel are all within arm’s reach but overall it is quite dull interior. It is noticeably bigger inside than the previous generation, and BMW have made excellent use of the additional millimeters. It is 83mm longer, 14mm wider and 30mm longer in the wheelbase. The back has gained an extra 20mm of legroom and while it is still not what you would consider spacious it is far less cramped than before. Luggage space has also been increased by 30 litres giving it a decent total capacity of 360 litres of luggage space with a maximum of 1,200-litres when the seats are down.

BMW’s smallest offering is still one of most impressive hatchbacks on the road. It is expensive, cramped and has what may be described as “polarizing” styling but on the road it handles so well these become small considerations. With the new fuel efficient engines the 1 series offers a supreme blend of performance and economy.

 Competitors: VW Golf;  Alfa Romeo Giulietta;  Audi A3


Why you’ll buy one? Brand Image; Super fuel economy; Sporty performance

 Why you won’t?, Expensive; Dull exterior and interior

 VERDICT: Dull inside and out but the rear wheel drive more than compensates, on the road it puts rivals in the shade.


Engine: 1 995 cm3, power output: 85 kW (116 bhp) at 4 000 rpm, Max torque: 260 Nm between 1 750 and 2 500 rpm
Max speed: 200 km/h
0-100km/h: 10.3 seconds
Emissions (motor tax): 117g/Kk (€160)
Starting price:  € 27,240
Model price range: € 27,240 – €41,891 (Test Car €30,800 + optional extra*, total price €31,634.74)

 * Valencia Orange €710.56; Rain sensor with auto. headlight activation €124.18


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