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BMW 1 Series (2004–2011)

Last updated 7 January 2019

Kerb weight 1280–1495 kg
Warranty 3 years
Servicing -

Full specifications

Driving

The steering is heavy duty, too. And what it lacks in lightness it makes up for with the sort of feel you forget when driving front wheel drive cars. It's totally uncorrupted and very nearly perfect. To the extent you immediately feel at one with the car. That's what BMW is advertising. That's what the car is about.

The ride quality's good, too. At least it is on the standard 16" wheels with 205/55 tyres fitted to the 120dSE I drove. And not a shake or a rattle anywhere.

BMW has squeezed an extra 13bhp out of its 2.0 litre diesel, plus a total of 340Nm torque at 2,000rpm and puts it through a 6-speed manual box. That means that you're through 2nd gear very quickly, but you soon learn to short-change into 3rd. 6th gives you 37.5mph per 1,000 rpm on the speedo, so at motorway speeds you're bang on peak torque and the car whispers along delivering well over 40mpg. Unless, of course, you decide you need a bit more speed. But even at 90mph you're still under 2,500rpm so you're not going to be visiting the pumps in a hurry. According to the trip computer I wound up averaging 40.3mpg.

The more I drove the 120d the more liked it. I got used to the touch or click indicators that are supposed to make autobahn overtaking easier. Block-changing the six-speed box is a cinch. 4th is an awesome gear for clearing traffic when joining a motorway. And the balance of the car on a fast long bend is fantastic. About the only thing I didn't like was the stink of the interior. Not a South Korean smell. Much sharper. Like Evo-Stick. And when you're driving a car like the 120d the last thing you need is to be sniffing glue.

BMW has also been cleaning up its act. Reducing CO2s, which goes hand in hand with improving economy. Yet also boosting power and performance.

The results are a 130 mph diesel capable of 60 mpg. A 130 mph petrol model that squeaks into the 15% BIK bracket for 2007 to 2008. And similar improvements to the 120i and 120d.

How BMW has done it is by a series of modifications that they collectively call ‘Efficient Dynamics'. These include ‘Brake Energy Regeneration' by which they save 3% of power and CO2 by clutching the alternator so it only charges on engine over-run. (Effectively getting electricity for nothing.)

The power steering is now variable electro-mechanical, so absorbs no power at all in the straight-ahead position and very little at speed, giving a pleasant ‘meaty' feel to the wheel.

The car has auto stop-start, which shuts down the engine when stationary and starts it again as soon as you press the clutch. There's an ‘Optimum Shift Indicator' for gear changes.

Radiator flaps which shut off airflow on start-up so the engine gets to temperature more quickly, and also shuts off airflow when the radiator doesn't need it. Low rolling resistance Michelin Primacy ZP 205/55 R16 Runflats. Lightweight materials used wherever feasible. And raised gearing giving around 39mph per 1,000rpm in 6th, in the 118d.

To drive, it's the same carved-from-solid 1-Series as before, with good steering and excellent, predictable rear-drive handling (that saw off a Cooper S on 17" wheels, so must be good). On the motorway, it's uncannily quiet with very little noise coming from the tyres or the engine, turning less than 2,000rpm at 70. Yet it's got enough grunt if you need it.

However, since it's very pleasant to drive at more relaxed speeds, I suspect that's how most of them will be driven, and why some drivers will actually average close to 60mpg.

As tested, the cars have shed a pair of doors. There's still just about enough room inside for four 5' 9" people, though taller people will have to find shorter friends. And the boot takes a perfectly adequate 330 litres.

Unfortunately prejudice against diesels have left them BIK taxed at 3% more than petrol engined cars. So company man is more likely to want the 118i at BIK on 15% of list than the 118d at BIK on 18%, even though BIK for the petrol engine goes up to 16% in 2008-2009

But even if company accountants force them into 118ds to save on fuel, they won't be short changed.

It's a seriously good little car.

Engines

Engine MPG 0-62 Top speed CO2
116d 63–64 mpg 10.2–10.3 s 124 mph 118 g/km
116i 38–46 mpg 9.8–10.9 s 124–127 mph 143–180 g/km
116i Automatic 43 mpg 10.7–10.8 s 126 mph 154 g/km
118d 50–63 mpg 8.9–10.0 s 125–130 mph 119–150 g/km
118d Automatic 53 mpg 9.0–9.1 s 130 mph 140 g/km
118i 39–48 mpg 8.7–9.4 s 129–130 mph 140–176 g/km
118i Automatic 43 mpg 9.2–9.3 s 130 mph 154 g/km
120d 50–60 mpg 7.5–7.9 s 137–142 mph 125–152 g/km
120d Automatic 53 mpg 7.7–7.8 s 140 mph 140 g/km
120i 38–44 mpg 7.7–8.7 s 135–139 mph 152–181 g/km
123d 54–55 mpg 6.9–7.0 s 148 mph 135–138 g/km
123d Automatic 51 mpg 7.0–7.1 s 147 mph 145 g/km
130i 31–34 mpg 6.0–6.1 s 155 mph 197–221 g/km
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