Our Fleet Test Drive: BMW 120d - Final Report
04 March 2008
Our BMW 1-series has been eco-friendly and a pleasure to drive
Nine months and nearly 12,000 miles with BMW's latest 120d have taught us that a greener future doesn't mean life will necessarily be dull.
The 1-series, with its CO2-saving Efficient Dynamics technology, shows that cutting CO2 doesn't mean sacrificing driver pleasure or even performance. BMW introduced the green systems alongside a power upgrade for its 2.0-litre diesel engine, taking it up 14PS to 177PS, yet dropping it by five BIK bands to what's currently the lowest 18% diesel banding.
The only element of Efficient Dynamics the driver would even be aware of is the ruthlessly efficient stop-and-start system, which cuts the engine when the car's at a standstill and in neutral. Despite several attempts by anyone who
tried it, no-one managed to catch it out. It was also particularly efficient in the heavier central London traffic prior to our office move out to the M25 borders.
The other green tech includes low-rolling-resistance tyres  and regenerative features under the bonnet that re-use the energy created when the car's coasting or braking. But we only know it's there because BMW told us, and because the brand's economy and emissions figures are so impressive.
The engine is a great unit, punchy and powerful, and suits the 1-series' compact dimensions. We managed an economy high of 52.6mpg, and when driven particularly uneconomically it twice dipped below 30mpg. But the majority of tanks registered high 30s or low 40s, though the engine is admittedly capable of higher without too much effort. We've averaged 41.0mpg over the 11,696 miles the car has been in our care - not bad considering the amount of time spent in city traffic and the lack of a driver with a light right foot.
There were a couple of problems. Twice, the battery drained itself when the car had been left for a couple of days - the second occasion requiring a three-day dealer fix - and we also had a problem with the seat-belt pre-tensioner warning light coming on .
I'm a believer in the fact that every car will run into problems from time to time, and it's the way a company does or doesn't deal with it that decides how acceptable the problem was in the first place. BMW proved itself to be top-notch on each occasion, with technicians turning up ahead of the time promised in a text message confirmation and fixing the problem rapidly.
Even the trip to get the battery problem fixed was sorted between BMW Assist and the dealer - Stephen James Ruxley in Sidcup - who had a courtesy car ready and waiting.
However, there were a couple of moans about the car itself, particularly the very hard ride, although the heavy clutch and notchy gearbox also came in for criticism. The jury never reached a verdict on the looks, but the general consensus wasn't positive.
So, not a faultless nine months, but plenty to show that saving the planet and saving money doesn't necessarily mean giving up on enjoying your car or your driving.