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BMW 116d ED: Test Drive Review

Date: 18 May 2012   |   Author:

Category: Lower medium
P11D price: £20,830
Key rival: Audi A3

BMW is at last able to offer a sub-100g/km car with the arrival of the new 116d Efficient Dynamics.

The lowest-emitting 1-series is, if you discount the BMW-owned Mini models, the firm's first venture into what is currently the lowest benefit-in-kind tax boundary, and means the brand can now match its A3 rival, even if the soon-to-be-replaced Audi is only available with three rather than five doors like the 1-series.

The official fuel figure for the 116d is a very impressive 74.3mpg, efficiency that puts it alongside the VW Golf Bluemotion and three-door only Volvo C30. Power comes from a 2.0-litre diesel detuned to 116hp, which compares well with rivals, especially when you look at the BMW's 0-62mph time being 0.8 seconds better than any of its key low-emission rivals. It's not rapid, but the pay-off for the excellent CO2 is worth the price when you look at a BIK tax bill of £45 per month for a lower-rate tax payer, at least until the BIK bands move next April.

Price and spec are essentially the same for the Efficient Dynamics model as they are for the SE trim, although the car is tuned for economy rather than performance. It's a minimal sacrifice given the benefits, with the Efficient Dynamics model 0.2 seconds slower to 62mph yet 18g/km and 11.5mpg better.

The 1-series is probably still the driver's car of choice in the lower medium segment, due in part to BMW persisting in making it rear-wheel drive, which is unique in the sector; it improves the handling, but there are still packaging issues.

The 1-series is vastly improved over its predecessor, but it's still not near the class best for rear passenger space, and the 360-litre boot is also below average. But the BMW is currently untouchable for running costs, thanks largely to a 45.6% retained value after three years and 60,000 miles, according to KwikCarcost. That compares with 39.0% for the outgoing A3, being replaced later this year, while the Bluemotion Golf is only at 33.8%. That's the main reason for the BMW's significant victory on whole-life costs, as the new 116d Efficient Dynamics doesn't set a new benchmark for the sector, as previous BMWs have done. Volvo, VW and, with the three-door A3, Audi were already at 99g/km, as are the majority of the volume lower medium manufacturers. The BMW does hold the trump card of being among the best-performing and best-driving cars at this level, but there is a 99g/km Vauxhall Astra that offers 130hp and a quicker 0-62mph time.

However, as an all-round package, the 116d Efficient Dynamics deeply impresses. The efficiency, running costs, performance, driving experience and badge prestige make a compelling, and probably class-leading, case for both company and driver.