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Review

Frugal Fleet Favourite (BMW 116d Efficient Dynamics) car review

17/08/12

WITH its package of Efficient Dynamics technologies, BMW has brought the likes of engine stop-start and brake energy regeneration to the masses. The firm’s engineers appear to have struck gold when it comes to making savings, as the inclusion of these various bits of technology have led to a minor revolution in the office car park.

The 1 Series, and in particular this 116 can play an important role in saving drivers money. Powered by a 116bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine, the all-important economy figures are impressive. The car officially returns 74.3mpg on the combined cycle and, crucially for the tax-conscious, emits a measly 99g/km CO2.

You don’t need to be a maths whizz to work out how important those numbers are in the context of overall running costs and, and especially the thorny subject of paying tax. The car’s sub-100g/km CO2 figure is obviously a major attraction, while the potential to achieve 60-plus mpg in the real world should also please whoever is paying the fuel bill.

Despite the car’s economical slant, there’s no need to fear the driving experience. For many the 116d will be their second home, and in that context its inability to accommodate passengers and their belongings would rightly be viewed a failure.

The 116d is not a failure; in five-door form the car is comparable to most compact hatchbacks. There’s easy access to the front seats, and once inside there’s plenty of headroom and the driving position offers plenty of adjustment.

Room in the back is now decent as the car has grown slightly since it first appeared, Once installed the environment is a comfortable one. Also worthy of note is that boot space is plenty good enough for the weekly shopping, business paraphernalia or the soft bag or two for that overnight conference.

On the road the 116d drives, unsurprisingly, like any other 1 Series, albeit one with higher profile tyres than usual. This results in a pleasingly cushioned ride by BMW’s usual standards, and encourages you to take a relaxed approach to driving. This obviously benefits fuel economy in a positive way, which is fundamentally what the car is all about.

Although the car might be packing only a modest amount of power, it deploys it in an efficient manner. There’s enough low down grunt to make the stop-start grind of the daily commute more than bearable, while mid-range acceleration is ample for something that’s not being pitched as an out-and-out sports car.

The 116d, like all 1 Series models, is rear-wheel drive, which has the potential to make your favourite twisty B-road that little bit more interesting if you’re a keen driver. Don’t worry though, there’s enough safety kit onboard to keep you out of mischief if you get carried away, and the electronic aids don’t behave like a heavy-handed nanny if you know what you’re doing.

It’s fair to say that, if you spend a lot of time on the motorway you won’t experience the car’s engine stop-start feature that often. If, however, you do a lot of town driving, it’s great to have the car shut down at traffic lights and the like. It’s hard to argue with concept of being stationary and not using any fuel. The technology is vastly improved over the early systems, with shut down and start up a largely shudder-free experience.

This clever feature is backed up by an unobtrusive gearshift indicator, which encourages you to be in the right gear for the conditions – further enhancing the car’s frugal nature. Factor in a super-efficient electric power steering system plus an alternator that disengages when the batter is charged yet works hard to recover otherwise wasted energy when you’re braking or coasting and it’s clear that all this Efficient Dynamics talk isn’t just marketing fluff.

Quick enough to keep up with motorway traffic, flexible enough to not have you stirring the gearbox like a maniac around town, quiet enough to have you feel relaxed after a few hours behind the wheel yet nimble enough to make you smile when on the right road, the only thing missing from the 116d is compromise.

Ordinarily low power cars like the 116d are usually little more than veiled attempts to play the numbers game: low CO2 means you pay less tax but pay dearly in the enjoyment department. Not so BMW’s eco champion. This is a compact executive car offering a sound balance of economy, desirability, performance and low running costs.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: BMW 116d SE Efficient Dynamics 5dr, from £20,885 Engine: 1.6-litre diesel unit developing 116bhp.

Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission driving the rear wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 121mph, 0-62mph 10.5 seconds.

Economy: 74.3mpg.

CO2 Rating: 99g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power4 (higher than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy4 (better than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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