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BMW 120d SE business car road test report

BMW 120d SE road test report

BMW 120d SE

What is it?

THE second generation of BMW’s 1 Series hatchback, arriving seven years and 2.2m global sales after the debut of what BMW billed as the first-ever ‘premium’ hatchback.

This new version addresses, with partial success, some of the too-obvious shortcomings of the old: most notably poor passenger and boot space, despite overall dimensions larger than most rivals like Audi’s A3 and VW’s Golf.

But although larger still – longer by 8.3 centimetres, wider by 1.4cm – the new BMW 1 Series is no class leader; an inevitable function of the space demanded by a longitudinal engine (north-south positioning under the bonnet) and rear-wheel drive – rivals such as the Audi A3 are front-wheel drive. The proclaimed pay-back for rear-wheel drive, much trumpeted by BMW at the original’s launch and still unique in the sector, was sporting handling to a level denied to its front-wheel drive rivals.

But, despite being a huge success with business drivers as an attainable BMW business car, the first-generation 1 Series disappointed and the second, judging by a test drive in the 2.0 litre diesel 120d SE, is only modestly better.

Turn-in is sharp; but there is a lumpen response from the rear as weight transfers and the driving experience lacks much of the ‘fun factor’ associated with rear-wheel drive.

There are plenty of upsides, though: the new 1 Series styling is much sharper; the engines on offer – initially two petrol and three diesel – are the class act of the sector and for the business car user, in particular, there awaits the 116d EfficientDynamics version – BMW’s first-ever 99g/km CO2 car and thus exempt from VED and London congestion charge – as well as future-proofing company car tax increases.

The new BMW 1 Series tested here is the 120d SE model, priced at £23,480.

What’s hot?

  • Business user ‘prestige’ starts fairly cheaply: £19,375 for 116i ES petrol
  • All diesels rated at 62.8mpg combined
  • New ‘ECO PRO’ throttle/gearchange programme ‘teaches’ frugal driving
  • Seamless 8-speed transmission option – but pricey at £1,490
  • Wider track and suspension changes have improved ride comfort
  • Build quality and interior materials a significant step up…
  • …now ‘mainstream’ BMW standard
  • Strong residuals should keep contract hire rates low…
  • …BMW Partnership offer is currently £329 a month
  • Lusty performance of diesel engine: 7 secs to 60mph, 142mph…
  • …yet a lowly 119g/km CO2 for a 13% company car tax band in 2011/12
  • Interior redesign improved ambience for long-distance business user
  • Choice of alternative versions: ‘Sport’ and ‘Urban’….

What’s not?

  • …but lurid Urban version – bright orange, white spats…
  • …will appal BMW traditionalists
  • Satnav, Bluetooth, part of Business Advanced package – £1,550, please
  • Dynamics still not great; more enjoyment from a good front drive rival

What you need to Know?

P11D Value:23,425
Monthly Rental*:349 (CH)/£420 (PCH)
Tax Band when posted:13%, 17%, 18%
Monthly BiK:Click link for BIK
Engine:2 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
CO2 Emissions:119g/km
Power/torque:184bhp/380Nm
Economy:62.8 mpg
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