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BMW 116d Sport

Road Test

BMW 1 Series 116d Sport

Driven August 2009

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This new 116d is the cheapest BMW diesel, the lowest-polluting and the most economical model in the BMW range... it's also one of the best. In fact, it's one of the most sorted hatches you can buy, full stop.

The 116 badge is the lowest of all BMW monikers, but 116d does not mean 1.6 litres - this is the same 2.0-litre diesel lump that appears in the 118d, 120d and 123d, but here it produces 116bhp and 140lb ft. That's down from 176bhp and 258lb ft in the 120d, but the lower boost levels, coupled with the clever start-stop tech that's been on BMWs for a while now, means that the fuel economy rises to 64.2mpg and CO2 falls to 118g/km. Those are seriously impressive figures and embarrass its rivals - they're nearly as good as the VW Golf Bluemotion, but with the bonus of significantly more power (116bhp plays 105bhp).

It's not just about on-paper figures though. You don't feel at all short-changed driving the 116d. The engine doesn't rattle too much at idle and it stays smooth all the way to the red line - it's also really refined at motorway speeds. It's even less grumbly than the 120d, as it feels less stressed.

And don't think those lower power figures are bad news either. You still get six gears in the 116d and the 140lb ft of torque is more than enough to push you along at a reasonable lick. There's certainly no need to keep changing down to keep the engine in the torque curve's sweet spot, which is above a usefully low 1,600rpm.

But the single greatest thing about the 116d is the way it rides. Because this is a bargain-basement BMW, the run-flat tyres that you normally get on a 1-Series have been thrown out and replaced with ordinary tyres (and a can of puncture repair foam in the boot floor). No space saver here. You can still opt for run-flats at £175, but if you have even the slightest regard for your spine, you won't bother. The 116d proves that BMWs are inherently well-damped and ride superbly - it flows through pot-holes really, really well - and also that run-flats are the curse of the whole process.

All of which means it's tricky to think of downsides to the 116d. At £18,415, it's sound value for a BMW and there's a Sport trim option which gives you alloys, front fogs and a leather steering wheel for only £810 more than the base spec. If all this is the upside of climate change and economic hardship, bring on doomsday.

Piers Ward

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