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BMW 1 Series 120i SE

Driven March 2007

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The European Commission has been busy recently, getting up the noses of German car manufacturers. You see, the EC wants all new cars sold across Europe to average 130g/km of CO2 by 2012 and the Germans, with their uber-barges, are a little bit miffed about this.

But that's not to say that they're burying their heads in the sand. BMW has just launched its 1-Series 3dr and has taken the opportunity to introduce some new tech to all its four-cylinder engines - both petrol and diesel.

Well, 'new' might be a bit strong as this stuff has been around for a while in other manufacturers' cars, but it's a sign of the times that even BMW is getting green.

The most significant aspect is the Auto Start-Stop function. Get to a traffic light, put the 1-Series into neutral and the engine cuts out. Drop the clutch again and it'll restart instantly. And I mean instantly - there's no embarrassing wait at the lights for it to fire up again.

Not only that, when the engine cuts out the air conditioning fan is scaled right back to save energy, and BMW has fitted an electric power steering system which uses less energy than its normal hydraulic ones.

It's not got quite as much weighting to it as the normal set-up, but it's still perfectly precise. Truth be told, if drivers didn't know that it was different, I'd doubt many would notice.

And there's also a regenerative braking system on this 1-Series. To me, that sounds like BMW has done a Toyota and invested in a hybrid system, but it's not quite as grand as that. Instead, the 1-Series system de-couples the battery.

In essence, this means that when you brake you charge the battery, but when you accelerate it de-couples and so doesn't waste power charging the battery.

At this point, you may be wondering what the actual 1-Series three-door is like. Well, it's like a normal 1-Series but with two fewer doors, so is slightly less practical.

Sure, BMW has refreshed the interior, but in reality you'd struggle to notice. The ride is no worse than a normal 1-Series' (although that was never spectacularly comfortable) and it drives just as well.

No, the point to this is the green aspect. And for that, the 1-Series is pretty competent and certainly way ahead of rivals, as this 120i averages 44.1mpg and 152g/km of CO2. Looks like BMW might just thwart the EC's plans yet.

Piers Ward

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