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BMW 116d Sport 5-door

Click to view picture gallery“Why bother with a hybrid when
  the 116d — BMW
s most fuel efficient
  and least polluting vehicle ever

  offers ‘no compromise
  motoring. And it
s in the showrooms

WITH A COMBINED CYCLE FUEL CONSUMPTION FIGURE OF 64.2MPG and CO2 emissions of 118g/km giving a road tax bill of £35, and 116d prices ranging from £17,605 for the three-door to £18,135 for the base model five-door, there really is no need to compromise on your driving pleasure. Saving the world can be an enjoyable experience after all!

Although badged '116', this model range actually has a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 116bhp alongside 192lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm giving a top speed of 124mph and 0-62mph in 10.3 seconds. Officially, the average fuel economy is 64.2mpg and realistically my test car returned 46.3mpg for the usual motorway, city and country driving over a week-long period.

This is better than the current fuel economy I am achieving from the new Honda Insight hybrid which seems settled at 44.4mpg. Guess which car drives and handles better? The BMW — and by far, although the Insight is roomier, better equipped and costs less, at £16,390 against the £18,945 of my 116d Sport 5-door.

Whilst it really is down to personal choice, my view is that buying a petrol hybrid commits you to that type of motoring: fuel efficient but with lack-lustre performance and quirky styling.

But by buying the BMW 116d you get a good looking, premium brand car that is versatile and fuel efficient and, so far as performance goes, can definitely produce the 'goods' when required. I call this 'hedging my bet' because with the BMW I can drive how I want, when I want to without restriction and have either performance or economy — or both — in a conventional car.

Like all BMW models, the 116d has EfficientDynamics Intelligent Energy Management (the much-applauded fuel saving and lower CO2 technology) that does everything expected of it without dulling performance. Some of the fuel and CO2 saving measures included in this package are lightweight construction, auto stop-start, brake energy regeneration, electric power steering, intelligent alternator control (which captures and stores power) and an optimum gear shift indicator. Small items which together produce big results.

It may be small but it is
still a proper BMW —
and a mighty frugal one
at that
As a package, the 116d five-door will be the keen driver's choice thanks to the engine performance and the taut and well balanced handling. The steering offers plenty of feedback to the driver and rear-wheel drive is always an advantage. The specification includes stability and traction controls, corner and dynamic brake controls and electronic brakeforce distribution — just like on its big brother BMWs.

The suspension on my Sport model was very firm and, in conjunction with the run-flat tyres, the ride and comfort quality was not good. I would recommend sticking with the ES version although I know the ride is also on the firm side with that model.

The engine is certainly not obviously detuned to provide fuel economy and low emissions. The Hams Hall, British-built unit is responsive and quick during acceleration. The tall top gear ratio means it is a little 'flat' in sixth — more of a cruising ratio which aids fuel saving. That said, you'd only select it under the appropriate cruising conditions.

The Sport specification also includes manual air conditioning, door sill finishers with chrome inserts, electrically-operated windows and mirrors, cloth upholstery, a good sound system, leather sports steering wheel with multifunction controls and on-board information computer and a set of 17-inch alloys.

For versatility, the rear seats are 60:40 folding items but, be warned, the rear seat space, headroom and legroom in all 1 Series models is not very good although room in the front is excellent. It may be small but it is still a proper BMW — and a mighty frugal one at that.

No wonder company car drivers like them: all of the brand image without any loss in their beloved performance and much cheaper when it comes to company car tax. Private buyers will do well to consider this particular BMW, especially if they are tempted to consider going down the hybrid route when buying a new car. The £35 road tax, easy-to-achieve 45+mpg, a 124mph top speed and 0-62mph in just over 10 seconds plus BMW's Service Inclusive offer of 5-years/60,000 miles servicing costs for £660 is motoring without too many compromises and makes a good deal more sense to me.

Okay, so the BMW is more expensive than the Prius and Insight hybrids to buy, and the ride can be harsh and uncomfortable and there's limited rear seat legroom. But just look at the upside: excellent fuel economy with low CO2 emissions yet it performs as a BMW should without compromises, handles sharply, well built, classy interior design, roomy front interior… and that blue-and-white badge. — David Miles

BMW 116d Sport 5-door
| £18,945
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-62mph: 10.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 45.4mpg
Power: 116bhp | Torque: 192lb ft | CO2 118g/km | Insurance group 10