Snapshot: BMW 116d EfficientDynamics

Until the electric and hybrid versions of the i3 arrive later this year, the 116d EfficientDynamics is the cleanest, most frugal BMW money can buy. 

How frugal? BMW claims a combined 74.3mpg for 116d ED and 62.4mpg for urban use. Carbon dioxide emissions are 99g/km, which is some way off the latest Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion (85g/km) but the 1 Series feels a little faster and better to drive. The 116ED also comes with most of BMW's efficiency-boosting knowhow (not low friction fluids, interestingly) and features a lightweight design.

By now we’re familiar with BMW’s ECOPRO mode (selectable from the centre console) but it remains helpful and effective. Start-Stop works seamlessly in heavy traffic and a gearshift indicator helps the driver keep engine speed at its most efficient. The EfficientDynamics equipment fitted to the 116d also includes low rolling resistance tyres and power steering that only uses energy from the electric motor when required. The car even sits lower to the road to aide aerodynamics.

On a combination of urban commuter journeys and fast motorway cruising all this resulted in just over 55mpg, which is fairly impressive for a car with most luxury trimmings.

Inside the interior architecture is textbook modern-era BMW, with smooth interfaces and clear switchgear. At first it all feels a little cramped and busy, and that’s because BMW has applied the blueprint from the larger cars it makes onto a considerably smaller framework. Ergonomically, however, the 1 Series is spot-on and BMW’s trademark driving position sets it apart from rivals in this respect.

The 1 Series’ exterior has been fiercely criticized from day one and it’s fair to say that the new car, whilst more curvaceous, lacks the boldness of the original that people have come, if not to love, then at least to respect and admire. A glut of visual weight over the rear axle and a weak front graphic means the 116d ED isn’t as attractive as it deserves to be. The latest Golf BlueMotion’s incisive surface detailing, in particular, puts the BMW in the shade.

Unlike the Golf, visual changes indicating the 116d’s environmental credentials are non-existent. Only the smaller, 16-inch alloy wheels indicate that this 1 Series is BMW's most efficient car on sale.

The 116 ED is a good answer to the question, ‘How premium – in terms of luxury and performance - can you get before breaking the 100g/km carbon dioxide mark?’ Cars like the outstanding Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid have certainly blurred the line, but, sticking to conventional powertrain technology, the 116d ED represents the apex of the market right now. This state, however, won’t last until even the end of 2013.

Engine: 1,598cc 4-cyl diesel Power: 116bhp Torque: 260Nm 0-60mph: 10.5 seconds Top speed: 121mph Fuel economy: 74.34mpg combined Emissions: 99g/km CO2 Price: From £20,565

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