THE COMPROMISED DRIVING MACHINE
Rewind back to 1986, and if you wanted 204bhp out of a two-litre engine, you would be looking at Ford’s legendary Sierra RS Cosworth, equipped with a rather large tea-tray rear spoiler. Step forward to 2008, and BMW’s 123d achieves exactly the same amount of power, but this time not with a turbocharged petrol engine, but with a 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel. At the same time as the Cossie was on sale, Ford also offered a Sierra diesel, producing a massive 66bhp! It just goes to show how things have progressed in the diesel world. No-one could ever describe the 1 Series as the best looking car in BMW’s range, and as a car that is similar in size to Ford’s Focus, it is decidedly cramped. It’s slightly shorter, has a lower stance and due to its rear-wheel-drive configuration, is compromised in terms of rear leg room. As a family car it totally fails, but if you look at the BMW as an alternative to a two-door coupé, then it starts to make a whole lot more sense. It is built beautifully and the cabin layout follows the German makers tried and tested formula. The sporting theme is immediately apparent, with a nice fat sports steering wheel and short stubby gearstick – both feeling absolutely spot on. The sports seats hug your torso, enabling you to find a driving position that is near perfect.
On the road the performance is electric, with the 2.0-litre engine pulling like a train, and the 0-62mph dash is completed in a super quick 6.9 seconds. This is all coupled with low CO2 emissions of 138g/km and a combined fuel consumption figure of 54.3mpg. Refinement is excellent, and is mated to sharp, precise steering that makes you want to drive faster. All of this performance comes at a price, with the 123d M Sport coming out at £25,365 before you’ve even examined the options list. That’s a lot to pay for a car that looks barely changed from the base 118d. Opting for the M Sport version, rather than SE costs £1,430 more, but in return you get 17-inch sports alloy wheels, M sport suspension and bodykit, door sill finishers and sports seats.
The small hatch market is a competitive one, and £25k can buy you a lot of car. While the 123d offers enormous performance, good economy and low emissions, there simply isn’t enough space inside for it to compete against the Golf’s of this world.
RIVALS: Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line, VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GT SPORT 2.0 TDI DPF, Volvo C30 D5 R-Desig n SE Sport
- Engine: 1995cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 204bhp at 4,400rpm
- Max Torque: 295lb ft at 2,000rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,200kg
- Combined Consumption: 54.3mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 138g/km (C)
- 0-62mph: 6.9secs
- Max speed: 148mph
- Insurance group: 16
Thunderous power, handles well, great economy and emissions
Expensive, exterior looks are not to all tastes, cramped interior, few clues to M Sport trim level