Motoring review: BMW 125d and 125i hatchback

BMW 1 series
BMW 1 series
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THE 1-series hatchback is not to everyone’s taste. It is the styling that is divisive on BMW’s only mainstream family hatchback.

Some critics even prefer the first design to this all-new model. Rear passenger access is hampered by the wheel arches but it has a big boot and is priced competitively. Unlike its German prestige peers and Volvo’s tilt with the new V40 and all the European and Asian hatchbacks, it has rear wheel-drive.

Two new versions are available, each setting performance and quality markers, and only available in M Sport specification. They are the 125d and the 125i. The first is diesel, the second is petrol. Both have 2-litre, four-cylinder engines and both produce 215 brake horse power and 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and maximum speed around 150mph. The diesel engine does have a clear advantage in two areas. Its torque of 331.6lb ft between 1,500 and 2,500rpm is well ahead of the petrol engine’s 228.5lb ft at 1,350 to 4,800rpm. This means it has more in-gear flexibility at low engine speed, helping its economy too.

The diesel engine posts “official” average figures of 57.6mpg with manual gears and 58.9mpg with the advanced eight-speed automatic gearbox. Its CO2 readings are 129 and 126g/km. The petrol model records 42.8 and 44.1mpg and 154 and 149g/km CO2.

From this paper evidence, the diesel is cheaper to run, cheaper to tax, and cheaper for the business user’s payroll deductions.

However, the petrol 125i at £26,070 is £1,750 cheaper than the diesel 125d. The high mileage business user’s accountant will be convinced by the argument for the diesel. The private buyer on a low mileage should consider how many miles travelled will offset the higher purchase price of the diesel model – and make an allowance also for the higher residual value of diesel when selling it on.

Of some guidance: on an identical test route in similar driving patterns the trip computer showed 32.5 mpg on petrol with a manual gearbox and 47mpg with a diesel automatic. I enjoyed driving both of them, and as someone who drives long distances in mainland Europe regularly I’d be inclined towards the diesel model with automatic gears. The manual shift on the petrol car was notchy. Auto gears add £1,490 to each model.

However, I’d choose neither but go for a more regular 1-series with a less powerful version of the two-litre diesel engine. This could be the new 116d Efficient Dynamics model which records 74.3mpg and 99g/km – the only BMW so far to avoid annual road tax and the London congestion zone payment. It has 114bhp, lowered suspension, and can reach 60mph in just over 10 seconds and costs from £20,885.«

Verdict: Check out the forthcoming new Mercedes A-Class