BMW 118d

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Once upon a time a diesel engine would never have gone into a driver-focussed car. Nor would fuel-saving devices. But times change; so does technology; and here we have BMW’s 118d, a rear-drive hatch with a capable chassis and a punchy diesel engine that lets you make the most of it – or putter around in very fuel frugal mode.

I noticed the stop-start tech at the first set of lights, when I changed to neutral and the engine died. It’s initially disconcerting, particularly given the rather gruff soundtrack underlines every restart, but you soon forget it because it fires as soon as you depress the clutch to select first. I doubt it saves much fuel, but a whiff less each time you stop adds up over a car’s lifetime.

Start-stop is aligned with the six-speed manual transmission – which also features a shift indicator. Follow its gear-change suggestions to drive as frugally as possible. Want to surf the torque and you’ll ignore its urging – it’s only a visual display so that’s easy to do.

Also saving you fuel is a bit of hybrid tech – brake energy regeneration to charge ancillaries – and electric power steering that only draws power when it’s needed.

Which is fortunate, for power is in relatively short supply; this is only a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, with 105kW – and 300Nm of torque. Acceleration to 100 is acceptable rather than eye-watering, but it’s that low-down urge you use most and really appreciate; this engine’s ability to haul from lights and junctions or dart into gaps. Not to mention charge out of corners…

And yes, this is a typical BMW in that it really is a driver-focussed car. The rear leg-room may not be the best, but couples won’t care if they’re enjoying the drive. Buy this Edition Sport and you get the M sports suspension no doubt partly responsible for the car’s over-firm ride, plus an M aerodynamics package, leather wheel, supportive sports seats (with blue contrast stitching in this car), changes to interior trim, black-line rear lights and more. Certainly the pack gives you a lot for your $5200, and the visual embellishments enhance the car’s visual and tactile appeal.

Downsides? Our press car’s $56,800 (including special edition premium) price was further boosted by the M options – those $1550 light alloy, double-spoke wheels; the $750 park distance control front and rear; the extended phone-music connectivity ($250) – and all the options took the total to nearly 60 grand.

Also a downer – for me at least – the jiggly ride supplied by run-flat tyres. BMW maintains there’s a safety advantage; you won’t get stuck by the roadside with a flat, risking robbery or an impact from flying traffic. It also maintains that since you can drive on a punctured run-flat tyre, even those living far from a tyre source can safely await a replacement to arrive.

Me? I can’t get used to the harsh ride. For every flying transit of a bendy B-road I enjoyed in this car, there were two commutes or shopping runs that rattled my fillings.

Shame, for otherwise the BMW is the perfect companion for a keen-driving singleton or couple rarely needing rear seats, and seeking a smart drive with a bit of cachet.

See new and used BMW 118d for sale.