Launched in 1968, the 2002 is one of BMW’s most famous models. A two-door sedan, it pushed BMW’s reputation in the public’s eye as being a sports car accessible to the masses as opposed to the elitist 503 and 3200 CS. It’s this car that inspired the new BMW 1-Series we’re reviewing today – a small, agile coupe with ample urge from under the bonnet, in a front-engined rear-wheel drive configuration.
Whether the 1 series will become as iconic as the 2002 is debatable. The coupe version looks better in the flesh than it does in photos, and makes the five-door 1 Series look like a frumpy bread van. Where the concave ankle line is reminiscent of a sagging beam in the five-door, in the coupe it reminds you of an athlete’s hamstrings, working in tandem with the quadriceps to deliver rapid forwards motion; at least, from most angles. Walk around the 123d coupe and you’ll occasionally catch a flaccid glimpse, but mostly it’s all tone and taughtness, accentuated by the angular crease of its deltoids, and the headlights smeared towards the pumped wheel arches. These are filled by optional M Sport 18-inch alloys sporting 215/40R18 tyres, that semi-conceal sizable brake discs.
The back of the car is half way there to looking the business. The boot lip extends backwards like it can’t quite keep up with the speed of the car, but how great would the rear look with twin exhausts and a rear venturi? Really great is the answer I heard you say.
Squeeze down into the bucket seats (the wings of which are adjustable), and the immediate sense is one of luxurious sports car, albeit with way too much lumbar support and no way of adjusting it (it’s a $650 option that wasn’t included in the plethora of options attached to this car).
Auckland to Napier is an interminable drive. I usually try to do it at 4am to miss as much traffic as possible, but I left at 4pm, confident that the 123d’s Ã¼ber-torque ratings would slingshot me past dawdling weekenders. Using the six-speed sequential steptronic gearbox is barely necessary as 400Nm is available from just 2000rpm. Mix that up with 150kW and 100kph can be yours in 7.1 seconds, with objects in your rear view mirror disappearing rapidly. The 123d does a great job of changing gears itself, anticipating what you need, or you can do it using the gear lever or the steering wheel-mounted push-pull paddles.
I averaged 5.8l/100km on the trip in this automatic model — that includes hills, bursts of overtaking, and the cruise control set at 105kph (undoubtedly I’d have been more economical at 90kph). Cheaper cars will often deviate significantly from the cruise control speed, so I thought I’d put the BMW to the test. I drove for 40km straight, which included bends and hills and it returned an average of 104.8kph — pretty good considering the Peugeot 308 I tried a few weeks ago was 4(!)kph different to my cruise setting after just half a kilometre of fundamentally flat road.
The Napier-Taupo road is perfect for testing a car’s long distance handling capabilities. A car should not leave you tired after a spirited drive around the twisty bits, and not bore you to snooziness on the straight bits. Fortunately, neither of these occurred. The first 30 or so kilometres out of Taupo presents roads with vanishing points, and it’s speed trap country, but once you get into the hills, there are some steep gradients combined with off-camber corners. In the BMW you don’t bother lifting off unless the corner signs read less than 60kph, and for the hills the twin-turbo two-litre diesel engine’s torque is more than a match for gravity.
Day turned to night and revealed a frustrating design faux pas for the otherwise excellent cruise control: you push the stubby wand forwards to increase or set the speed, and that lever is just below the one for the lights. So, my apologies to the two drivers I accidentally high-beamed.
For a coupe, the boot is a handy size, which comes at the expense of rear legroom. The interior, with its optional Boston leather and walnut highlights had its solid feel reinforced by the steering which pushed back a good deal of road information, but without being unduly nervy or unrelaxing.
I could live with a BMW 123d. Just. After the long trip my back had become used to the lumbar setting, even though it wasn’t quite ideal. I enjoyed the power, the engine’s refinement, and the rewarding handling. While the 1 Series will never be as iconic as the 2002, it had definitely captured part of the essence.
Click through to the next page to read the full specifications of the BMW 123d SE.
Price: from $65,000 (including the 6-speed sequential automatic); price as tested with optional Boston leather interior, multifunction steering wheel, 18-inch wheels, locking wheel bolts, M Sports package, electric sunroof, auto-dimming rear view mirror, sun protection glazing, electric seats, storage compartment package, wood trim, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, lights package (e.g. a courtesy light under the door handle when you unset the alarm, radio upgrade and (deep breath) USB interface, $83,165.01
What we like
- It’s got the looks¦from most angles
- Handy sized boot
- Twin-turbo diesel engine has excellent power and is frugal, too
- Steering feel is like a sports car
What we don’t like
- Can look frumpy from some angles
- Front seat needs lumbar adjustment
- Rear seat legroom is tight
- Enormous price difference between the base model and the optioned one we were supplied
Type type / cylinders / valves per cyl. In line / 4 / 4
Effective Displacement (cm3) 1995
Power output (kW) 150
at (rpm) 4400
Max. torque (Nm) 400
at (rpm) 2000
C 02 emission -EU EU4
Exhaust emissions classification (manual) 161 (157)
Length (mm) 4360
Width (mm) 1748
Height (mm) 1423
Luggage capacities (m3) 370
Fuel capacity (litres) 51
Drag coefficient (Cd) 0.31
0-100 km/ h sec (manual) 7.1 (7.0)
Maximum speed in km/h (Manual) 236 (238)
EU, in town Litres/100km 1 (Manual) 7.9 (7.4)
EU, out of town 1 Litres/100km,(Manual) 5.1 (5.0)
Fuel consumption / Range (ltr /100km / km) – Automatic transmission 6.1/835
4-cylinder diesel engine, common rail system with direct injection
Diesel Particulate Filter
Electronic vehicle immobilisation (EWS III)
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Cornering Braking Control (CBC)
Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), and Brake Force Display
Automatic Stability Control & Traction (ASC+T)
Dynamic Stability Control (DSCIII) with ASC+T function integrated
Dynamic Traction Control (DTC)
Driver & front passenger airbags w seat occupant detection sensor
Side airbags for driver and front passenger integrated into backrests (thorax)
Head airbag front and rear, curtain head protection system
Side impact protection
Front belt tensioners
02PA Locking wheel bolts
0302 Alarm System
Runflat tires including runflat indicator
0321 Colour coded bumpers
Twin electric door mirrors
0346 Chrome line exterior
03AP Windscreen with grey shade band
0420 Sun protection glazing
0507 Park distance control (PDC) rear
0520 Fog lights
Windscreen in laminated safety glass, green tinted
0411 E lectric rear windows
0431 Interior mirror with anti-dazzle function
Height adjustment passenger seat
0481 Sport seats driver & passenger
0470 Child Seat ISOFIX with passenger seat de-activation
0473 Front armrest
0493 Storage compartment package: nets on rear of driver’s and front passenger’s backrests, 12 V socket in the luggage compartment, two lashing eyes, 2 tensioning straps on the luggage-compartment floor.
2 Cupholders in centre console
0534 Automatic air conditioning with Climate Control
0550 On-board Computer
0663 Radio Professional with single CD player
0694 CD Changer Preparation
BMW Service Inclusive – 3 years scheduled service and maintenance programme
2 years BMW Factory Warranty (with un-limited kilometre limitation)
3 years Vehicle Paint Warranty (with un-limited kilometre limitation)
12 years BMW Anti-corrosion Warranty (with un-limited kilometre limitation)
3 years Roadside Assistance Cover (with un-limited kilometre limitation)
Words and photos Darren Cottingham