Storming turbodiesel makes the 123d a good car with a great engine
23 October 2007

What is it?

The new BMW 1-series coupé is a hugely significant car. Forget the paltry projected sales figures (BMW GB expects to sell no more than 3600 a year of all variants), and forget the, er, challenging visual detailing. In fact, you can even forget about the mouthwateringly powerful 135i that we drove last week.

Why? Because I would bet several of my limbs that history will record the 1-series coupé as important for one reason. And that reason is the 123d or, more specifically, the 201bhp twin-turbo turbodiesel under the bonnet.

If that sounds like so much hyperbole, then consider a few key facts. This is the most powerful four-pot turbodiesel you can buy, as well as being the first one on sale equipped with twin turbos (not a twin-scroll turbo).

But the killer point is that all this comes coupled with serious green credentials. So you get 295lb ft, 0-62mph in 7.0sec and a 148mph top speed at the same time as 54.7mpg and 138g/km of CO2. That’s the same CO2 output as a Skoda Roomster diesel.

What’s it like?

The 123d’s performance on the road is equally impressive, with a smooth, linear power delivery providing decent shove from 1800rpm right up to 4500rpm. It’s pretty refined, too, though not as sonorous as a BMW or Audi six-cylinder diesel.

For rest of the car, the praise is a little less gushing. As with the 135i, the 123d is a neat and tidy handler, with an ultimate tendency to understeer.

But unlike in the 135i, the steering is electrically assisted and, while accurate, it seems oddly detached, almost like an arcade game with fake force feedback.

The interior is impressive enough, with plenty of space and great-quality materials, particularly the Boston Red leather of our test car – an £965 option.

Which brings us to the one major weakness of the 123d – price. In M Sport guise you’ll be forking out £26,290 before options. That’s over three grand more than the equivalent Audi A3.


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Should I buy one?

Yes. An over-the-odds sticker price is not enough to spoil the 123d – this is still a distinctive, interesting car. With a brilliant engine.

-Matt Rigby

Join the debate


6 November 2007

I have the big brother of the 123D, in the form of a 335D coupe and am impressed by its engine and power on a daily basis. However if they put the twin turbo 2 litre in the bigger coupe I may just be persuaded to go to the smaller engine given the improvement in economy and emissions.

Or maybe i'll just be selfish and buy the smaller coupe and let those in the back worry about themselves.

BMW are definately developing diesels along the right lines as far as I am concerned.

8 November 2007

I've always thought the same as Ordinary Bloke - the 1-Series wasn't such a hot looking car.

However..... I've just got rid of a Prodrive Impreza Spec D (had to get it out of my system), and am coming to the end of my first week with a 5-door 123d M Sport hatch.

It's in Sapphire Black, with Privacy Glass and decent 18" alloys, which seems to help the looks, but the engine really is remarkable! It's obviously not as quick, ultimately, as the Impreza but its so smooth, suffers negligible turbo-lag and still averages over 45mpg on a run.

I thought I'd really miss the grunt of the last car, but the 123d is every bit as quick as my old Leon Cupra and the running cost are great!

23 November 2007

I am beginning to wonder about the press BMW continues to recieve. I see in your stats that this car averages 33 mpg which whilst it includes performance testing is probably a fair reflection of what a typical urbanised UK owner can expect. Whilst good, this is not an earth shattering outcome for a cramped two door "coupe" and hardly constitutes a revolution. All the top end performance is of course largely wasted in the UK. It just seems to be that another vacant price point has been filled by a car which pretty much repeats the formula BMW has been churning out for the last 40 years .

There also seems to be a considerable re-writing of history as far as BMW is concerned. The 1602/2002 series was never available as a coupe or even designed as a sports saloon. BMWs of that generation where heavily criticsed for snap oversteer and the standard models "sports" saloon credentials where easily overshadowed by twin cammed, disc braked and decently suspended italians of the era. It was a conservatively engineered rival to the Fords and Opels of the time. It was very basic but just cost a lot in the UK, something at least that seems to have persisted till today.

14 December 2007

I was in the fortunate position to see a cabriolet version of this car today.

Whilst I don't care much for the "dodgy" proportions of the coupe I really loved the ca's lines and it really is a beautiful car with the roof down.

15 December 2007

I was on a training course at the BMW Academy in Reading.

We saw it inside and got to have a good play with it, we were told about all the options etc and if it were my money i'd rather have one than a 3 series cab TBH.

17 December 2007

I work as a salesman for MINI and I was there for a training course, It's not open to the public unfortunatley.

I only got to see the car as they were doing technical training for it so it was just luck i'm afraid.

18 December 2007

Kind of agree with 8-ball here. Though undoubtedly where BMW have been canny has been by developing fast and sporty diesels. I never understood why Renault Peugeot et al didn't attempt to really push the sports diesel niche further back in the 90's. VW and Seat have done a similar low-key thing in the Noughties. Renault are sniffing around with the 175hp Megane hatch. Some-one needs to push the boundaries, and much as i detest the look of the 1-series, they're the closest so far.

29 May 2012

I wanted the 135i coupe, test drove it and ended up with a boxster s,recently drove the x1 23d and was so impressed I'm in process of exchanging my Porsche for a 123d coupe!!!! 

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