Alan Candy’s road test: BMW 118d Sport Coupe proves that small can be beautiful

EVERYONE loves a Beamer – even a baby one. The allure of the blue and white badge remains constant and there’s something for everyone, from 1 Series upwards.

And just because you have started at the entry level models needn’t detract from the pleasure of owning one or compromise you in any way.

Take the BMW 118d Sport Coupe which I have been driving, for example. It costs £21,960, which brings it within the range of many people, and still has the looks, the appeal and crucially, the economy to make it a very desirable car.

The coupe model solves the 1-Series’ perennial problem of what to do with the rear end design. The three-door coupe may be the smallest of all the models in the BMW stable but it is arguably the most balanced and harmonious in the series, with its sweetly uptilted tail, flowing side profile and slim, elegant bonnet.

The iconic kidney-shaped front twin grilles and historic bonnet badge instantly identify the coupe as a BMW and this model’s chunky five-spoke alloys and curvy, predator-like headlamp shapes give it an assured and dynamic edge.

For me, the pretty coupe’s main two attractions are its astonishing economy and simplicity of driving, which accounts for a lot with me.

BMW’s timeless quality and admirable build quality I already took for granted. In terms of firepower, give me a petrol engine every day. At least, that’s what I used to think. But BMW’s superb range of diesels, which I rank among the world’s finest for production cars, do have a way of winning you over.

The 118d engine is a cracking combination of satisfying and versatile power and economy that stretches the most from every drop of fuel.

In terms of performance, it returns a decent 0 to 62mph time of nine seconds, with the characteristics of a petrol engine that can soon make you forget its true colours.

Smooth and quiet running, familiar-feeling engine braking and the ability to pull from low down in a high gear are all endearing characteristics.

But the icing on the cake is the combined 62.8mpg figure that can be wrung from it.

Whether I would be able to fulfil it isn’t quite clear. According to BMW’s own on-board computer, my average consumption during a week of town and country driving was 48.7mpg – still very good but not as spectacular as the ‘official’ figures.

The 118d engine is long striding, with plenty of scope in each gear, and the six-speed manual box is silent, slick and offers positive changes.

From a driving point of view the little BMW never disappoints, boasting the traditional rear-wheel drive that permeates the range and affords the driver a particular feel that is so rewarding. Strong, measured steering allows the driver to ‘feel’ the car through every inch of a manoeuvre, with tidy turn-in, and the car has that low centre of gravity feel, as if you are sitting in a sports car.

Superb all leather sports seats on the test model were of high grade and superbly supportive, particularly through the bends, when they hug you securely with big side wings.

Ride quality is on the firm side, but I’ll accept that happily with the level of driving pleasure on offer.

The coupe benefits from the simplicity of layout inside that is the mark of good design. Main dials eyed through the steering wheel in white on black are instantly spotted on the move, with additional useful computer information in between.

The dash is uncluttered and even the master control knob on the console, used for scrolling through the screen menus, falls instantly to hand and is easy to operate.

BMW opts for tradition with the stubby handbrake, which is centrally sited and perfectly placed, but the ignition keyhole has been replaced by a more modern stop-start button. Another innovation is the coupe’s inbuilt unobtrusive stop-start economy measure, where the car cuts out

when stationary and restarts automatically when the clutch is depressed.

Despite its dimensions, the couple makes the most of its inner space with adequate rear legroom and a decent boot which tunnels in quite a long way, although the entrance aperture is slightly restricted.

The coupe will win many over with its image and style and you can bet this masterpiece in miniature will still be a sought after classic in years to come.

Fast facts

> BMW 118d Sport Coupe, £21,960.

> 143bhp.

> Zero to 62mph in 9.0 seconds.

> Combined economy 62.8mpg.

> CO2 emissions 118 g/km