I feel like I’ve had the tables turned on me somewhat while testing the BMW 120d.
Instead of me subjecting this car to my own keen, hawk-eyed, every-stone-turned scrutiny, I seem to have become the subject matter to be analysed.
It appears the gearshift indicator in the 1 Series – part of the EfficientDynamics fuel saving package – is actually a rather cunning psychological test of what sort of person you are: either a free-spirited thinker who plays their own tune through life or a solid dependable citizen that follows the rules.
It seems I am very much in the second group, because I just can’t ignore it. In fact, it’s starting to rule my driving life. On every occasion the little number on the dash changes to inform me it is time to swap gear, I slavishly respond.
Basically, the system works by monitoring the revs, throttle positions and torque of the engine and instantly calculating the most efficient gear to be in. It throws up some interesting situations.
One is that being in the highest possible gear at all times is not always the most fuel-efficient way of driving. Just whacking into sixth as soon as possible means the engine can sometimes labour too hard as it’s not producing enough torque.
The other element of the EfficientDynamics package that is obvious to the driver is the stop-start system, whereby the engine will cut out if you knock the gearleaver into neutral and take your foot off the clutch.
The second you put it back into gear and depress the clutch, the car fires into life.
Also, if you’ve been stop-starting for a while in traffic, or the engine isn’t warm, it won’t switch off.
A computer works out it needs the engine to run either to warm it up or to power ancillary features like the air-conditioning for a while. So if one of your drivers complains it’s happening intermittently, that because it’s supposed to – it’s doing what’s best for the car.
So how has all this cunning technology helped the fuel economy? Well, it’s averaging near-50mpg which is pretty good seeing as how my usual hopelessly inefficient driving style would never allow me to get close to that sort of figure.
And this is quite a feat, because the 120d, with its more powerful 177bhp engine and that fabulous, short wheelbase, rear-wheel drive chassis, is a joy to drive, encouraging you to give it a thrash.
So I’m being pulled from pillar to post, but really enjoying it: the 120d cries out to be driven hard, but at the same time tells you to treat it gently.
I hear there are dark little private clubs in London where you pay to have this sort of thing done to you. I must investigate…
Price: £21,995 (£23,585 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 12
9 Company car tax bill (2007) 40% tax-payer: £130 per month
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 57.6
Test mpg: 49.4
CAP Monitor RV: £7,675/39%
Contract hire rate: £418
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles