He’s become an institution for his wit and his lisp, unlike his brother Paul who gets his hit of stardom by appearing on Celebrity (and I use the world loosely) Fit Club trying to shed a few pounds.
Unfortunately for Paul, he’s destined to stay in the shadow cast by his bigger, more famous brother.
And so it is with the latest addition to BMW’s 3-series range – the 318d. Although its name suggests it has a smaller diesel engine than the 320d, in fact it’s the same 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit, detuned to offer better fuel economy, lower emissions and therefore cheaper company car tax bills.
Compared to the 320d, the 318d has slightly better fuel economy – 50.4mpg versus 49.6. So far, so good, although this is a tiny saving and in real world operating there’s likely to be little difference between the two models.
Emissions-wise the 318d is again slightly better, emitting 150g/km of CO2 compared with 153 for the 320d. But this means they’re both in the same 20% benefit-in-kind tax banding and the difference in company car tax between the two amounts to the 318d being £7 a month cheaper – not a significant saving.
I suppose you could live with the marginal fiscal savings if the 318d emulated its big brother by being a great car to drive.
Except it isn’t. While BMW calls the transformation a ‘detuning’, I think ‘sucking the life out of it’ is a more fitting description.
The 320d’s 163bhp and 251lb-ft of torque becomes the 318d’s 122bhp and 207lb-ft. What this means is that wonderful dollop of mid-range power in the 320d has gone, replaced by an engine with little in the way of pulling power.
The 318d needs to be revved hard to make decent progress, and sounds unwilling to do this if the strained engine note is anything to go by.
While the performance is lacklustre, at least the 3-series’ fabled chassis dynamics are still in evidence, with a wonderfully weighty feel to the steering, supple ride and confidence-inspiring handling. And the slick, six-speed manual gearbox is also borrowed from the 320d, which is no bad thing.
Build quality and the design of the interior is first rate, while the 3-series makes a practical proposition thanks to its roomy interior and decent boot space.
But the simple fact is that the 318d doesn’t offer any significant savings over the 320d to make it a worthwhile choice. The performance is nowhere near as good and the 318d is too expensive. It’s roughly £1,000 cheaper than the 320d which is not enough to offer any significant tax savings.
If the 318d was priced at £20,000 you could forgive the lacklustre drive. At more than £22,000 you can’t.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value):£22,192
CO2 emissions (g/km): 150
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 20%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 50.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £10,075/46%
Depreciation 20.19 pence per mile x 60,000: £12,114
Maintenance 3.87 pence per mile x 60,000: £2,322
Fuel 8.52 pence per mile x 60,000: £5,112
Wholelife cost 32.58 pence per mile x 60,000: £19,548
Typical contract hire rate: £406
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
THE BMW is in basic trim yet conversely is the most expensive car on test. The 318d costs £1,000 more than the cheapest car – Saab’s 9-3. The BMW’s three rivals all come in high spec trim – the Audi in range-topping S line, the Jaguar in Sport guise and the Saab in Vector trim. All three outdo the entry-level BMW, although the 318d comes with features such as cruise control, CD player and air-conditioning as standard.
THE Saab will be the cheapest car for a fleet to run over three years and 60,000 miles, costing just over £1,600 in garage bills and replacement parts such as tyres. The Jaguar and Audi run it close, but the BMW is more than a penny per mile adrift of the Saab thanks to expensive labour costs. This is despite having the service pack which costs £1,275 for five years and 60,000 miles of servicing and maintenance.
ANOTHER sector win for the Saab, thanks to it being the most fuel efficient car on test. Its 120bhp 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine is claimed to return an average of 52.3mpg, giving a total fuel bill of around £5,000 over three years/60,000 miles. In second is the BMW with a combined fuel economy figure of 50.4mpg for a cost of £5,112. The Audi is close behind with economy of 49.6mpg for a bill of nearly £5,200, while the Jaguar is fourth for a cost of £5,244.
BMW traditionally does well in depreciation terms and the 318d is no exception. CAP estimates it will retain 46% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, leaving a cash lost figure of £12,117. The Audi runs it a close second with an RV of 42%, resulting in a loss of £12,432. The Saab is nearly 2ppm further back from the A4 – its RV of 36% giving a cash lost total of nearly £13,500. The Jaguar is a distant fourth. None of these figures include manufacturer discounts.
THE Audi secures a narrow victory over the BMW, with a likely running cost of £19,374 after three years/60,000 miles – £174 cheaper than the 318d. The two cars are neck and neck in most sections. although the Audi delivers its killer blow by having much lower SMR bills. The Saab finishes third, around a penny per mile behind the Audi, with a cost of £20,148. The Jaguar X-type is a distant fourth, costing £21,456.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
WITH the cheapest front-end price and the lowest CO2 emissions, it’s no surprise that the Saab offers company car drivers the route to the lowest tax bills. A 40% taxpayer would pay £134 a month to have the 9-3 as a company car on their drive, compared with £142 for the Audi A4, £146 for the Jaguar X-type and £148 for the BMW 318d. Incidentally, the much better 320d BMW falls into the same emissions band as its stablemate and will cost just £7 a month more than the 318d.
BMW’S range of 3-series cars has some great models and is generally seen as the drivers’ choice in this sector. The 318d can’t be classified in the same way and it doesn’t offer significant savings over the bigger and better 320d. Which leaves the Audi and Saab – the A4 is the best on running costs while the 9-3 offers drivers the cheapest company car tax bills. Overall though, we’d go for the Audi as it isn’t that much more expensive on company car tax.