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##bmwc1.jpg --Right##WHAT do you get if you blend the best features of a car and a scooter? The ultimate congestion beater, if you believe BMW's claims for its new C1. Essentially a scooter with a roof, the C1 goes on sale this month with a host of clever features designed to make riding safer and easier than ever before. Among a number of firsts on a scooter are the availability of ABS brakes, crash crumple zones, space frame safety cell and seatbelts.

While the company is only planning to sell between 500 and 600 units this year in the UK, it hopes that the sight of C1s buzzing through rush hour traffic will inspire commuters to make the switch. In the same way the Fiat Multipla arouses strong opinions on its styling, so is the case with the C1. I received several odd looks while riding down the King's Road in Chelsea on the C1's launch. Pedestrians also stopped to ask me about the machine, with the majority being in favour of its innovative design.

However, my idea of two-wheeled motoring is more Carl Fogarty than Chelsea chic and I had grave reservations about taking to the streets in the C1. To put it bluntly, I thought I would look like a wally, and I will leave you to judge if I was correct by glancing at the picture above.

But wally or not, I was able to carve my way through the London log-jam with ease. With a roof incorporated into the structure, the C1 is more top heavy than a conventional scooter and setting off for the first time was a nervous occasion. I did my best to imitate a drowning octopus - my legs were dangling about all over trying to help me balance. But I soon discovered that giving the C1 plenty of throttle eliminated slow speed wobbles.

The C1 is powered by a 125cc engine mated to a continuously variable stepless automatic transmission. There is no need to worry about a clutch or changing gear - just twist the throttle and go. The 125cc engine produces 15bhp, which is more than enough to give the C1 a decent turn of speed. A top speed of 64mph is largely irrelevant but 0-30mph takes a nippy 5.9seconds. A tankful of fuel will last 200 miles and the firm says the C1 will return up to 97.4mpg. The cheaper transport theme is continued with a road tax of just £15 a year.

The C1 will provide a significant contribution to BMW's total motorcycle sales in the UK. In a full year the company aims to sell between 1,000 and 1,500 C1s - contributing to a total of 2,700 motorcycle sales. David Taylor, BMW's motorcycle general manager, said: 'The motorcycle market is growing rapidly and C1 will be a significant contributor.'

BMW sees potential in converting C1s for use by authorities and businesses who work in urban areas. In place of the rear seat and storage box, BMW says there is potential for a large carry box which could be used by local authority workers, delivery companies and even as a novel taxi. However, BMW says it is being realistic and does not have high expectations for corporate use.

Corporate operations director, Alan Waldie, said: 'No one is rushing headlong into taking the C1 and we are taking a fairly realistic view, although C1 could catch the imagination and we certainly see a role for it being used by people such as park wardens.' Waldie said that daily rental companies had expressed interest in running fleets of C1s on the continent, although the UK's helmet laws would restrict any such market in the UK, not only because of outlets having to hold large stocks of different sized helmets, but also because of helmet hygiene issues.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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