First Drive: BMW 123d

By Jonathan Spira on 5 December 2009
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The BMW 123d may be the most powerful two-liter diesel ever offered, producing 204 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque at 2000 rpm.  1er_3door_123dThis is enough to get the car from zero to 100 kilometers in 7 seconds.  Fuel consumption as measured by the European Driving Cycle is 36 mpg city, 53 mpg highway, and 45 mpg combined.  Indeed it’s a pity it’s not (yet) offered in the States.

Inside the cabin, given an absence of engine noise, the only clue that we are driving a diesel is the tachometer’s 5000 rpm redline.  But put the six-speed manual transmission into gear, step on the accelerator and there’s no question you are driving a BMW.

Besides its diesel engine, the 123d has yet another fuel saving feature: Auto Start-Stop, a feature that shuts the engine off when you stop at a red light (or elsewhere).  When you push in the clutch, the engine springs back to life and you drive away.  The technology is very popular in Europe and we are already seeing it in the States in several hybrid models.

Our test car was the three-door Sports Hatch model but it’s also available with five doors as well as a coupe or cabrio.  It came equipped with BMW’s M suspension and the handling was pure BMW.   I’ve driven several petrol and diesel 1er Series BMWs in the past year and I’ve found them to be some of the best representations of Freude am Fahren available today.


2009 BMW 123d
Base price €31,900
Drivetrain Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 2.0-liter inline 4 twin turbo
Max hp 204
Max torque (pound-feet) 295
Curb weight


Wheelbase (inches) 104.7
Length x width x height (inches) 166.8 x 76 x 55.9
0-62 mph (seconds) 7.0
Top speed mph 148
City/highway fuel economy (mpg) 36/53