because the world is running
out of fuel doesnt
mean you have
to drive a horse-and-cart. In a BMW
1 Series you can have the best of
both worlds still enjoy your driving
minimising your fuel usage.
How about that!
YOU HAVE A CHOICE: Are you going to take time out to study the BMW's
distinctive looks or just get in and drive it? As it's a BMW, the correct
answer is Don't just stand there Drive it. We're
talking here about the three-door 1 Series which is, effectively, to BMW what
the A3 is to Audi. To many eyes the three-door 1 Series hatch is better proportioned
than the five-door, appearing nicely 'hunkered down' on the road
and, significantly, unmistakably a BMW.
Although the 1 Series is, by definition, BMW's entry-level range, don't think
it means there's any less quality than is found on the 5 or 7 Series ranges.
If you do linger to appreciate this BMW up close, you'll find admirable shut
lines that confirm the 1 Series cars to be very well made. Open a door and jump
in. The door shuts easily; the precise action underscored by a quality sounding
The clutter-free cabin is well turned-out; look around and you'll see only high-quality,
pleasant-to-the-touch trim materials including a particularly attractive
figured aluminium fascia insert. The same real metal is wrapped around the curved
door pulls and used for the gear lever surround to good visual effect. While
it's easy to assume that full leather is best, don't discount the standard upholstery
the 3D woven-effect fabric used for the centre panels of our test car's
Sports seats looked every bit as smart and stylish.
The 'grippy' front seats provide first-rate support and location; not only do
they tilt and adjust for height, they also have extending under-thigh support
as well as powered adjustment of the backrest side bolsters for a genuinely
snug fit. The driver sits nicely square to the wheel and the fine driving position
is further enhanced by generous rake and reach adjustment of the leather-trimmed
steering wheel. Perforated work areas ensure it feels good in your hands. As,
too, does the M Sport gear knob, also covered in perforated leather. Key switchgear
for the DTC switch-out, hazard warning lights and master central-locking
is sited exactly where it should be: top-centre on the fascia.
Standard equipment on the 120d M Sport includes all the essentials: BMW Business
radio/single CD player with six speakers, Aux-in socket for your MP3/iPod player,
on-board computer, rear parking sensors, three-spoke multi-function M-badged
leather steering wheel, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Start/Stop button, front
electric windows with auto one-shot open/close, 2Zone climate control, 60:40
split-folding rear seat, power-operated and heated door mirrors, heated windscreen
washer jets, 17-inch light alloy wheels, run-flat tyres and a Tyre Puncture
Warning System plus a host of high-tech kit for maximising both economy and
There's more than enough room in the front, but it's not quite so roomy in the
back. There might be three head restraints and belts but fitting in three average-sized
adults (5' 11") is tight. The centre seat is compromised by the transmission
tunnel an unavoidable consequence of the rear-wheel drive layout. Two
adults, however, can get comfy and each has a built-in outer armrest but no
centre one. Visibility out for back seat passengers is fine. Having only three
doors suggests a non-family owner-driver who's bought the 120d principally for
its dynamic appeal, but if you prefer to buy a five-door, it's just down to
Boot capacity is not bad at all 330 litres and whilst not huge,
it's more than adequate. The maximum load space, by the way, is 1,150 litres.
If golf is your game; you might need to fold one side of the 60:40 split/folding
sections of the rear seat backrests down to transport your clubs. Should this
be necessary, they do fold down easily. As do the rear head restraints for better
rearward visibility when not in use a nice touch is the easy-to-use buttons
that flip the headrests down. Non-slip, stretchable rubber luggage straps on
the boot floor restrain smaller items; lashing eyes keep bigger loads in situ.
While we're poking around in the boot which, incidentally, opens via
a neat, swivelling BMW badge on boot panel look under the boot floor.
There's no spare wheel because of the standard-fit run-flat tyres
just some additional storage and the battery (a jump start facility is provided
in the engine bay). Another long-standing BMW tradition is the smart toolkit
not that you're ever likely to need it!
Diesel power has long since ceased to be a dirty word, particularly when it
comes to prestige cars. The 1 Series offers a choice of four petrol engines
and two diesels. But it's the diesels that make the most sense: the 177bhp 2.0-litre
four-cylinder turbodiesel powering the 120d is a fine example of the breed
it's refined and economical with muscular mid-range urge. Pick-up is good in
all six gears, courtesy of the 258lb ft of torque on tap from 1,750rpm with
both 3rd and 4th offering real punch whether you're matching speed as you join
the motorway or just nipping past slower moving traffic on B-roads.
BMW's EfficientDynamics technology does its bit to provide decent performance
while reducing emissions. Technology installed on the 120d includes electric
power steering, brake energy regeneration, low rolling resistance tyres, automatically
de-coupling alternator and air-con compressor and an automatic Stop-Start function.
Emissions are pretty good for the performance: 128g/km in return for a 142mph
top speed and 0-62mph acceleration in a brisk 7.5 seconds.
Impressive, given its 'greenness'. A digital shift indicator encourages timely
upward gear changes to help maximise economy use it and you quickly realise
how easy it is to leave the car in a lower gear without realising when you should
be changing up. Next time you hop in a taxi, watch the driver and see how he's
in a high gear wherever possible.
Change when the shift indicator says so and you'll see big MPG figures
as much as 68.9mpg extra-urban, 46.3 urban and 58.9 combined on the driver's
trip computer. Even ignoring it and pushing hard, we still recorded an overall
test average of 42.2mpg. Pretty good given the entertaining quality of the driving.
At the legal limit in sixth gear the rev-counter is showing a relaxed 1,900rpm,
so at everyday motorway speeds you're right on peak torque. Driven like this,
the 120d just lopes along in a manner that means you and your BMW won't be won't
be seeing much of the fuel pumps.
Despite all the 'green' it's reassuring to know that there's also plenty of
red-blooded driveability in the 120d because at heart it's a real driver's car
despite the eco-side of its nature, there's plenty of pace on call whenever
and wherever you feel in the mood. And, let's face it, what's the principal
reason you buy a BMW if not to enjoy driving it.
And drive it you can. Its edge over any would-be rivals is down to three things:
an excellent 50:50 weight distribution, a rear-wheel drive set-up and
another well-known BMW trait accurate, uncorrupted steering with lots
of feel. And it's the kind of feel that's simply not available from a front-wheel
Make full use of the accelerator and you'll quickly discover that driving the
120d enthusiastically is one of life's better experiences. It's well balanced
and handles tidily; noticeably so when pressing on through long fast sweepers
where the car feels reassuringly stable. Adding to the sense of being firmly
in control are strong brakes and a brake pedal with lots of feedback. The best
way to sum up the 120d is to say that the more we drove the 120d, the more we
The 120d M Sport comes with M Sports suspension (aluminium double-joint spring-strut
front axle and lightweight five-link rear axle) and 17-inch M Sport 10-double-spoke
alloy wheels shod with 225/45 Pirelli run-flat tyres. A lot of people think
this is a recipe for a harsh ride, but judging by our test car this is definitely
not the case. The 1 Series does have a firm ride but there's enough 'give' there
for most people.
Motorways are cruised with stability and refinement at 70mph in sixth
there's just 2,000rpm on the rev-counter and the cabin is well insulated from
wind and road noise. In fact, during our week-long test over mixed roads we
never felt the slightest hint of being bounced around.
Earlier we mentioned that the 120d is well fitted out with safety kit. It is,
both to help keep you out of an accident and, if the worst happens, to keep
you safe. Regarding the latter, there's a good supply of airbags: driver and
passenger front and side, with head airbags front and rear.
In respect of preventive safety the 120d has ABS, Automatic Stability Control
(ASC+T), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), Dynamic
Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and Electronic Brake-force
Distribution (EBD). A nice touch is the bumpers they regenerate to their
original shape following impacts up to 2.5mph. Isofix child seat attachments
are provided front and rear, with front airbag deactivation.
Can we say the three-door 120d M Sport does what it says on the tin? Unquestionably.
Good news for a planet running out of fuel, because it's fairly frugal. And
in a world where driving pleasure usually comes at a cost, it's engaging and
pleasurable to drive. MotorBar
BMW 120d M Sport 3-door | £23,620
Maximum speed: 142mph | 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 42.2mpg | Power: 177bhp | Torque: 258lb ft
CO2 128g/km | Insurance group 14