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Car reviews - BMW - 1 Series - 120d 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Smooth and powerful diesel, exceptional frugality, low emissions, usual 1 Series handling traits
Room for improvement
Gearchange can feel sticky, high prices, expensive options, usual 1 Series rear-seat and boot-space packaging pitfalls

21 Aug 2009

BMW is getting deadly serious about balancing that seemingly impossible axis of high performance, great economy and low emissions, and the just-released 120d Sports Hatch manual is another step closer.

Introduced relatively late in the life of the current E87 generation of baby BMW hatchbacks, the six-speed manual 120d is a cracker, thanks to the considerable 130kW of power and 350Nm of torque coursing down through the rear wheels.

As you might imagine, on regular urban roads, there is a steady and satisfying stream of oomph available from just 1500rpm, to make the 120d (as well as the driver) a formidable lane changing and overtaking tool.

Ably aiding that is a chassis of exceptional handling, roadholding and braking capability.

But we already know all this from the 120d automatic.

What are new are the various EfficientDynamics measures that significantly cut consumption and emissions, despite a modest performance increase in this year’s models.

On a suburban-to-country Victoria economy run we managed as little as 4.3L/100km while driving frugally indeed, and got that up to under 5.0L/100km without really trying.

Conversely, in a series of motorkhana and slalom course events, the 120d manual did not let its BMW roundel down by displaying high levels of dynamism, underlining the 120d’s positioning as a mini-me BMW.

But we would prefer the sweet six-speed automatic gearbox for around town, especially as a few repeated attempts at the slalom revealed a sticky and stubborn gearshift.

The 120d manual is just another in an ever-increasing number of 1 Series variants arriving in Australia.

And while the EfficientDynamics and diesel/manual simply add another branch to the five-year-old range, nothing has really altered the fundamental character of a vehicle that – for the most part – we have grown to adore.

So, besides the brilliant drive and rorty engines, you still get tight rear-seat packaging and a small boot, as well as a ride quality that errs on the too-firm side.

But that’s the 1 Series for you. Now that is can be had as a green and sparkling diesel simply shows that BMW is marching onwards and upwards in its quest for the EfficientDynamics holy grail.

We can’t wait to drive the twin-turbo 123d diesel though.

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