By on June 10, 2014

1280px-BMW_118i_Urban_Line_(F20)_–_Heckansicht,_10._März_2012,_Düsseldorf

Reader Antoun sends us this review of a BMW 120d rental car from his most recent trip to Europe. 

The BMW 120d is right at the bullseye of unrequited desire for – well, you, assuming you’re a compulsive reader of car blogs, where the irrationality of the wagon-on-stilts crossover craze and needlessly-complicated hybrid technology are well-worn topics. On paper, the 120d is the best of both worlds. To the performance junkie, it could be a sports car: rear-wheel drive, a touch over 3100 lbs of curb weight, and a turbo motor that kicks out 184 horsepower (measured in the Euro way, optimistic by US standards) and – get this – 280 ft/lbs of torque. Best of all, it can still be ordered with a 6-speed manual transmission and a real clutch pedal.

The 120d is also a practical five-door daily driver, with a reasonably sized and reasonably square cargo area accessible through a usefully yawning hatchback. At 170.2 inches long, it’s 4 inches shorter than an E36 3-series and a whole foot shorter than the current 3-Series.

So, is it the epiphany that internet forum-dwellers expect from the spec sheet? I spent ten days using a rental 120d for a variety of tasks, including carrying friends, family, and lots of luggage back and forth from train station to hotel. Several of our guests were of the occasional-traveler variety, with all of the ill-advised and oversize luggage choices that implies. We never ran out of room. A US-spec 1-series coupe would have had us running for a roof rack and ratchet straps.

I also spent time schlepping up the A1 highway between Rome and Florence with a fair number of detours to Tuscan towns on Italian country roads.

The local Italian drivers seem to always have their personal mannetinos set to “corsa” – Italian driving has less in common with an American commute than with the chaotic 3rd hour of a 24 Hours of Lemons race. In that context, the 120d’s chassis was a welcome dance partner, nice enough to make enthusiasts of 1990s BMWs quit kvetching. On both highways and bumpier secondary roads, the ride had the suppleness you would expect of a much larger car. Importantly, this car came with Bridgestone Turanza 300ER tires, which in this application are not of the run-flat variety. This takes a lot of the high-frequency jitteriness out of the ride when compared to the US-spec 3-series. It rolls much less than you’d expect given the compliant ride, and never seemed to run out of suspension travel. The car will hold a line through corners without getting unsettled by bumps, camber changes, or changes of elevation. It’s adjustable, albeit within narrow limits: the rear end will wiggle a bit if you are aggressive with the gas pedal in 1st or 2nd gear, but it never seems to step out at a massive angle despite all that torque. Overly-aggressive entry speeds will bring understeer, but the front tires never wash out to the “uh-oh” point, even with the stability control turned fully off.

What the 120d lacks is ultimate grip. Those Bridgestones are only 205/55-16s and designed for low rolling resistance – so if you’re looking for a mini-M3 this isn’t quite it. But the predictability of the chassis setup makes it a great tool for covering unfamiliar ground quickly, and the process is definitely fun.

The brakes – very important in Roman traffic! – are also fantastic. They have lots of feel, are easy to modulate, and able to brake beyond the limits of tire grip. On mountain roads of the variety that car commercials sell you, we never felt fade, even when loaded up with 2 people and lots of luggage.

One downside is the steering. The steering has moved to an electromechanical system with this generation of 1-series, but – surprise! – feedback is not really the issue. Yes, it lacks the kick and fizz of an E90’s wheel, but it gives more feedback than the current 3-Series and a lot more than an Audi A3 or A4. The real issue here is that the steering is weirdly non-linear: dead right on center, then responsive, then slower toward the end of the lock. The net effect is that it’s hard to steer smoothly, particularly into longer faster bends. When driving an unfamiliar car in the cut-and-thrust of Roman ring road traffic, hilarity and head-tossing ensue.

The interior was very familiar to those who have ridden in a modern BMW. Finely-grained plastics and rubber-coated knobs and buttons are all nice to touch. The cloth seats were ridiculously good, as comfortable as the more-bolstered Sport seats that BMW fits. For me, the seats fitted to non-Sport-package US BMWs usually don’t have a long enough bottom cushion to be supportive, but these seats had no such problems. 3- and 4-hour stints behind the wheel were pain-free.

So the car has a lot of the known BMW virtues, with a bit more old-skool BMW-ness than you might expect. What about that forbidden-fruit motor, so tempting to car guys trapped in the Garden of CUVs? It’s a turbo 4 with all the modern electronics that BMW can put an InterCapped marketing moniker on (TwinPower, EfficientDynamics, etc). Whoever tuned the exhaust deserves a promotion: from inside the car you hear a silky and deep-throated thrum that sounds nothing like the Cummins in a half-ton truck. Fans of Volvo red-block motors and 5-cylinder Audis will find this engine sounds familiar. More importantly, it felt at least as smooth, and maybe smoother, than the Audi TDIs that are this car’s natural showroom rival. With the windows rolled down you hear somewhat more rackety diesel noises, but in a world where direct-injection gas motors are fairly clickety-clackety, this engine sounds good.

The upside to this motor is the massive torque, and the price you pay for it is the narrow powerband. It has some turbo lag below about 1400 RPM, and runs out of breath noticeably at 4500 before redlining at 5500. In between – which, let’s face it, is where most real-world driving happens – the car feels revvy and eager. It’s got enough torque to lug around in 3rd gear all day long without feeling flat-footed. BMW says it goes from 0-60 in 7.2 seconds, and I don’t doubt it, but in the midrange it feels more like a low-6-second car. The disappointment here is that right at the point on the tach where you expect a BMW to take a deep breath and start charging harder, in the 120d it’s time to upshift.

And since you’re using that gearshift often enough to star in your own personal remake of BJ and the Bear, you will quickly come to find that it’s engineered for low NVH rather than a positive feel. The side-to-side action is well-sprung and pleasantly mechanical, but sliding the lever forward or back into gear is uncomfortably rubbery. There’s at least a half-inch of additional squishy action after the lever is actually in a gear. It takes some of the tactile joy out of driving the car fast on twisty roads. But the clutch takeup is perfect and the shift action is nothing a short-shift kit couldn’t fix. I’d still choose the manual over an automatic.

Our rental was the Unique trim level. A little irony, that: there’s nothing unique about yet another silver BMW with a black interior. Apparently this trim level gives you additional electronic and power toys (USB and phone jack input, Bluetooth, power seats) without going all the way to the expensive navigation system. iDrive is there, now with slightly flashier graphics and less infuriating user interface. If you like your cars to have a blinky screen on the dash, then you’ll probably think this one is okay, but not quite as great as a full-lux Audi MMI. If you’re old enough that your perception of “luxury” has nothing to do with accessibility to your Twitter feed, then this car’s interface will be perfectly adequate.

After nearly 1000 miles, I came to think that this car would be a perfect daily driver, in a way that our US-market 1-series, with its less practical coupe-only body style, wouldn’t be for most people. Prices are notoriously difficult to compare across continents, but in the UK it’s about 15% cheaper than an X1 crossover with the same engine. It gives up 2 inches of rear legroom and 10% of its cargo space compared to the X1, a difference that solo commuters and families with baby-seat-age kids might never notice.

I also came away thinking that the car would be even more of a driver’s car with more power at the top end of the rev range, like you might get from oh, say, a gasoline-fed inline-6. It’s not surprising that the M135i version of this hatchback, powered by the same 300-horse turbocharged motor found in our US-market 235s and 335s, has been a darling of the European press.

Here’s the kicker, though: We used only one and three-eighths of a tank of gas, over the course of a 1000 mile trip. We averaged over 55 MPG according to the trip computer, slightly above the car’s UK urban rating of 53MPG and well below its “extra-urban” rating of 69MPG. The M135i is rated at 27.4 urban / 35.3 extra-urban on the same UK rating scale. Would you give up 2000 RPM of powerband to get a 120d’s fuel economy? In hybrid-obsessed America, there is clearly a demographic that would. Are there enough of them to justify BMW’s cost to certify the motor in the U.S.? There is some astute spreadsheet jockey deep in the bowels of BMW’s product planning group who, I’m sure, knows the answer. The question, as always, is whether BMW’s U.S. product lineup reflects this spreadsheet jockey’s gimlet-eyed analysis of demand, or whether there is a truth that has not yet filtered up to the boardroom.

N.B. we are using a rights-free image due to a lack of original photography, hence the discrepancy between the article and the photo.

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88 Comments on “Reader Review: BMW 120d...”


  • avatar
    Mike N.

    The same 184hp 2.0l motor is available here in the 328d (yes, what’s sold elsewhere as a x20d is sold here as the x28d, just like the 3.0l diesel, where what’s sold elsewhere as the x30d is sold here as the x35d, with the “real” 35d motor having over 300hp).

    Also, is MPG based on UK gallons or US gallons?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I’d assume UK gallons. Knock his number down by 20% (to 44mpg) and it falls in line with what you’d expect a 1 series diesel hatch to get.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, I got bit by this when I rented a 320d in Berlin. I got 49 mpg on the autobahn….and was flattened till someone pointed out my car was speaking British English.

        The 5 door 1 series is all over Germany. We saw millions of them. We saw ZERO two door one series, and double zero convertible one series.

        The concept of a six cylinder 1 series in Germany, gas fired no less, was non existent. I get the idea every single one was sent over here or some other export market.

        BMW figures they can get the smaller car buyer with mini…at the BMW nosebleed price points, even there.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I actually did see a single 135i coupe when I was last in Germany – that is a guy with a LOT of spare cash! Also saw a couple 1-series convertibles. The hot ticket the end of the old 1-series life was the M135, which was basically our 1M but in the 3dr hatch body. But yes, a million 5dr 1-series, and about 2 million 3-series wagons. They are the Camry of Europe.

          Assuming that the 1 is the same as my 3, and I can’t imagine it is not, it can display l/100km, US mpg, or UK mpg, all settable in the computer. I set my car to all metric when I was in Europe, and switched to US when I got it back.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        Why would he use UK gallons; I thought this was a Yank writing?

        The car’s instruments and computer certainly wouldn’t be displaying it, since it was rented in Italy. They use litres.

  • avatar
    319583076

    I concur with your statements about Italian drivers and traffic. Regardless, touring Italy is heartily recommended.

    I presume that the 1-series wagon outsells the sedan by a large margin based on my recent observation.

    Two other notables (to me, anyway): Italians seem fond of wagons of all types, which makes sense given their utility and Alfa Romeo consistenly makes beautiful cars.

    • 0 avatar
      mike89

      “Italians seem fond of wagons of all types”
      Fond ? They absolutely love wagons !

      http://bestsellingcarsblog.com/2013/07/02/italy-station-wagons-june-2013-bmw-3-series-almost-best-seller/

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        I was under the impression most all of Europe loved wagons.

        Better “car-like” handling and feedback meets utility of an SUV.

        We Americans are the weird ones. Why you ask? There’s nothing rewarding about driving an SUV/crossover. Mix this with a mundane driving experience- and, well, by appearance, you’ve become initiated into the American Middle Class. (Park said crossover/SUV next to your commuter special.)

        I imagine my wife’s opinions of typical wagons reflect most American’s opinions re: the wagon. She thinks they look like “a hunchback”.

        I’ve been wanting a “hunchbacked” wagon for quite some time. ‘Dunno how this will play out. And the folks at BMW make a damned sexy wagon, in my most humble opinion.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    “It gives up 2 inches of rear legroom and 10% of its cargo space compared to the X1, a difference that … families with baby-seat-age kids might never notice.”

    2″ loss of rear legroom and 10% of cargo space reduction is absolutely something that families with baby aged kids would notice. Rear facing car seats are massive and that 2″ loss of rear legroom pushes mom or dad 2″ further toward the dash… especially in a small car like this or even the X1. Once they go front facing, it isn’t so bad, but those first 2 years are why every young family ends up in a CUV rather than a 5 door, compact hatch.

    edit: correction – wrote rear where I meant front

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Quentin,
      You are correct; I assumed that Antoun meant kids okld enough for forward facing carseats.

      That aside – what a great review, and thanks for sharing!

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      Quentin: exactly!

      The US-spec 1-series (coupe) has 32.0″ of rear legroom, the X1 has 34.9″. My first-gen Mazda3 has 36.3″ rear legroom. Installing our rear-facing child seat in the Mazda requires the front passenger seat to be pushed almost fully forward *and* tilted forward somewhat – no one can sit in the front passenger seat, not even in a pinch. Obviously, we don’t use it as our family car.

      Granted, legroom measurements are somewhat difficult to compare (seat tilt/front seatback thickness), but 32″ in the 1-series and even 34.9″ in the X1 sound almost useless. Luckily the rear-facing requirement is only temporary.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Once they go rear facing, it isn’t so bad, but those first 2 years are why every young family ends up in a CUV rather than a 5 door, compact hatch.”

      In all honesty, there’s very few CUVs that can accommodate a rear-facing seat in the second row without obstructing the use of the front passenger seat, especially if your front passengers are tall.

      The best options tend to be high-roof, low-floor MPVs (eg, the and minivans, as well as TARDIS-like cars like the original Versa hatch, Scion xB or Honda Element. The problem, and this gets touched on the “Are regulations killing design” thread, is that designers really like crowded, constrained interiors and sloping rooflines, so cars that are already bad are made even worse.

      Case in point: the Ford Five Hundred and Taurus: the former was one of the most spacious, airy designs in some time; the latter, despite being bigger in just about every exterior dimension, is a coffin inside.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        My wife and I are both 5’8″ and fit in our Rav4 quite well with a massive rear facing Chicco Nextfit convertible car seat. One thing that really helped our Rav4 over the GTI I used to have was the fact that the rear seatbacks reclined. Toyota recommends the rear seatback to be fully reclined when you install the seat. This bought us a few more inches in the Rav that we wouldn’t have had in the non-reclining GTI. Plus, the Rav4 already had an extra 1.4″ up front and 1.9″ in the rear over the GTI without considering the reclined seat. When all is said and done, it is quite the space upgrade over a 5 door hatch.

        I’d argue that most CUVs are designed as high roof, low floor MPVs (the good ones, anyway). They just have an extra 2″ or 3″ of suspension under them instead of riding on the ground like a Versa, Fit, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          cdotson

          Quentin,

          Rear-facing convertibles work for you because you and your wife are both short. I know, 5′-8 is above “average” for females and almost “average” for males but my noticeable surroundings tell me average hasn’t been updated for several generations. I’m 6′-3 and my wife is 5′-10 and we can only use rear-facing convertible seats in our 2006 Odyssey. My quad-cab Ram is too tight, and the fixed-upright rear seatback doesn’t help there either. The rear-facing infant carrier fit perfectly in both vehicles with no gyrations, and luckily in most states children are old enough to legally face forward by the time they outgrow some of the modern extended-weight infant carriers. I know “they” say kids should be rear-facing until 2yrs or some nonsense, but I have 3 kids now and can’t get too wrapped around my axle about merely following the law. My 17 month-old faces forward in my truck and rearward in the Odyssey, because that’s what works.

          Installing car seats with the seatback reclined is an excellent idea as once it’s strapped in the motion of raising the seatback fully tightens the installation in a way with which cinched straps alone cannot compete.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            You guys could just buy smaller sprog carriers. This one series is considered a good sized normal family car in Europe, and they have the same kiddie safety regs we do. You just won’t be able to buy such a seat for $99.99 at WallyWorld.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “You guys could just buy smaller sprog carriers”

            It depends how tall you are; if you’re over 5’4-5’8″ then it becomes a dicey proposition. Baby buckets can work, but rear-facing seats for infants and toddlers generally will not.

          • 0 avatar
            Zykotec

            I have yet to see any child seats that would fit comfortably in any modern European compact hatchback. The Euro Civic feels about twice as big on the inside as the 1-series,(probably also larger than the X1) and I still think it would be a tight fit with two children in their massive thrones. Just to make things harder for myself I also have a 14 year old daughter that’s 5’10”, so I’m going to have to keep my CRV for a couple more years I guess…the only real alternatives would be a fullsize (by european standards) wagon like a Mazda 6 or Ford Mondeo.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            cdotson – I was saying that for average (or even slightly below average sized adults), a rear facing car seat isn’t going to fit in a 1 series or is going to be very uncomfortable. Basically, we’re both arguing that a loss of 2″ of rear leg room does matter. I just turned my daughter this weekend at 22months. I’d like to have kept her rear facing longer, but a 6hr drive on the tail end of roseola made me think that front facing might be the trick to get us through the day. Toyota doesn’t recommend trying to move the seatback upward after installing the seat. The idea is that the seatback is on a hardstop and not relying on the ratcheting mechanism to keep the seat snug. The Nextfit that we have use an excellent tightening mechanism that really clamps things down. It was a pricey seat, but the adjust-ability as she grows and for installing the seat, as well as the supposedly additional side impact protection, has made it a solid purchase.

            krhodes – The seat I chose was superior in fitting the child as she grows and fitting the car (as far as how secure the installation is). It supposedly has improved side impact crash protection, as well. Meeting minimum standards in crash testing doesn’t mean that all seats crash test the same. It definitely wasn’t a $99 wallyworld seat (not that getting a seat from Walmart matters… they carry name brand seats like everywhere else). Pretty interesting that you are commenting considering you drive a 3 series wagon (a size up from the 1) and you don’t have kids.

    • 0 avatar
      JCK

      My wife and I drive two smallish cars (not as small as the 1-series, but not too far off (2005 Acura TSX and 2002 BMW 325xi).

      The best convertible seat, by far, for small cars is the Combi Coccoro. This will fit in just about anything (google “Honda Fit Combi Coccoro”). I’m 6’00”, and can live with this in both cars.

      This seat will only last until your kid is 40 lbs, but I’d rather have to buy another car seat than another car.

      Don’t buy some giant Britax that goes up to 70 lbs or whatever, install rear facing, and wonder why you have no front seat leg room.

      That being said, the Mazda 3 (prev. gen) is the only car I haven’t been able to be comfortable (this using an infant bucket seat (Chicco Keyfit). For a car its size, the Mazda has absolutely no back seat.

      I also don’t think CUVs are that much better. I was in an Acura MDX, and was not impressed with the (lack of) rear seat legroom, especially given the size of the car. The CUV advantage is really cargo room and ride height, not back seat comfort, from what I can tell.

      If you really want the room, I think it’s minivan or bust.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        I depends on the CUV I guess. The rear seats in the first 3 gen CRVs slide back and forth, and the back tilts too. at 6′ I could easily fit comfortably behind myself (along with two large child seats) in my 2nd gen, but the 3rd gens more rounded shoulders(and sidecurtain airbags) means the C-pillar gets more than comfortable close to my head. In their most rearward position the 2nd gen didn’t have much cargo space though. The two massive child seats probably helped the little guys survive an offset collision at 50+mph too ,completely unharmed.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Our daughter was quite large for her age and had to go forward facing at 12 months, but for that first year, her baby seat worked just fine in a Corolla.

      I think some people buy very large child seats…

  • avatar

    Very thorough. Well done.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Agreed, this review was entertaining, detailed, and polished. It reads more like a pro review than a reader submission. The brand new E90 320d rental I had in Germany remains tied with the base engine Mini Clubman as my favorite rentals ever. I loved the engine of the former on the Autobahn and I really need to see if that translates over to the American freeway (in a 328d).

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      Could not agree more. Just when some of us had been talking about the need for editing of some submitted articles. along comes one that is so outstanding that it could serve as a template for how it should be done.

    • 0 avatar
      zaxxon25

      +1, the best reader review yet (probably helps that it was a rental car review as well)

    • 0 avatar
      jimbobjoe

      My compliment to the author: I read the review and I felt like I drove the car. Thank you.

  • avatar
    threeer

    And as far as the US goes, made of pure, 100% Unobtanium! Sad, that. I’d prefer a decontented BMW mit Ganggetrieb, but then again, most BMW buyers Stateside don’t fit that demographic. Make mine white, with cloth interior, minimal doo-dads and the diesel and manual. And it’d probably be the only one sold in the US that way…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      No, there would be at least two, as I would buy one as well. Though I would probaby spend the $550 for Valencia Orange paint, just because it is so very cool.

  • avatar

    Still can’t understand why we, the unwashed of America, are not allowed to buy BMW’s with their excellent cloth interiors. Having rented these in Europe, they’re more comfortable in any temperature than leather and much better wearing. Thanks for a good review on a sweet little car. I note this 1-series is only 6″ longer than my ’01 325 wagon, a car that carried anything I ever needed until the passenger count exceeded 4.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      No, no, no. No cloth for us Americans. We are too ostentacious and attracted to all things pretty- and against all things utilitarian (say or cousins across the pond).

      Case in point? MB Tex.

      We only accept it because it makes our Merc’s more attainable (cheaper than leather) but still LOOKS like leather.

      Cloth? Naaahhh.

      Cloth is cloth. Is cloth. No substitutes for niceness there. You’re not fooling anyone with that.

      • 0 avatar

        I have a US market e46 outside with black microfiber cloth seats and interior.

        If you ask, they will build. Of course, I did order and wait.

        After 11 years, there is zero wear on the passenger and rear seats and very minor polishing on the driver’s seat. The car is not garaged. The leather trim has bleached more than the seats.

        I much prefer cloth and will go out of my way to get it over leather seating (because that is what comes in any car by the time you get to the sport packages)

        Cloth in the US connotes GM cloth of the mid 80’s which rips and splits in year seven. It can be done well, but you can’t up charge Americans for it. I’m sure leather is very cheap in automaker quantity…..and you can add four figure sums.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Yea, BMW is very accommodating. It’s one of the best things about them.

          And, I’m not sure what 80s GM cars you’ve have experience with but on the ones I have owned (and the ones I still own) the cloth holds up way, way, way better than the leather or vinyl of that era. Even on my quality nightmare Grand AMs the seats held up. This seems to be the case with Fords and Chryslers as well.

  • avatar
    bauerjw

    +1 for the BJ and the Bear reference.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Great review, extremely descriptive and a joy to read.

    One minor quibble: “needlessly-complicated hybrid technology” I think the B&B have agreed that a Prius drive-train is simpler and more reliable and durable than the high pressure diesel injection/urea exhaust treated modern diesel power plant.

    It’s a 2014 120d not a 1982 204D.

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      I wouldn’t go as far as saying that. I am seeing problems with the DEF/Urea, and with the DPF systems in the field. But, to call them more complicated than a Hybrid?

      I look at it this way. The Hybrid will have to have a expensive battery pack replaced at some point. If you keep the car long enough yourself to bite that cost, or not, doesn’t matter; it will need it. A modern EPA strangulated diesel engine? At worst, you might have to remove the DPF and have it cleaned, but this is becoming a common procedure and even we’re suppose to get our own machine to do this with.

      Take your pick, but on the diesel’s defense, it’s only more complicated because of excessive government regulation; not by inherit design.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “The Hybrid will have to have a expensive battery pack replaced at some point.”

        That hasn’t proven to be the case with the Prius, which has been on sale since 1997.

        “But, to call them more complicated than a Hybrid?”

        The Prius’s transmission is simplicity itself far simpler than even the 120d’s manual and way simpler than the 8-speed auto 90% would come with if sold in the US.

        • 0 avatar
          The Heisenberg Cartel

          Uhhh, it hasn’t? Tell that to anyone who had a battery f*ck up at 130-150k. Or in the case of Priuses like mine that spent its life in Florida and Georgia (heat and humidity), 100k.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            The numbers don’t agree with your anecdata.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            jmo,
            I think a more accurate statement would be that while hybrid batteries do eventually need to be replaced, the cost is actually quite reasonable, and often is not necessary until well past 200K miles. The overall maintenance costs of the Prius have been impressive vs. conventional ICE, when taking into account that many parts, like brake pads and tires tend to last a lot longer on the Prius.

          • 0 avatar
            The Heisenberg Cartel

            Okay, where’s the numbers JMO? You said you “have numbers”, so provide them. My stated mileage comes from multiple mechanics (Toyota dealer and indie shops that specialize in hybrids and electrics) up here in Priusville, also known as the Bay Area and Sacramento. Being that I admittedly can’t find numbers, Prius specialists are a good enough source to count as authorities in my book.

            But you have numbers. So post the source.

        • 0 avatar
          The Heisenberg Cartel

          VoGo: I agree with you there. I’ve had to replace tires just once in a span of 40,000 miles on mine, and no other replacements, or problems in general other than an alarm with a mind of its own (now disconnected due to multiple times waking my neighbors at midnight). But being hit with a sudden 1,500 dollar repair (or 3,000 for a brand new battery) at 100k miles can be extremely irritating.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      You mean 240D, right? The diesel vs. hybrid thing is really “horses for courses.” The advantages of the hybrid in highway driving are small to none. Essentially all of the complication of the battery, electric motor, etc. is adding weight Diesels, on the other hand, really come into their own on a highway. Typically owners of diesels achieve better than EPA highway ratings for their cars.

      However, in stop and go traffic, the hybrid is best. It recaptures energy otherwise dumped into the air in the form of heat from the brakes used to stop the car and it doesn’t idle the engine when the car isn’t moving.

      Given the complexity of today’s diesels, it’s hard to make an argument that their long term maintenance expenses will be less than those of a gasoline engine hybrid.

  • avatar
    Boff

    I’ve never truly forgiven BMW for giving us the 1-series coupe but withholding the 5-door. I’d never get the diesel though…N52 all the way.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The n52 is out of production, I believe. If you want to play, the n20 2.0t is the one to have anyway. More power, WAY more torque, and 300hp is but a warranty busting software update away. I own a car with the n52 and I would rather have the four in it.

      I’d still get the diesel, 184hp is plenty. And while I know this will cause jaws to bounce off floors, I would even consider getting the slushbox with it. The diesel with the 8spd really is a match made in heaven. God, I must be getting old!

      • 0 avatar
        Boff

        I know…2 years ago my wife traded her E90 328i for an F30 328i. The turbo 4 has a lot more grunt and gets amazing fuel economy, but I miss the 6’s song and smoothness.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I’ve told my fiance before that if I ever won the lottery, I’d leave this country for one reason and one reason alone: the cars.

    Awesome review. Makes me miss my Golf TDI of yesteryear, and long for something similar but more upscale.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “I also spent time schlepping up the A1 highway between Rome and Florence with a fair number of detours to Tuscan towns on Italian country roads.”

    It’s nice to hear from someone with real problems for once.

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    I have wanted the 5 door 1er for YEARS. I’m still pissed that BMW is holding back.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Fans of Volvo red-block motors and 5-cylinder Audis will find this engine sounds familiar.

    So it goes tick-ticka-tick-tick like a 5-cylinder Audi!

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Ah, fond memories of learning to drive in an ’85 5000S 5-speed. That car was wonderful to drive (when the electrical/electronics gremlins stayed home), and agree that the idle sound was very recognizable.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    All I can say: If the M135xi 4-door hatch was available in the US, the GF wouldn’t have bought the Crosstrek, she would have blown her budget and ordered a M135xi hatch with German delivery…

  • avatar
    segfault

    “We used only one and three-eighths of a tank of gas…”

    I bet it would have run better if you had used diesel!

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    in my case i dont see the point of diesel

    there’s supposed to be an upcoming 115i which has a 3 cyl turbo 1.5 thats supposed to do quite respectable power and torque without the cost of diesel and the high initial purchase and ongoing service

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      “in my case i dont see the point of diesel”

      From a purely monetary view there is no point. But there’s also no point in buying anything more expensive than a Corolla or Civic, if cost-of-ownership is your only criterion. Turbo diesels have a unique combination of attributes that nothing else quite has: they are kick-in-the-pants fun to drive, easily achieve hwy mpg that rivals most hybrids, and get real-world combined mpg that surpasses most any gasser. (it’s well documented that EPA testing produces very conservative results with diesels)
      There are lots of cars that are faster/more fun to drive, but none of them afaik can get you 50+ mpg hwy.

  • avatar
    iMatt

    Awesome review. I feel like I just drove the car after reading it.

    Good things happen when you trade in the stilettos for a solid pair of flats.

    As a teenager, this was THE car in my Gran Turismo 2 garage. Glad to read it’s as good as I imagined!

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    As someone who lives in Germany and drives an I6 diesel 3 series… I’ll continue to say what I always do.

    These European diesels are charming in their own way, and nice motors in general, but make zero sense in the USA due to purchase cost, diesel fuel prices, and complexity. And for a driving enthusiast they’re fun for a bit but after 2 years with a diesel here I know next car will be gas. Sorry, gas is just better except for the fuel economy. The sound difference alone is nearly worth it.

    Nice review.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Some of us just like the way they drive. The fuel economy benefit is a bonus. While it is fun to wind my n52 out to 7k rpm on occasion, I would prefer a fat slug of torque at 2500 rpm and an extra 15mpg. Where I live, diesel is cheaper than premium.

      Ultimately, if I just want to have fun, I have a Fiat Abarth to play with. My BMW is a tool for a different job than that.

      • 0 avatar
        OliverTwist

        Sorry, Jerome10, I disagree — based on my real-world driving experience.

        I hired both 2012 BMW 525d xDrive (station wagon and automatic gearbox) and 2012 BMW 116i (five doors and manual gearbox) for the winter and summer road trips through eastern Germany.

        The verdict: bigger and heavier 525d used half tank of diesel fuel while 116i used two tanks of petrol fuel for same distance and driving style (mostly side roads and some Autobahn drive). 116i has smaller fuel tank but by only 18 litres (about five gallons).

        I will always drive diesel vehicles unless there’s no diesel options for the vehicles such as Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and few others…

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Jerome,

      In Southern CA, diesel is hovering around $4/gallon while premium is $4.35/gallon.

      It’s MUCH cheaper to run a diesel here.

    • 0 avatar
      piro

      Nah, I love the diesel tractor sound and turbo lag. Adds character.

      Also, having to go to the petrol station less is a good thing.

  • avatar
    7402

    These are great cars; nice review as well. I’ve ridden in and driven these several times in Spain, both as rentals and as borrowed cars or as a passenger. Yes, they are lovely, but with anybody over average height in the front seat the rear is functional only for small children or dogs. The ceiling is low for people who are tall waisted (me), though this is a flaw for the entire 1 series line, especially examples burdened with a sunroof. There is more driver room in a MINI.

    To summarize, a nice car I can’t comfortably drive.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I’ll give $35,000 internet message board dollars for it!

  • avatar

    The new 1-series is a car that looks as if it’s been steered carefully, in the right direction. Its enhanced comfort and accommodation, improved efficiency and new-to-the-class technology are something good to watch.

  • avatar
    jimf42

    I rented the 2012 version (118d) in 2012 for a drive from Augsburg to Stuttgart and return. I had the automatic and non-electric steering. Very nice vehicle…stable at a steady 110-115mph on the Autobahn. Handled very well and I concur re the very comfortable cloth seats. Excellent nav system too. Handled well on winding roads. My fuel economy was much less due to the higher constant speeds.

  • avatar

    I really enjoyed this review, particularly since when I went to pick up this week’s rental car in Dusseldorf I was offered a Mini rather than the Focus I had ordered. The idea of driving a Mini 2300 km with a racing bike jammed into the back seat and probably hitting me in the neck was unappealing so I agreed instead to go with a brand-new black-on-black BWM 120d instead for a bit more money. The car is a six-speed manual with all-wheel drive and the M package, which includes the sport seats and really lovely rims. It has navigation, leather interior, sunroof and electronic mode control (eco or sport). I have driven 1400 km over the last four days and agree with the majority of the review. The car is great fun to drive and at 180 km/h feels as steady as at 100 km/h. I have been running the eco mode on the Autobahn where it appears to decrease fuel consumption by about five percent and I am getting around 6.2 l/100 km, or 38 mpg (US) in mixed driving. Off the highway I switch into sport mode which is probably not so good for fuel consumption but more fun. The torque is amazing for a car this size and overtaking slower traffic is never a problem. I find the shifting is very easy but I do notice the somewhat rubbery feel but the clutch is ideally set up.

    I have previously rented 1-Series cars and except for the shifting was not impressed with the just-above-base gasoline models I had which seemed to be aimed at lower-end VW Golfs as competitors. The styling was not very attractive to me in the five-door version. Even less impressive were the diesel X-1s I had, which were loud and very rough. The car I have right now is a serious road instrument, improved a great deal with the gorgeous aggressive wheels and perhaps the best car I have driven in Germany from a day-to-day standpoint. I will probably not be happy to give it back next week but I suspect it cannot be priced competitively in the North American market.

    • 0 avatar

      Back again. Returned the car two days ago after driving 3000 kms in totoal. Fuel consumption improved somewhat to 5.7l/100 kms, or 41 US mpg. This was real world driving, with fast autobahn and mountain twisties as well so perhaps driving very sedately would get you the 4.3-4.7l/100 km shown on the BMW website as normal but I was satisfied. It really is an excellent car but mine would have come to a list price of 44,000 Euros in Germany, or over US$61,000 or C$66,000 in Great White North funds. Even if brought over discounted, the M-package version of the 120d would not be even price-competitive with a C7 Corvette in North America. Interestingly, I saw C7s twice on the road last week but they are US$96,000 and up here!

  • avatar

    It´s one of the best new model of the bavarian car producer. But in my opinion there is not much space in it. The driver will have no probs, but all others won´t have much space to move.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    If I’m going to pay the Bavarian premium for a car the size and performance of a Subaru that costs substantially less, then I sure as hell want a Wagon/Hatch so I can actually use it as a family truckster that can haul stuff like large TVs, big dogs, sheets of wood, and epic Sam’s Club runs…

    Small diesel engines remind me of a Kubota riding mower I used to use as a teenager on in-school detention to mow the football field, they also tend to perform the same way.

    …so yes to a 1-series wagon, to hell with the diesel.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “Small diesel engines remind me of a Kubota riding mower I used to use as a teenager on in-school detention to mow the football field, they also tend to perform the same way.”

    Clearly you haven’t driven a modern common rail turbo diesel. It’s not 1999 any more.

    • 0 avatar
      FJ60LandCruiser

      You mean like every TDI VW has made in the past 10 years?

      Because every single one of those sounds like a riding tractor.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “You mean like every TDI VW has made in the past 10 years?”

        More evidence that you don’t know what you’re talking about – VW debuted CR TDIs in 2009.

        “Because every single one of those sounds like a riding tractor.”

        I was referring to your remark, “…they also tend to perform the same way.”
        Next time just say you don’t like the way they sound and leave it at that.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I owned the US spec 128 coupe, but it was just too darn annoying with two doors and no hatchback.

    I would order the HB you reviewed tomorrow, if they would bring it over here.

    Make mine a stick, with the 2 liter turbo (not against diesels, just prefer them in my truck, not car).

  • avatar
    darex

    Next review, even more Yiddish please, because each usage makes me grin.


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