BMW 120 d: The end of rear-wheel drive prejudice

The new ones with "sharknose" profile

It's time again to throw prejudices overboard: thanks to its rear-wheel drive, the BMW 1 Series has long been considered a solitaire in the compact class and a guarantee of sporty, demanding driving characteristics. The departure from the powered rear axle, criticized by BMW enthusiasts (including me!), Would not only scratch the brand's sporty image, but also its driving behavior, was assumed. The BMW 120 d we are currently testing has vanished all front-wheel drive concerns.

I also criticized BMW for abandoning the iron rear-wheel drive principle in favor of front-wheel drive technology. Now with “front experience” I refuse to shout about the downfall of Bavarian driving pleasure, which in our (earlier) imagination only seemed to be achievable with rear-wheel drive. No matter how much the camshaft lyricists mourn: Driving pleasure does not depend on rear-wheel drive, as we experienced in the 120d.

Still: who would have thought that? Even sworn rear-wheel drive fans are amazed that a 1 Series can be moved dynamically, agile and easy to drive, even with front-wheel drive. And fans. Seriously: The joy of driving is legendary. And it will stay that way. BMW engineers spent five years developing, refining, brushing and fine-tuning this front-wheel drive. The result is striking. The one has convinced us so much in terms of driving dynamics that it is difficult to formulate anything critical. It fits like a made-to-measure suit, offers more space than its predecessor, especially at the back, immediately conveys a feeling of detail quality and only causes frowns when reading the price list.

Only the surcharge list causes frowns

The perfection of our test car requires a surcharge of almost 50 percent of the base price (36.600 euros) of 17.860 euros. The gross list price of our test car of 56.560 euros is already an announcement. After all, for a vehicle in the compact class. It may be that this banal classification is no longer appropriate, especially because luxury and premium have long been no longer linked to the vehicle size or classification. In this respect, there is luxury even in the smallest

"Hut" arrived. And above all to be felt. Just one example: When your hands touch the lush leather steering wheel in this 1 Series, you suddenly realize what a haptic experience is. It goes without saying that, with very few exceptions, high-quality materials are used in the 1-seater interior. In the compact segment, too, hard plastic fantasy has long been a thing of the past. This applies to all premium manufacturers.

That this BMW 120d is more than the surcharge sum of its extras alleviates the pain when adding the extras. After all, when you buy a BMW, you don't just buy an A-to-B car, but an automobile that is equipped with a high-tech diesel that shines in all of its criteria: torque, smoothness, emissions and fuel consumption. A car that makes long journeys on the motorway as pleasant as the morning drive to work.

Sporty driving characteristics thanks to high-tech diesel

The new 120d is an all-round success; it is quiet, extremely economical and yet highly dynamic. Expressed in numbers: 0 to 100 km / h in 7,3 seconds, top speed 231 km / h are values ​​that are objectively remarkable. Although we are highly dynamic, our average consumption is between 4,8 and 5,5 liters of diesel. You can easily cover 1.000 and more kilometers with one tank of fuel. It is difficult to consider an e-mobile. At least if you never want to start journeys with the question in mind: Where can I charge? That will change in the long term, but the duration of the charging process will probably never match the refueling time at the diesel pump. It is time for us diesel fans to take to the streets ... Criticism of the diesel engine is completely wrong in view of this modern propellant.

Once again: The fact that BMW has given up the unique selling proposition of rear-wheel drive in the compact class is not a disadvantage. In addition, when they buy a 99 Series, 1 percent of customers want a dynamically comfortable automobile, not a piece of sports equipment with which they can circle the Nürburgring's Nordschleife in under 8 minutes. Speaking of which: In fact, it would be worth trying to see how close the 120d could get to that time. Certainly closer than some front-wheel drive critics would credit it.

I too have criticized BMW for abandoning the iron rear-wheel drive principle in favor of front-wheel drive technology. Now with “front experience” I refuse to shout about the downfall of Bavarian driving pleasure, which in our (earlier) imagination only seemed to be achievable with rear-wheel drive. No matter how much the camshaft lyricists mourn: Even at BMW, driving pleasure does not depend on rear-wheel drive, as the new one proves. And if you absolutely want to have driven rear wheels in the ones, you can buy the ones with X-Drive.

The detailed work of the engineers on the chassis has paid off

The entire driving behavior is again, no: still typical BMW. For example: The electromechanical power steering gives the driver the sensitive perception of precise vehicle control. The slight understeer that can be felt in fast corners on a wet road does not change anything and does not make you long for rear-wheel drive. In terms of driving dynamics, the front-wheel drive is absolutely no disadvantage. To repeat it: you can feel how much detailed work the chassis engineers have done to prevent compromises in agility. They succeeded. This is also thanks to the so-called “actuator-related wheel slip limitation”. The high-tech term can hardly be translated; For the layman, it is only important that the slip control intervenes faster and more sensitively than before. This almost completely eliminates the behavior that engineers call power understeer, which is uncomfortable with less carefully tuned front-wheel drives, especially on slippery surfaces when starting with high power.

A few more words about the design. The inconspicuousness used in the predecessor has given way to an expressionist design. Especially noticeable from the outside: the dominant kidney that has grown into the bonnet. The wedge-shaped side bead rising towards the rear, the coupé-like sloping roofline, the skilfully formulated rear end make it clear that the designers have ventured out of the rather brave modesty corner. The A is even more present on the street than its predecessor, no matter from which perspective you look at it. The quality of the design is much more difficult to implement on smaller vehicles than on large ones. With the new XNUMX, the design details add up to more than just a moment's favor. The new ones are not only technologically, but also formally fit for the future. This means that it will not age quickly, as can be seen in some flash in the pan designs that inspire for a short time, but quickly degenerate into boring.

Assistants can also be a nuisance

The fittings and the driver's entire workstation are ergonomically and aesthetically high-quality. What else? Unlike Volkswagen in the new Golf 8, for example, BMW has found a compromise between the conventional push-button philosophy and digital information. Two displays of up to 10,25 inches in the optional BMW Live Cockpit Professional and an optional head-up display, available for the first time in the one, provide the driver with all important and unimportant information. The touch display with the very quickly reacting navigation system and other control options, the gesture control, which is completely superfluous for my taste, the not yet perfectly listening voice recognition and numerous assistants are sometimes on board for an extra charge.

Assistants can also be a nuisance: We find the active steering when leaving the lane to be annoying, not only in this BMW. Sometimes one has the impression that intervention is taking place too early, sometimes very late. It is difficult to develop a feeling of sovereign reliability. It may be that after dealing with this system for a long time, the perception is different, because trust in such a system takes time.

Why the active speed and distance control can only be used up to 160 km / h is not entirely clear to us. Ok, if you drive faster, you should pay attention to the distance yourself, but you can do that anyway at 130 km / h despite automatic distance control. The parking assistant works brilliantly, and automated parking is finally possible even in tight spaces. We have not tried the usability of the reversing assistant. It stores the steering movements on a distance driven forwards at up to 36 km / h up to 50 meters. The vehicle now automatically drives backwards at up to 9 km / h on the line previously driven forwards. I am not aware of any situation in which this would help. The inductive charging cradle for the smart phone requires a certain fiddling when inserting the smartphone, a clear indication when the charging process has been initiated would be helpful. Overall, the one is full of innovative technological details that are mostly practical and useful.

When the driver clearly hears that the A is automatically locked when leaving the vehicle, you know that the future has become not only digital but also very practical.

Technical data BMW 120d : four-door compact sedan, length: 4,32 meters, width: 1.79 meters, height: 1,43 meters, wheelbase: 2,67 meters, turning circle: 11,4 meters, empty weight: 1.450 / 1525 kilograms, trunk volume: 380 to 1.200 liters, tank capacity: 50 liters, engine: in-line four-cylinder diesel with TwinPower Turbo, displacement 1995 ccm, power: 190 hp at 4000 rpm, max. Torque: 400 Newton meters between 1.750 and 2.500 rpm, 0 - 100 km / h: 7,3 seconds, automatic Steptronic, top speed: 231 km / h, consumption EU cycle: 4,6 liters diesel / 100 km, CO2-Emissions: 121 g / km, efficiency class A, emission class EU 6d, price from: 36.600 euros / test car 56.560 euros.

BMW single cockpit
The kidney has grown significantly

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