Richard Webber
14 December 2012

What is it?

It's a BMW 1-series with four-wheel drive. UK orders for the BMW 320i xDrive since its book opened in June have been encouraging, and have had us eyeing Munich’s other non-SUV four-wheel-drivers with interest. In Germany, most models can be had with xDrive, including the 1-series hatch in sprinting M135i form and in workaday 120d guise as seen here.

The model answered demand from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and joins an expanding xDrive range that already accounts for a third of BMW's sales. Germany, the USA and China all buy more xDrives than Audi quattros, so, clearly, that leaves room for improvement in the UK.

Most of Audi's quattro-equipped cars use a Torsen centre differential to apportion torque but, like the A3 and TT, xDrives use a multi-plate wet clutch instead. BMW claims its system is the most quick-witted, reacting in 0.1sec, and anticipating wheel slip via the DSC’s myriad sensors. Torque can be totally redistributed fore or aft from the default 40 per cent front, 60 per cent rear setting.

The 120d xDrive is largely identical to its rear-drive counterpart that was packaged to accommodate four-wheel drive from the start. The extra 40kg or so, plus friction increases, means a 4g/km CO2 penalty (theoretically adding £70 to the road tax bill on the smallest wheels), while fuel economy drops less than four per cent to a still-superb 60.1mpg, and performance is barely affected. BMW chassis engineers have aimed to maintain the rear-driver’s sporty-yet-supple set-up using revised springs and dampers.

What is it like?

The sensible money banks on both winter tyres and four-wheel drive, and that’s how our test car was equipped for a stint in the Austrian Alps. On snow, the xDrive system was hamstrung by DSC, which constantly cut the power, but switch the Dynamic Traction Control to a setting that permits some slip and understeer could be tamed with an increase in rear-bound drive without stifling progress.

Similarly, on the driest road we found, the 120d xDrive showed signs of overcoming the rear-driver’s strong tendency to wash out. Unless DSC was fully engaged, though, unchecked oversteer would cut doughnuts in the snow all day. When required, the ABS system performed efficiently and inspired confidence, while the accurate steering was uncorrupted by xDrive.

Body control was taut, but the ride disappointed over broken surfaces, the new suspension settings seemingly reprising the previous 1-series’ tendency to fidget, despite sensible wheels and tyres.

The engine, though gruff, remains a wonder of power and economy, and the xDrive system distributed its considerable torque ably. The pairing’s potential in a 3-series host is even more of a prospect to wish for.

Should I buy one?

All-wheel drive corrupts the fundamental essence of BMW's rear-drive purity, but a more secure, sure-footed 1-series certainly has appeal. German buyers pay around £2000 extra for an xDrive 1-series, but we’d probably fork out more like £1535 – that’s the premium charged for the 320i xDrive, aligning closely with Audi’s £1600 supplement for the A3 quattro.

BMW 120d xDrive 5dr

Price £25,015 (est); Top speed 140mph; 0-62mph 7.2sec; Economy 60.1mpg (combined); CO2 123g/km; Kerb weight 1500kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbodiesel; Power 181bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
20

About time!

1 year 39 weeks ago

"All-wheel drive corrupts the fundamental essence of BMW's rear-drive purity"

I don't think so, I would rather have an xDrive BMW than a RWD one.

 

 

Considering the market the 1

1 year 39 weeks ago

Considering the market the 1 series is aimed at in the UK (people buying a badge rather than a rear drive sporting hatch) , I am surprised this hasn't been avaliable from launch.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

507

The superiority of xDrive

1 year 39 weeks ago

Rather amazing that a manual 2 wheel drive M135i is 0.4 seconds slower 0-62mph and uses MORE fuel than the automatic 4 wheel drive version!

Will it come to the

1 year 39 weeks ago

So what are the chances of us getting a more xDrives in the UK? I'd have thought BMW UK bosses would have been following the success of Audi's quattro badge with envy and would be desperate to get as many xDrives into the range as possible.

It would have been amazing 10

1 year 39 weeks ago

It would have been amazing 10 years ago, but nowadays autos are often more efficient and faster.

507

Amazing xDrive

1 year 39 weeks ago

I do agree regarding the auto gearbox, but the 4 wheel drive efficiency is till rather unique!

Driving Spirit wrote:I'd have

1 year 39 weeks ago

Driving Spirit wrote:I'd have thought BMW UK bosses would have been following the success of Audi's quattro badge with envy and would be desperate to get as many xDrives into the range as possible.

That's because few manufactures really understand the UK 4WD market. Is 4WD there to enhance  performance / traction or there for off road capability.  Manufacturers like VW bring out a Passat 4WD estate ideal for rural users who want a practical 4WD without the size and bulk of a SUV, but then go and fit 18” low profile alloy wheels!     Audi do the same with the A4 Allroad.  There  is a market for 4WD BMW’s here in the UK especially if they can produce them with Tax efficient low C02 engines. They just need to decide who they want to sell them to before they fit low profile whhels and tyres and hard suspension!

 

TegTypeR wrote: Considering

1 year 39 weeks ago

TegTypeR wrote:

Considering the market the 1 series is aimed at in the UK (people buying a badge rather than a rear drive sporting hatch) 

Going to objective to that sweeping statement Teg! I bought my 120d because I wanted a compact, quick, decent handling car, decent looks (subjective), quality build quality, with cheap running costs (50mpg, £95 tax is cheap for me). I didn't go looking for a brand but I have been impressed with BMW. The alternative for me was the Golf GTi but it was too expensive to run. The 170bhp diesel had too much torque steer in the wet and looked too bland for me. 

I don't think there is a better match for my criteria. Can you...?

XDrive is a sensible addition for BMW. Now I've seen the new 1-series in the metal it's an alright looking car with a lovely interior and fantastic engines. AWD should eliminate the 'snow worries'.

Now all they need to do is improve ride quality (although I've not driven the new 1 series).

www.thecarexpert.co.uk/forums

Rich_uk wrote: Now I've seen

1 year 39 weeks ago

Rich_uk wrote:

Now I've seen the new 1-series in the metal it's an alright looking car

Eh?

507

Adaptive suspension

1 year 39 weeks ago

If you opt for the adaptive suspension you have a comfort setting which puts the car in a different category.

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Measures up on comfort and space, but it’s still boring to drive

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