From £19,075
Adaptive four-wheel drive adds winter safety and dynamic interest to the BMW 1-series’ solid base at a potentially attractive premium

Our Verdict

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

  • First Drive

    First drive review: BMW 120d xDrive

    Adaptive four-wheel drive adds winter safety and dynamic interest to the BMW 1-series’ solid base at a potentially attractive premium
  • First Drive

    First drive review: BMW M135i

    Terrific performance, stunning grip, fine balance and decent steering make the M135i a mighty road weapon. It’s good value, too
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's 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

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Comments
20

14 December 2012

"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.

 

 

14 December 2012

BenC30 wrote:

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

I would be interested in seeing 4WD model sales vs RWD sales in a year's time and see if you're on your own. It may be that a car like a BMW, which has a reputation for being oriented towards drivers, might not make any gains.

But if you look at VW, you can't buy e.g. a 4MOTION Caddy Maxi Life for love nor money because it's sold out across the continent. Family cars and MPVs with 4WD seem to be incredibly popular, not least (I reckon) because we've had a run of bad winters.

Also I'm not sure that your average BMW buyer would know which model was 4WD anyway, or what the purpose of that was. Most don't take test drives. When questioned, most think the 1-Series is FWD. They just want that BMW and to hell with all the silly details...

14 December 2012

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........

14 December 2012

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

14 December 2012

Rich_uk wrote:

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

Eh?

14 December 2012

SunnyL wrote:

Rich_uk wrote:

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

Eh?

The pictures first launched on Autocar showed a bright red 1-series and it looked fugly. My expectations when I saw one for the first time were very low so I was pleasantly surprised! I don't think it looks too bad relative to other new cars. 

www.thecarexpert.co.uk/forums

14 December 2012

Rich_uk wrote:

The pictures first launched on Autocar showed a bright red 1-series and it looked fugly. My expectations when I saw one for the first time were very low so I was pleasantly surprised! I don't think it looks too bad relative to other new cars. 

I've seen plenty in the flesh, and I think the front end is catastrophically bad! The lights are the worst bit, but the 1-Series appears to have adopted the 7-Series' swollen face. Even the previous one looked better. 

14 December 2012

Rich_uk wrote:

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).

I agree on the looks, it has grown on me but think it could be improved further by changing the front lights.

I had a 116i Sport as a loan car last week and I was very impressed. The ride while firm was very good with none of the crashing over pot-holes or speed bumps I get in my 3 Series.

I thought the interior was very nice and much more spacious than the original 1 Series, not huge but probably on a par with my E90; so big enough for most people. The boot is now one of the bigger in the class, too. The 8 speed auto was superb and I was surprised by how quick (relatively) the 116i was. I also averaged 40mpg with ease.

The only complaints I has were road noise over 50mph, but I'd want to check another because it sounded like a wheel bearing to me and I slight lack of traction when pulling away in the damp while giving it some beans. Nothing too bad and a lot better than a FWD alternative, but after my 3 Series which just grips and goes in those circumstances, it came as a surprise.

Maybe X-Drive is the way to go after all.

14 December 2012

Rich_uk wrote:

AWD should eliminate the 'snow worries'.

 

Liking the xdrive but that would be the wrong bet to tackle 'snow worries'. Much cheaper with winter tyres, like all scandinavians know (and not buying awd in great numbers as some would think).

AWD will get you going, yes, but only to get yourself in bigger trouble when steering and braking is required...

14 December 2012

Onehp wrote:

Rich_uk wrote:

AWD should eliminate the 'snow worries'.

 

Liking the xdrive but that would be the wrong bet to tackle 'snow worries'. Much cheaper with winter tyres, like all scandinavians know (and not buying awd in great numbers as some would think).

AWD will get you going, yes, but only to get yourself in bigger trouble when steering and braking is required...

You're right but as Brits are not used to winter tyres and consider them a kerfuffle. They're also perceived as expensive. I think BMWs are seen as poor in bad weather and I think it's affected sales hence the intro of AWD.

Personally, if snow turns up, I'll order some snowsocks to get me out of trouble. Less useful than winter tyres but a darn sight cheaper. 

www.thecarexpert.co.uk/forums

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