BMW 1-Series

With BMW launching the new range-topping 130i six-cylinder petrol model in Munich, I jumped at the chance to drive our long-term diesel back to the Bavarian city where it was made

  • High-speed cruising, handling, economy on European trip, dealer service
  • Only room for two in rear, small boot, high price, costly options, questionable styling

It only joined the Auto Express fleet five months ago, but our 120d has already had a trip home to its birthplace. With BMW launching the new range-topping 130i six-cylinder petrol model in Munich, I jumped at the chance to drive our long-term diesel back to the Bavarian city where it was made.

There was an ulterior motive, though. The trip also gave me the opportunity to stop off at the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit and really put the 1-Series through its paces. The schedule entailed heading to Calais on the HoverSpeed SeaCat, on to the Nurburgring for two days, then up to Munich to drive the 130i, back to the 'Ring to drive an Opel Corsa in a six-hour endurance event and finally the return trek to England.

Fortunately, the 1-Series really came into its own on the 1,600-mile adventure. As I mentioned in our first update (Issue 865), the 120d's motorway refinement and stability really impress, and this was confirmed on the derestricted Ger-man autobahn: cruising at 140mph, RF05 FBZ remained quiet and sure-footed. Unsurprisingly, the 1-Series felt as if it had been specifically engineered with this type of driving in mind.

What's more, even accounting for fast European roads, plus 12 laps - about 150 miles - of the Nurburgring, my average fuel consumption for the trip was 26.6mpg - not bad at all! The 120d's performance also impressed around the 'Ring, where the twists and gradients of the track highlighted the accurate steering, strong brakes and chassis balance. No wonder the circuit is popular with manufacturers - it puts huge demands on suspension, brake and gearbox components. But I'm pleased to report that the track time didn't spoil the BMW's air of solidity and quality.

The 120d hasn't been faultless, though. As we mentioned in the first update, our car had a jammed bonnet, but a trip to Whitehouse of Ruxley, Kent solved this problem - a new release cable was fitted under warranty. The work was done promptly and efficiently, and the staff were courteous and helpful.

That aside, the 120d is a hit with those in the office who value dynamic ability or fuel economy, although it hasn't found favour with everyone. The lack of space and cheap plastics are regular criticisms. Now, after its Euro trip, the BMW is largely restricted to the grind of commuting, although that's something else it copes well with. However, I have a suspicion that like me, it was happiest on the roads and tracks of its homeland.

Second opinion

I'm not a fan of its looks, but from behind the wheel the 120d makes much more sense. From there, its stylish cabin and rear-wheel-drive handling set it apart from mainstream rivals. However, while the precise steering is great on sweeping B-roads, it feels heavy in town, and rear cabin space is also cramped for a small family hatchback.Ross Pinnock

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