A few weeks ago, BMW introduced revised versions of its popular 1 Series Coupé and Convertible ranges onto the local scene. You can read all about the upgrades here. Shortly after the mid-life refresh, or lifecycle impulse (LCI) in BMW speak, we were presented with a 120d Coupé for evaluation.
The upgrade is mild, so much so that, unless you are a real BMW anorak, you will not realise that you are looking at a “new” model. Restyled tail- and headlamps are subtle, but look good. Even more noticeable are the different alloys, which on our test unit measured 18-inches in diameter.
BMW’s diesel technology is among the best in the business and this car probably has one of the nicer small oil-burners on the market. Measuring 1 995 cm3, the 120d boasts a formidable 130 kW power output. With the help of forced induction an impressive 350 N.m of twist action is available from a lowly 1 750 r/min. “Our” test car boasted the perfect drivetrain: a turbodiesel motor coupled with an automatic transmission (in my eyes, all diesel engines should come with auto transmissions). In the urban jungle, this combination works perfectly as one does not have to stir a gearshifter in traffic to exploit the narrow power band.
This car still features the older six-speed auto as opposed to an eight-speed version that all newer models are fitted with (which buyers can expect on the new 1 Series hatchback models coming later this year). As hi-tech as having an eight-speed transmission may sound or the incremental fuel-saving it may bring, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this older six-speed item. It is still a slick-shifting device that has a set of ratios selected to exploit the power delivery to a tee. In top gear at the national limit, the rev-counter shows just over 2 000 r/min, which makes it an ideal cruising machine.
One of the 1 Series’s biggest criticisms still exists, as far as I am concerned anyway – that of the poor ride quality. BMW has pioneered the widespread use of run-flat tyres and the 1 series does not handle the stiff sidewall construction – that these tyres need to work effectively – very well. The ride is firm and can turn choppy on rutted and pock-marked tar. But this just a small chink in this car’s amour. There is also the small matter of the steering action, which feels overly heavy at low speeds.
During my time behind the wheel, the 120d reminded me very much of the two-door E30s of the mid-90s. I was too young to drive back then but I really appreciated the look of those cars. Of course, it did not hurt that there were several performance models on offer from BMW; 325i, 333i and everyone’s favourite, the 325iS.
If cars aren’t constantly chewing on growth hormones and weigh-more diets, I can’t help but feel that this is what a modern day two-door E30 would feel like; compact, refined, powerful, fuel efficient and stylish. Who knows, maybe some day in the future someone will be driving a ¼ Series and reminisce about the old two-door (E82) 1 Series.
The BMW 120d Coupé Steptronic costs R371 100, which includes a five-year/100 000 km motorplan and two-year/unlimited km warranty.