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The Sensible option

March 20th, 2008 - Drives

The world of Today is becoming harsh for the friends of true Sports cars; Governments are tackling with CO2-emission issues related to Global warming and seem to choose an easy refuge when deciding on the taxation of Automobiles. In order to guide consumer behaviour as well as the car industry towards a more clean future, the trend is to tax vehicles on their CO2 payload and CO2 only. Whoever forgot the other emissions such as nitrogen oxides accumulating to acidization of the environment, or additions to the amounts of harmful small particles, for example? Neither are the current emission based taxation changes exactly anywhere near fair towards the breed of sports cars, if you do the comparison between the actual pollutives on a vehicle vs. vehicle -basis. Most will agree that these are important issues; they just need to be done right.

Sensible

So, given the pressing new facts of taxation, we at Carfreaks.net decided to take a look at what would be the more sensible man’s sports oriented vehicle, but not a sports car. The task force went off to find one of the tax-reduction winners, one that actually became well over five thousand euros cheaper due to what was supposed to be an environment-friendly change in taxation. A car that would still display at least a certain level of sportiness and sophistication, while being the ultra-realistic’s choice of Today.

Thus behold, the new BMW 1-Series Coupe 120d.

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The 1-series Coupe is about to go officially on sale in the U.S. in a matter of days, while the European customers have been able to order theirs for a couple of months now; with an exception of the Alpine White colour, which only became available in the beginning of March. At this point, the U.S. customers are offered two models: 128i and 135i, but Europeans are also given the choices of 120d and 123d, two diesel-powered models with turbos, the latter equipped with a two turbo setup. There are rumours of two additional motorsport-enhanced models to the 1-series and of the 135i possibly being of ‘limited production’, but none of these have been confirmed.

Though especially our American readers will cringe in terror, the bare bones price of the 120d Coupe in Finland is 35.600,00€ (exclusive of a 590,00€ delivery fee) – not too bad on the country level. This converts roughly to a good $54,900.00 USD with the exchange rate being at 1.541 as of today. In the U.S., one could get a fully-loaded 135i model and more with the price of one base 120d Coupe in Finland. In Germany, this Coupe costs 28.750,00€ (tax included). The car we reviewed added up to a healthy 41.800,00€ (or $64,500.00), including the added options, taxes and delivery charges.

From the fanbase point of view, the E82 or 1-Coupe has hit the mark, surpassed it and started living a life of its own. There’s already a huge following for the vehicle. Take a look at the 1Addicts forums, for example. Albeit heavily populated by the cup-holder loving Americans, the 1-Series online communities are simply thriving. Even BMW has noticed this, and has produced guerilla marketing -style video clips and has been giving out tidbits of information of the upcoming enhancements and other future models. Besides this, there are viral marketing campaigns like the Rampenfest. Well done. The Coupe is being pre-ordered almost similarly as what happened during the good old times when the E46 M3 was introduced, with the dealerships struggling to find allocations in order to fill in the demand. A more worldly explanation to this is the possible production cut of the 1er for the U.S. due to the weak dollar; though similar allocation challenges seem to exist on the European side too.

BMW may have managed to find a new niche as there doesn’t seem to be any other manufacturer on the market to offer direct competition to this model of the series. Even though BMW prides the 1-series Coupe on the heritage of the 40-year old BMW 2002 (many design elements apply), the two-door legend which back then changed everything, we doubt that not everyone remembers the old excellence of the 2002 – the new 1-Coupe is just simply good; it has what it takes to become a new seller. On the side, the new 3-series (E92 Coupe) has obviously moved a notch higher, accommodating to the by now grown-up owners from the E46 generation, by offering a larger, more luxurous but still very sporting upgrade for the older model owners. The E82 1-series Coupe is again more of the E46’s size, and allures those who are looking for something more compact and agile – even though perhaps not exactly just as lightweight, yet.

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This car divides opinions. For many, it’s love at first sight, but a good portion also shuns it for its looks, or has mixed feeling about it. Personally, I’ve always been somewhat wary, for example, of the front lights – but several ladies have commented that the front lights, even on a 1-Hatch look very beautiful due to the large eyeshape that they portray. And they do align well with the 1-Coupe. It seems that Bangle’s army of designers have again done a bold move, brought out a to-be classic, which will only in time become more widely understood.. If for some reason it may now feel odd at the first glance. From behind, the led lights of the trunk and the streaks of the rear lights are simply beautiful; again added with a mix of hate/love for the looks of the rear. Brilliant.

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According to some of our reviewers, the upward angular door frames work towards making the car look even soaring if not just tall. Though a side skirt modification would most likely negate this effect, such as what is offered in the M-Sport model (or as displayed on the Tii-Concept at Tokyo). Internally, we’ve already come to an agreement that dropping the car closer to the ground and putting in a good set of wheels will do wonders to the otherwise high 1-Coupe – which does indeed seem a bit tall, especially if you pull it in between two low riding E46 M3s.

We opted for several outlook enhancing options, while still staying on the rather inexpensive side: the Bi-Xenon lights, Shadowline black gloss trimming, Anthracite roof lining, Lights package and a Sports steering wheel. All of these options work marvellously in order to modify the 120d’s look to not to resemble the ‘bulk’ entry-level model. The upcoming additions through BMW offered parts will provide additional chances to enhance the car’s looks, especially if the pre-made ground choices are correct.

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As you enter the vehicle, you immediately become aware of the higher build quality and standard BMW has set for the Coupe in comparison to the older 1-series Hatchback. While for example the 2007-models of the Hatch are better than the previous ones, BMW has gone one step further with the Coupe. Even the standard (front) seats are better to sit in than what are offered on the Hatch by default. This car was chosen to have the standard black ‘Elektra’ upholstery with no-cost aluminium decors for the interior – astonishingly good. Altogether, an excellent package even without going all-out on the options-list. The non-automatic air conditioning controllers were slightly old-fashioned, an appearance feature that has been fixed on the optional automatic version. Personally, coming back to the BMW marque having sidetracked for a MINI-experience, a BMW Deja Vu experience followed: the trunk lid lock mechanism refused to close – the same thing happened with the E46 330Ci when it was new; the only problem with the review car so far.

This car is pretty small, but still spacious enough from the inside. One can fit two moderately sized men on the back seats, with reasonable leg room still left for the front. But they would probably complain if you planned for an eight-hour driving stint to the north without any breaks or stopping; because with the diesel, you could just do this. Then again, if you were into people carriers, you wouldn’t be surfing on this website anyway – this car was obviously made for two adults. In the back, the middle-seat has been (cleverly) removed and a small container has been embedded in its place. Child seats in the back? No problem, ISOFIX is enabled by default.

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The four cylinder engine itself, of a 1995cm3 placing and host to 130KW/177PS and 350Nm produces only 128 CO2 g/km is well under the EU strategy for car emissions, an excellent feat if you compare this to the engine’s power output (and consumption). The 1-Coupe no doubt attains these numbers by the utilization of what can be called mild hybrid technology or namely, BMW EfficientDynamics. Including such features as brake energy regeneration and the start/stop-function; which by the way has been quite well devised into play, as the car re-starts immediately upon need in the traffic lights. Naturally, this function can be turned off and is active only during certain conditions. If you take a look behind the kidney grille, you’ll also find air flaps which open based upon need, further reducing consumption.

Inside the car, you won’t hear the all too familiar hammering of an idle diesel engine, but outside the distinctive diesel rattle is instantly recognizable. Within the cockpit, the sound resembles somewhat of a big cat purring, which during longer journeys transforms into a smaller jet-aircraft’s sound when in cruising altitude. But still, put the pedal down and the all-too-familiar tractorish -sound is there, though the turbo tries to hide this sound commendably.

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Our average consumption was at the level of 5.8l/100km during the first 1000 kilometers of test driving, which included spirited pounding, in-town driving and plain cruising on the leisure; all in the limits of a max 3500RPM drive-in period of variable speeds; (while top-speed for drive-in could never be attained legally on the Finnish roads). A sensible man’s choice indeed. In truth, though, you cannot exactly compare this to the E46 M3’s ~14l/100km – it’s another world, but even in that world, this fact just may slightly nudge the owner’s way of thinking…if you’re utterly stuck in mind-numbing, passionless traffic.

The engine itself provides sufficient pull on basically any gear, though the gears are (like in all diesels) relatively short in terms of available RPMs. BMW has shortened the gear-lever to accommodate this and managed to create a sense of sportiness against the diesel’s obvious shortcomings. All sufficient to what can be expected of an engine of this caliber. While respected tuning houses, such as Kelleners Sport offer +38hp and +80Nm through software only for this engine (with a 12-month guarantee) – obviously, the prime sporting choice of an engine would still be the twin-turbo 135i. There is no question which one should choose for real performance driving at this point, the petrol-based, high-revving 135i.

An interesting tidbit and worth coming back to is that in the cockpit of the Coupe, you’re engulfed in refined surroundings. Refined, while not making any fuss about it, helping you relax, even when driving in the suburban traffic. Perhaps a side-product of a well designed interior matched by the peacefulness of the engine’s soft purring in cruise-mode. This tranquil feeling lingers within you even for awhile after stepping out of the vehicle.

That said, the 1-Coupe seems and feels more quiet than its brother model, the E87 (five-door) Hatchback. On the steering feel, it also feels superior and more on the lines of the 5-series than the E87, and clearly next-generation compared to the older 3-series E46 non-M models. The driveability of the E82 is excellent, it is crisp and does become the “throw around corners bolt” whenever required. Note that this vehicle did not have the active steering-option included. We’ll do a more in-depth analysis on the driveability later as we gather more experience on the vehicle; a snowless winter combined with a break-in period just doesn’t do it for us. The suspension also feels different from the E87, as all potholes and uneven tarmac is encountered by very reassuring dampened thuds, pleasant sounds in their own right.

Our only gripe besides a slight turbo based lag (coming from a strongly naturally aspirated background) were the dealer fitted winter tires. Additional BMW V-spoke style 229 7×16″ ET 44 aluminium wheels accompanied with Scandinavian spec Nokian studless 205/55R16 winter tires aren’t exactly what one could call as ‘lookers’, but they’re also a horror for the traction control, which seemingly could not understand the softness of the tires versus the newtonmeters provided. You could call the experience somewhat close to accelerating in syrup. A traction control light blinking even with the 6th gear confirms this, making it unbelievably hard to employ any greater amounts of power to the tarmac with this set of tires, unless you were on a very even setting. We believe the (harder) central European winter spec tyres, even from the same manufacturer would function together with the 1-Coupe’s traction control and power reserves much better. The same problem riddled the 123d Coupe, so when buying, be sure to take a good look on your winter tire selection if you’re located in the north. But in general, the 1-series traction control for winter driving has become a long way from the days of the E46.

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Comfort access is one of the vanity features, which have become practical. Accompanied with the lighting package, it gives a nice extra touch for the 1-Coupe: having your hands free of extra keys is worth it (besides impressing your friends, in regions where this function is not yet widespread enough). But as you opt for the 120d and start filling up the options-list, be aware that you’ll soon get close to the price of 123d, which of course has many of the options already pre-fitted (depending on the country). And while you’re on the 123d’s options-list, you’ll slowly start creeping towards the 135i range…

Among all this 1ntensity and the Year of the One tumult, BMW has introduced the Performance Parts -series. A full catalog of carbon fibre and racing oriented items, coming with a factory warranty. Sadly, at this point, we could not yet get a hold of these parts for this article (even though ordered as they first surfaced). Right now, the parts are already visible on BMW’s site for Germany and being shipped to showrooms across the Globe, but be sure that we’ll follow up with them later.

All in all, if we’ve surmised that the 120d is truly this good, how excellent would the 135i or the following racing oriented variations be? Congratulations, BMW.

See the full album for the BMW E82 120d Coupe.

The Review car’s options-list:

Type Code UR31
Type 120D OL (EUR)
Dev. series E82
Body type Coupe
Steering LL
Engine N47
Colour Alpinweiss 3 (300)
Upholstery Stoff Elektra/Anthrazit (EAAT)
1CA Selection cop relevant vehicles 1CB ACEA/CO2 content
1CC Automatic start/stop function 1CD Brake energy regeneration
255 Sports leather steering wheel 2PA Locking wheel bolts
320 Model designation deletion 322 Comfort access system
428 Warning triangle 431 Interior RR VW mirror w aut anti-dazzle
441 Smokers package 473 Armrest, front
493 Storage compartment package 494 Seat heating f driver/front passenger
502 Headlight washer system 520 Foglights
522 Xenon light 530 Air conditioning
563 Lights package 760 Indivudual high-gloss sating chrome
775 Individual roof-lining anthracite 7RP Advantage package
842 Cold climate version 850 Add fuel tank filling for export
863 European/dealer directory 885 Swedish/owners handbook/service booklet
8SP Cop control 2BT Alloy wheels double spoke 222
321 Exterior parts in body colour 4BZ Int. trim. fin. Titanium light
548 Speedometer with kilometer reading 851 Language version German

3 Responses to “The Sensible option”

  1. odo Says:

    Good review.

    The new 1-series coupe is indeed truly remarkable. I honestly believe that 135i with proper options is the best car BMW currently makes. It has the joy of old E30’s in my opinion. The Tii -version – should it ever be put to production – will in all likelihood be simply astounding.

  2. internet baccarat Says:

    God, it was a good car. With its dainty pillars and uncomplicated styling, it was in many ways indistinguishable from a Ford Cortina. But unlike any Ford of the period, it started, it cost a bloody fortune and it went like stink.

  3. auto engine assembly Says:

    Great review of the car. Just applies to what it tackles. really, BMW never fails to give consumers vehicles that surely catches their eye. But aesthetic aside, bimmers never fail to give that performance that they have been known for. But now, with the reduce CO2 emission, it certainly gives out the power and retains the eco-responsibility of its drivers.

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