Drive with us: Test Driving the new BMW 120d xDrive

Wider and taller, with a shorter bonnet and more space inside; the new BMW 1 Series has had a total makeover. The cabin comes straight out of the new 3 Series and the exterior has had a controversial face-lift which you might consider the automotive equivalent to Marmite. 

It continues to be a front-runner in the highly populated ‘family hatchback’ market, but can it beat the technology and sought-after aesthetic of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or draw customers away from a hugely practical Ford Focus? Let’s find out…


What did we drive?

  • Model Line: 120d xDrive Sport.
  • Engine: 1995cc.
  • Transmission: Automatic.
  • Fuel Type: Diesel.
  • Power: 190bhp.
  • 0-62: 7.0 Seconds.
  • Colour: Black Sapphire (Metallic).
  • Upholstery: Black Dakota perforated leather.
  • Wheels: 17” Light double-spoke alloys.
  • Optional extras fitted: Enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, Sun protection glass, WiFi hotspot preparation and Comfort Pack I.
  • OTR from: £25,005.

Find out more about the BMW 1 series



The list of available petrol options is short but sweet; with a choice between the 118i or the performance ‘M’ model, the M135i xDrive – the latter of which offers 306 horsepower and will go from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds. The entry-level diesel option is the 116d; a 1.5-litre engine that produces a fairly tame 116bhp and is available as either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic.

The 118d is the hugely popular mid-range diesel option, offering a respectable 150 horsepower and 0-62 in 8.0 seconds; making it a great choice for many drivers. Last up in the lineup is the car we drove; which is the 120d and the fastest of the diesel variants. We drove the 120d xDrive, meaning that whilst all of the other engine variants, which demonstrate the controversial new front-wheel-drive system, this car features BMW's all-wheel-drive system. The 120d boasts 190 horsepower and will go from 0-62 mph in just 7.3 seconds or 7.0 seconds for xDrive models like ours.


The Drive

Now as we mentioned, the newest 1 Series caused a stir when it was released as it was announced to be the first-gen to switch from the much-loved rear-wheel system to a brand new front-wheel-drive setup – though BMW remain adamant that it has in no way hindered the sporty nature of the vehicle. Our car was one of the two variants to feature BMW's all-wheel-drive system and also was fitted with the range-topping 2.0 diesel engine – and what a wonderful car it was to drive.


Even in Comfort Mode, the car was quick, and the automatic gearbox shifted pretty much seamlessly – in my opinion even better than that of the A-Class. While some diesel engines can be loud and sluggish, again, this was anything but. Nor was it particularly thirsty – throughout the 80-ish mile test drive I did (with a lot of start/stop driving and testing out sports mode once or twice) the car averaged around 51mpg.

The 1 Series held the road fantastically, and even at speed through corners, there was no worry that the car would skid out from under you. It was also pleasantly manoeuvrable, though it’s worth noting that whilst all cars get front and rear parking sensors as standard, a reversing camera is an optional extra on all models, and is something I do feel it really would benefit from (especially to compete with the A-Class). Overall however I feel that the BMW performs incredibly well, and is certainly the front runner when it comes to the quality of the drive.



This new model is wider and taller than its predecessor, and the changes are noticeable. When our demo was delivered outside of the Carparison office, some of the first comments made by the team were on its back end - and that it reminded us more of the crossover X1 than it did the previous shape 1 Series.

Our particular car was a Sport model, so on top of standard design features, ours was kitted out with 17” double-spoke alloys, a high-gloss black trim and sports seats (to name a few). We also had the optional Black Sapphire Metallic paint as well as upgraded Dakota leather interior (as opposed to the standard cloth seats).


When compared to previous BMW models, the main talking point however has been the car's controversial new front. This shorter bonnet is the result of the front-wheel-drive system taking up a lot less room (now mounted transversely), and therefore creating quite a dramatic shape change from the previous model. A huge kidney grille takes pride position, following suit from the 7 Series, X7 and most recently the newly announced 4-Series, with chrome surrounds and ‘fins’, alongside sleek new full-LED daytime lights, high beam assistant and full-LED rear lights.


Technology and Connectivity

While the cabin and technology doesn’t have the futuristic looks of the digital cockpit in the Audi A1 or the bells and whistles of the MBUX system in the A-Class, I would argue that the BMW is one of the easiest of the bunch to use. There’s an 8.8-inch touchscreen as standard which can be increased to 10.3” with an upgrade. The 1 Series also gets the latest version of the much-loved BMW iDrive system and the rotary dial in the centre console for those who prefer to avoid the touchscreen whilst driving (this is still our preference).


However you choose to control it; the screen is bright, crisp and displays everything with impressive clarity. All models also get Apple CarPlay (though unfortunately no Android Auto), as well as satellite navigation as standard. Cruise control is also standard on all models as well as safety features including speed limit assist, lane departure warning and front collision warning with brake intervention.

In front of the driver, there is the option to upgrade to a larger 10.25 fully digital display or a Tech Pack which offers a heads-up display as well as enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, WiFi hotspot preparation and Park Assist.



With a BMW you expect high levels of sportiness, but not at the expense of driver and passenger comfort. M Sport models and the M35i have a lowered sports suspension and bigger alloys – meaning you will undoubtedly feel more bumps on the road, but not distractedly so. ‘Sport’ models sit nicely in the middle of the spectrum; with 17 alloys and cloth upholstery as standard. Ours had an upgraded leather interior which also offers a further increased level of comfort.

The sports seats look great, but more importantly offer a really good amount of support which extends to under the knees for taller drivers. The steering wheel offers plenty of adjustment; both forward and back and up and down. There are various optional extras available to amp up the comfort levels even further... This car was  fitted with an optional Comfort Pack, which gets you:

  • Luggage compartment package
  • Electrically folding, anti-dazzle door mirrors
  • Heated front seats
  • Extending lighting

It’s worth noting that this pack is not available for M Sport or M135i xDrive models. BMW also offer a second comfort pack (easily named Comfort Pack II), which gets you a heated steering wheel, automatic tailgate, comfort access and electric memory front seats.


Space and Practicality

Unlike the previous generation, the BMW 1 Series 2020 is now only available as a five-door variant. This means much easier access for passengers getting into the back seats and also means that parents will find it incredibly easy to install child seats. Speaking of, there are Isofix points on the two rear outer seats as standard with no-fuss covers that hinge and clip back into place. It’s not just for children, however, as two adults will fit comfortably in the back – a third will manage but it’ll be a tight squeeze.

Boot capacity is now much more than the previous model at - 380 litres- the same as the Audi A3 and 10 litres more than the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The 1 Series now also offers an automatic tailgate, though as you can imagine this does not come as standard on all models.


This car had a folding boot floor that offers even more underfloor storage and can be used to hide away all of those bits and bobs that you want in the car but don’t want on display; first aid kits, bags for life or even valuable items such as laptops etc. We were carrying our standard backpack of filming equipment plus a standard size golfing umbrella – and while this obviously fit in without a problem, the umbrella just missed fitting in this underfloor space by just a few centimetres. (Not the end of the world, but I’ve got to find at least one thing wrong to say about it!).


Model Lines

The line-up is nice and simple with just three model variants or the performance ‘M’ models. You can then of course add a plethora of extras to personalise your vehicle.


  • 16" Alloy wheels
  • Full LED headlights
  • Full LED rear / tail lights
  • Automatic Air-conditioning, single zone
  • Comfort Go (key-less ignition start)
  • BMW Navigation with Real Time Traffic Information
  • Rain sensors with automatic headlight activation
  • Split folding rear seats (60:40)
  • Front and Rear Park Distance Control (PDC) Active Guard Plus:
    - Speed Limit Information
    - Lane departure warning
    - City brake
  • Apple CarPlay (1yr)
  • Cruise control with braking function
  • Rear-view mirror, automatically dimming

Sport (In addition / replacement to SE models)

  • 17” Alloy wheels
  • Automatic air-conditioning, two zone
  • 'Berlin' style Illuminated interior trim
  • High-gloss Shadow line exterior trim and high gloss black bumper
  • Dashboard with contrast stitching (linked to upholstery choice)
  • Sport design front air inlets
  • Exclusive door sills with BMW signature
  • Sports seats with Nivala cloth/Sensatec upholstery

M Sport (In addition / replacement to Sport models)

  • 18" M Alloy wheels
  • 'Boston' style Illuminated interior trim
  • Kidney grille in Satin aluminium
  • M Aerodynamic body styling and M Sport suspension
  • Headlining in anthracite
  • Exclusive door sills with BMW M signature
  • Sport seats with perforated Dakota Leather upholstery
  • Heated Front Seats
  • Electrically Folding Exterior mirrors
  • Extended lighting with logo projection
  • Luggage compartment package
  • M leather steering wheel

M135i xDrive (In addition / replacement to M Sport models)

  • 18” bicolour M double-spoke light alloys
  • BMW TwinPower twin-scroll Turbo four cylinder petrol engine
  • Connected Package Professional
  • ‘M’ Aerodynamic bodystyling with Cerium Grey and High-gloss black finishes.
  • Eight-speed Sport automatic transmission
  • ‘M’ Rear spoiler, ‘M’ sport seats and ‘M’ seat belts
  • M Sport braking system
  • M Sport steering and suspension
  • Trigon cloth / Alcantara Anthracite upholstery
  • xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive with M135i specific reinforced components

Final Verdict

While it certainly caused controversy when first released, the new design without a doubt grows on you and I’ve got to say overall, I was impressed with the new 1 Series. Those worried that it doesn’t drive as well needn’t be – it's smooth, agile and depending on the engine you go for, can be satisfyingly quick. 

Inside the overall comfort levels are impressive, and I enjoyed the less flashy approach to the cabin.

For those looking for cheaper options but still want a good amount of technology and driving pleasure, we’d maybe look to the Ford FocusKia Ceed or a favourite of the Carparison office, the Mazda3 – which offers some really economical engines and heads-up display as standard! But overall, if you’re looking for a premium, well made, quality family hatchback… you won’t be disappointed with the 1 Series.