2008 BMW 120d review

The compact German Hatchback has always been dynamic. With a straightly diesel engine, Vernon B. Sarne thinks this Beemer just doubled the fun
Apr 1, 2008

Top Gear Philippines Car Review - 2008 BMW 120d 

I have always been fascinated by the BMW 1-Series five door hatchback. It's personal, it's performance-oriented and it's meticulously crafted. Best of all, it's BMW. Which means it's also the only one in its class that's rear-wheel-driven. And because it's RWD, it has ideal weight distribution and weight transfer, making for excellent handling during spirited driving.

The One just got more fascinating to me after BMW decided to give it a diesel engine. That's right: A 2.0-liter in-line-four oil burner featuring a weight-saving cylinder block made entirely of aluminum resides under the hood of the 120d Sport we drove recently to Tagaytay to the strains of Barry Manilow's ‘Copacabana' (upon the suggestion of BMW Philippines' Lito German).

Never mind the heart-thumping 177hp being put out by this engine--what's otherworldly to me is the 350 Newton-meters of torque that's likely to bury the rear wheels in soft terra firma if you're not very careful.

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I know diesel engines are supposed to be torquey, but 350Nm for a small hatch? Makes me think BMW engineers assigned to the 120d got the wrong product brief: "Create a passenger vehicle that can tow a fire truck and a cement mixer." Heck, that's the wrong product brief even for an X5. Still, you somehow get the feeling that this car might pull the stunt off. Suggest the idea to all the drivers I effortlessly passed on the SLEX and they'll probably agree.

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Because this is a Beemer, sound and vibration insulation is topnotch. From inside the cabin, a clueless driver won't be able to tell that this car runs on diesel--even when the audio system is off. Although leaving the speakers idle is something you'll find impossible to do. At a time when many new cars still do not offer standard iPod connectivity, the 1-Series very casually does (inside the center console box).

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Okay, so you have a powerful and very civil diesel engine. What's not to like about this then? My one-day operation of the 120d certainly felt seamless. But my one concern if I were a prospective buyer of this variant is this: How compatible is this car's diesel engine with the quality of diesel fuel generally available in the Philippines? I have no doubt the 120d power plant is already Euro IV-compliant, as this emission standard was implemented in Europe beginning in January of 2005. On the other hand, our diesel fuel here is only Euro II compliant. I've heard stories of some European diesel models suffering from engine knock after continued use of our local fuel.

Still, if a carmaker of BMW's caliber and standing is willing to put its reputation on the line by selling its German-made diesel cars in our market, I honestly feel there's nothing to worry about.

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In fact, I worry more about this car's pricing than anything else. At nearly P2.4 million, the 120d Sport requires the sales smarts of a Steve Jobs to convince buyers that they're not better off with a much cheaper Volvo C30 or even a slightly more expensive Japanese luxury SUV like the Mazda CX-9.

Source: Top Gear Philippines, April 2008

Click this link to see the entire BMW 1-Series lineup  in the Philippines. 

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