Test Drive Review: 2012 BMW 1 Series at Netherlands Official Launch

Featured Posts, Test Drives | September 16th, 2011 by 32
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September 6th 2011 marked the official launch of the 2012 BMW 1 Series in the Netherlands and BMWBLOG was on the scene to bring you …

September 6th 2011 marked the official launch of the 2012 BMW 1 Series in the Netherlands and BMWBLOG was on the scene to bring you fresh pictures and first driving impressions. We got the opportunity to test drive 2 of the 5 models that were on hand: specifically, the 118d and 116i.

BMW Netherlands setup what they called the BMW Pavilion next to the Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum, the Netherlands. For 2 weeks customers and fans of the brand could preview the new 1 Series. From this event alone, over 5,000 people have already indicated interest in the new model.2012 bmw 1 series netherlands 95 655x438

During its official unveiling in Berlin just a short while ago, the 2012 1 Series was received with mixed feelings, with most objections being directed towards the exterior styling. I have to admit, I was also a bit hesitant at first. The frontal area was a bit of a concern for me, however, upon arriving at the BMW Pavilion, that all changed.


Walking up to the first of three brand new 1 Series, I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. Its been said before, but the new F20 looks a lot better in reality than it does in pictures.

With all that said, some people still feel that the front and rear sections of the car remain problem areas as far as design goes. Oversized headlights and smaller than expected kidney grills are a few of the concerns that stand out as well as the unused space that these two elements create. Additionally, the rear brake lights were also criticized as looking too VW Polo-like in their design.

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I personally did not get this impression. The front just works, regardless of what your eye is telling you when you look at the pictures. The rear is also better looking when viewed in “the sheet metal.” As our Editor-in-Chief quoted in an earlier article on the F20, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  I recommend you see the new 1 Series for yourself, in person, before you pass judgment.


Moving on to the interior, there are several trim options, from the Base to the Urban, and on to the Sport line. Regardless of what engine option or trim you select, the interior is top notch and a definite improvement over the previous generation. Whatever you touch, be it plastic, leather or the like, it all has a premium feel to it.  The cockpit is more driver oriented, with the whole dash area slightly tilted towards the driver, just like the BMW’s of yore (E36/46/39).

The front cabin isn’t spacious, but it isn’t cramped either. It strikes a good balance between the two and feels “just right” especially from the driver’s seat. The rear seating is another story however. Even though the F20 is larger than its predecessor, I discovered the rear seating of the car to be small and even cramped as far as leg room was concerned. Some might say that it’s to be expected since the 1 Series is a compact, but for someone that’s 5’7” that’s saying something. Additionally, the rear headrests and seat cushions themselves felt rather hard and not very accommodating. On longer journeys, rear passengers might be less than comfortable. Let’s remind ourselves this is a premium compact.

The Drive

First up was the Crimson Red 118d. The figures point to 141hp, but in reality, it felt like it had more. Is this because of the TwinPower Turbo technology or because BMW is usually conservative with their horsepower ratings? Regardless, the point is the 118d pulled strong and made me feel confident. The only giveaway that I was driving a diesel came from the engine noise, which is audible from within the cabin. I was surprised to find out that all 3 trim options have the same suspension setup, however a sport suspension can be ordered as an option. The center console had a button labeled “SPORT” and “ECO PRO.” Pressing it activated a graphic on the dash as well as on the navigation screen, allowing me to choose between 4 options:

ECO PRO: Optimized to increase fuel economy by monitoring many different parameters and settings ranging from A/C to adjusting throttle response and early up-shift mapping for the transmission.

COMFORT: Softer suspension setup with more damping taking place as well as earlier up-shifts. Steering is also more assisted requiring less effort from the driver. I found this mode ideal for highway and city driving since it makes for a smoother drive. Essentially ECO PRO but less concentrated.

SPORT: Stiffer suspension setup with more damping taking place. Steering assist is reduced. Throttle response is also adjusted and the system keeps you in a lower gear for a longer period of time before it up-shifts. This mode is for the driver in all of us. The more weighted steering coupled with the more connected feeling you get from the suspension communicating more information to you as well as the sportier transmission maps, make this the ideal back-road mode for those spirited driving moments we get every now and then.

SPORT PLUS: This mode takes the aforementioned mode and kicks it up a notch. The transmission maps are aggressive, keeping you well above 4 or 5 thousand rpm if you so wish, without any up-shifts. Steering is more raw and the suspension allows you to feel just about everything that’s rushing underneath you. Don’t expect your MPG to match those of the ECO PRO mode, however.

One thing that I would like to make clear is that this is no gimmick. Even though the new 1 Series isn’t marketed as the new F10 M5 as having a “split personality” it really does a great job of varying the experience between economy and sporty driving. The steering changes, and by a margin which can actually be felt. Purists will disagree with the electric steering, but the end result justifies the implementation in my opinion. Same goes for the transmission and suspension setup; great job on this front.

As for the Glacier Silver 116i we drove, it is identical exterior and interior-wise, with the only difference being the engine. The 1.6 petrol was lively, and of course lacked the diesel tone which allowed for a bit more turbo whine to be heard. It felt slower than the 118d diesel even though the figures show the petrol quicker from 0-100 km/h. This is probably down to the torque. However, it’s no slouch by any means. Not much time was spent in the 116i since we expect the diesel versions to sell better than the petrol variants in the Netherlands.

Facts and Figures:
The 2012 1 Series will hit Dutch dealerships on September 17th 2011 and customers will have a choice between 3 diesel variants and 2 petrol models. The specifics can be found below:

BMW 120d
Fuel: Diesel
Displacement: 1995cc
Power: 135kW (181hp)
Torque: 380Nm (280 ft. lbs)
0-100 km/h in 7,2 seconds
Consumption: 4,5-4,6 liters per 100 km (approx. 61.4mpg)
CO2: 122g

BMW 118d
Fuel: Diesel
Displacement: 1995cc
Power: 105kW (141hp)
Torque: 320Nm (236 ft. lbs)
0-100 km/h in 8,9 seconds
Consumption: 4,4-4,5 liters per 100 km (approx. 62.8mpg)
CO2: 118g

BMW 116d
Fuel: Diesel
Displacement: 1995cc
Power: 85kW (114hp)
Torque: 260Nm (192 ft. lbs)
0-100 km/h in 10,3 seconds
Consumption: 4,3-4,5 liters per 100 km (approx. 62.8mpg)
CO2: 117g

BMW 118i
Fuel: Petrol
Displacement: 1598cc
Power: 125kW (168hp)
0-100 km/h in 7,4 seconds
Consumption: 5,8-5,9 liters per 100 km (approx. 47.9mpg)
CO2: 137g

BMW 116i
Fuel: Petrol
Displacement: 1598cc
Power: 100kW (134hp)
0-100 km/h in 8,5 seconds
Consumption: 5,5-5,7 liters per 100 km (approx. 49.6mpg)
CO2: 132g

Below are some standard features which can be found on all models:

–          Auto Start/Stop function (which CAN be turned off)

–          Brake Energy Regeneration

–          BMW TwinPower Turbo Technology

–          Air conditioning

–          BMW Professional audio system

–          Bluetooth connectivity

–          iDrive system w/ 6,5” display

Correction from BMW NL: The ‘bijtelling’ only counts for Dutch who drive the car for businesses. So for lease cars.
Additionally, all 5 engine options qualify for the 20% “Bijtelling” tax reduction which is an “additional tax liability” that all Dutch drivers must pay per month. This of course will be welcome news to all Dutch drivers since the Netherlands is notorious for its high automotive taxes.
Overall, the new 2012 1 Series is a nice, well-equipped premium compact car with a great list of standard features. Excellent fuel economy will appeal to customers as will the interesting tax incentives that the Netherlands has to offer any potential 1 Series buyer. If rear legroom on longer journeys is not one of your top priorities, then new BMW F20 1 Series is definitely worth a look.

32 responses to “Test Drive Review: 2012 BMW 1 Series at Netherlands Official Launch”

  1. Giom says:

    Good write-up! Can’t wait to see this beaut live!

  2. Giom says:

    Good write-up! Can’t wait to see this beaut live!

  3. ronald says:

    very informative blog, i also was skeptical about the looks of the car but seeing it up and close i can honestly say it does justice. you can’t go wrong with a cool little wagon, and BMW does that well. keep up the good work author.

  4. LexusLVR says:

    Looks utterly terrible inside and out. The current failure of a 1 series looks so much better – barely.

  5. 海燕 向 says:

    Thanks for the notice.In my opinoin,also stand for the female ,we would rather the kind of bmw car which is elegent and eye-cathcing .the red can meets my requirment !


    • Mpsheh says:

      i ve been waiting for 4oct to trade in my current 1 series , but i must say the new one is not appealing yet to me, i gues it will get better with time, I still have mixed feelings though 

  6. Nice review and photos, James. I’m anxious to get a feeling of the new electric steering in the 1er and future 2er coupe. The styling of the 5 door is growing on me in certain colors and wheels. I would opt for a 1er hatch in M Sport package with a N55 if offered in the U.S. A subtle lowering and maybe aftermarket wheels would spice this hatch up a bit. 

    • Thanks Misha! The steering feel will definitely stand out as you play with the options and yes, color choice brings out certain aspects of the new 1er that are more evident in certain tones. I like where you’re going with this, but are you willing to replace your current 1er? :)

  7. wazon says:

    Will 1-er come out with 2.0 litre tt 240hp engine? 

  8. 28-28 says:

    As I car designer I can understand what is the car concept is it is beauitfull and weird that the good thing about it BMW is the beSt

  9. Manchester Man says:

    Im not sure if I like the exterior of this 1 series but I have to wait til I see it on the road. One things for sure though this model looks alot more modern from the front. Looking at the front pics of the old 1 series, it actually does look outdated compare to this. Its a promising sign even though Im not sure if I like it.

    People are too quick to criticise new models because they are so used to the old one. Give it a bit of time and you will start preferring this model.

    • Thanks for reading Manchester Man. Indeed, change is something that most people don’t take easily. The e39 5er vs. the e60 was a drastic change. I like both designs for different reasons but as you point out most people are very quick to criticize based solely on pics. Let us know what you think once you see the new 1er in the live.

      • Bmwgreen says:

        I have bought the white sport line with the optional 4 corona xenon front lights including the rear L shape LED rear light units. Added also the rear privacy glass including the front windscreen grey visor & also the professional cd / usb / radio which is a very adequate upper level audio system according to my standards.
        I guarantee that the car pictures do little justice to the car & once you see it in person you will want to own it. I have done only 160 miles of sheer driving pleasure in my swift 116d. Its twin power turbo and rear wheel drive contribute in no small way. I tell you thats enough power for my taste & instead of adding a further Euro 2000 to get the 118d engine I spent them on the options mentioned above. I am driving on eco pro mode & on the running in mixed driving I am getting 45miles per gallon at present.
        I am a fully satisfied customer with a value for money premium 6 gear hatchback.
        Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but I bet that there are going to be many beholders.
        Confident thatTime will be on the 1 er’s side

    • Alfred Agius says:

      I agree with much of what you say. At 1st the exterior looked unconventional but when I saw it in person i really got to like the overall shape & as already stated I eventually bought the 116d sport. The engine is very smooth & not audible at all from the inside & it pulls away like a petrol engine with precise gear change.  It will indicate in the speedo dial that you ought to change to 5th gear when doing just under 50kph & soon after even to 6th. It drives real smooth & I am very keen to go for a drive every now & again. I would advise the enthusiast to order the Xenon light package because the 4 Coronas contiuously automatically switched on impart a lot of character as seen from the front end. Also the rear privacy glass including the front screen visor dark tint continue to enhance the sporty image. Its professional audio is quite impressive. Both the CD player & the USB port come in very handy.

  10. Ghunter says:

    This thing still looks like a vagina on 4 wheels.
    wow BMW really doesn’t give a fuck about the entry level car, i thought for sure they would make the front of the car look more meaner and stylish, but nope, just another vagina on the road.

  11. Nnnn says:

    “The front just works, regardless of what your eye is telling you”

    HUH????   LOL

    • Refering to what you see in the pictures versus what you see in real life. Visually, there is a huge difference when comparing the 2, hence why we said the pictures don’t do it justice.

  12. Alfred Agius says:

    I ‘ve bought the 116d sport line & done 385 miles so far. Pure driving it even though never risking to exceed 3000rpm. Mixed cycle Fuel Consumption = 49mpg. Sheer driving pleasure even though mostly in eco pro mode.  The only hatchback in its segment with rear wheel drive.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I am driving on eco pro mode & on the running in mixed driving I am getting 45miles per gallon at present.
    I am a fully satisfied customer with a value for money premium 6 gear hatchback.
    Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but I bet that there are going to be many beholders.
    Confident thatTime will be on the 1 er’s side.
    cheap car insurance in California

  14. Sadia Romi says:

     its sach a amazing design and new technology and As I car designer I can understand what is the car concept is it is
    beauitfull and weird that the good thing about it BMW is the Best..Bedfordshire campervan hire

  15. Tarek says:

    Are the 2013 models going to be the same F20 as the 2012? Not sure if I should buy one now or wait a few months. Is there a different in the driving feel and road quality between the 116i and 118i, I’ll be driving it mostly in the city and on straight forward highways.

    Many thanks.

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