Driving the 120d for the first time is a bit like the Cinderella scene from countless Hollywood movies where the plain girl takes of her glasses, lets down her hair and becomes every teenage boy’s supermodel dream girl.
The BMW 1-series is every bit the plain girl in the Barvarian manufacturers line up, although the slightly funny-looking curves do grow on you in time.
Firing up the 2-litre diesel engine doesn’t inspire much lust either. It is very quiet, but it is still a diesel. Kind of like the plain girl’s dazzling smile being a result of the braces wrapped around her teeth.
But drop the throttle and that is when her hair comes down, the sexy dress goes on and the teenage hero of the Hollywood blockbuster realises that the frumpy girl next door is actually the girl of his dreams.
The 120d fairly romps away from the kerb, the traction control barely containing the mountains of torque that the little turbo-diesel engine pumps through the rear wheels. A slight squawk of protest from the tyres and the rear end tries to step out slightly — until the traction and stability electronics step in — after that the little guy launches forward, surfing the big wave of torque.
Point the nose at some corners, and it’s true love. The 120d is a true BMW in every sense. Okay, so there’s bugger-all legroom in the rear and the funny curved sill line that runs under the doors is always going to look odd, but behind the wheel on a twisty road that just doesn’t matter.
The six-speed auto whips up and down through the gears smoothly and without any drama, simply dropping you in the right gear at the right time, and there is something about a small rear wheel drive car that just feels right…
Even if it doesn’t quite look right.
What we like — Torque, torque and more torque. A fantasticly nimble, chuckable chassis. Brilliant six-speed auto. Rear-wheel drive!
What we don’t like — The funny banana-curve of the bottom edge of the doors and sill. Rear leg room is not exactly generous. Interior a bit spartan. It is pricey for a small hatch.
Engine: 2-litre four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Driveline: Rear-wheel drive
Power: 120kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 340Nm @ 2000rpm
0-100km/h: 8.2 seconds
Top speed: 217km/h
Fuel consumption (combined): 6.1L/100km