Driving the 120d: The Road to Leipzig

By Christian Stampfer on 13 June 2010
  • Share

The BMW 1-series was introduced in the year 2004 and most models are manufactured at the all-new built plant in Leipzig. In Europe, the 1-series is available as a 3- and 5-door hatch as well as a coupe and convertible.

A wide range of engines is available including six petrol engines, starting with the 116i (90 kW / 122 hp) and up to the 135i (225 kW / 306 hp) (available only in coupe and convertible form). The diesel range includes four engines, starting with the 115- hp 116d up to the 204-hp 123d. BMW doesn’t offer six-cylinder diesel engines in the 1er Series.

BMW Werk Leipzig builds as many as 730 cars per day, among them the BMW 1er Series three door,  the BMW 1er Series coupé, the BMW 1er series convertible, and the new BMW X1 SAV. The plant will soon build a trial fleet of the BMW concept ActiveE, an electric-drive vehicle similar to the BMW 1 Series Coupé.

The factory, designed by avant garde architect Zaha Hadid, has over 5000 employees and first opened in 2005.  The building looks more like an art museum than a factory, with sunlight streaming through glass walls and car bodies moving on a track over open workspaces and the cafeteria, bathed in an ethereal blue light.

Although my 120d 5 Door wasn’t built in Leipzig, I nonetheless decided to take it there for a visit.  The drive from Munich to Leipzig is ca. 425 km and the route takes us on the Autobahn A9 for all but 20 km of the route.

Our 120d came in an elegant space grey metallic with business navigation and multiple BMW EfficientDynamics fuel-saving options including regenerative braking and auto start-stop.

Regenerative braking recovers energy that would normally be wasted as heat through the brakes and the start-stop technology turns the engine off to avoid unnecessary idling when stopped

The Autobahn A9 (known as the A3 until a new numbering plan was implemented in 1974) runs from Munich to Berlin and is one of Germany’s oldest, the first stretch having been built in 1936 as part of the “Reichsarbeitsdienst” (a work program designed to reduce unemployment, introduced by the National Socialist regime). After German reunification, the A9 was expanded from two to a minimum of three lanes in each direction plus an emergency lane.

Moving away now from Autobahn history, the fuel economy we saw driving the 120d was equally interesting.  Our route on the A9 took us from Munich past Ingolstadt (home of Audi), Nürnberg, and Bayreuth, before reaching Leipzig and exiting onto the Bundesstraße B87.

The 120d’s engine puts out 177 hp (130 kW) with a combined fuel economy rating of 4.7 l / 100 km (~ 42 mpg in the EU test cycle.  The EU test cycle has three components: city or urban driving (the first 800 seconds of the test), highway or extra urban driving (the next 400 seconds), and combined (the complete cycle).

On a 300-km stretch with an average cruising speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), the 120d only used 4.5 l / 100 km or 52 mpg.  This figure beats the combined fuel economy figure and comes very close to the highway (extra urban) figure, which is calculated at a slower average speed (see chart).

The New European Driving Cycle

The New European Driving Cycle represents the typical usage of a car in Europe and is used to measure fuel economy and emission levels.

2010 BMW 120d 5 Door Hatch
Base price/price-as-tested €28,700 / €37,000
Drivetrain Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 2-liter, 177-hp, I-4
Transmission 6-speed manual
Curb weight (kg) 1375
Wheelbase (mm) 2660
Length x width x height (mm) 4239 / 1748 / 1421
0-100 k/mh (seconds) 7.6
City/highway fuel economy (l/100 km) 5.1/4.1