The combination of hectic schedules over many months and poor weather conditions ultimately resulted in a long gap between my previous review and this one. The prolonged hazy conditions this year in Malaysia made photographing in dull lighting impractical. When the skies cleared and a car was available, I just could not squeeze in the required time to do a proper review until now.
Along the way BMW has come up with a couple of interesting offerings. One which caught my attention is this test model the BMW F20 120i M SPORT, more so because this is a LCI which is the facelift model for the car which I had last reviewed the “pre LCI” F20 118i. I had seen this car with the same colour on the road once, having mistaken it for a another model. In terms of dimensions the LCI model is slightly higher and longer than its predecessor.
One aspect of the test car which excited me this time was the colour of the car itself, which is code named “Valencia Orange”. This was not the usual black, white or grey colours which I encountered and it gave me more options to present the car photos in a different perspective. Eventually I chose a monochrome styling to enhance the test model and reduce the effects of the staid background.
Design wise, there are no complaints this time. This F20 120i is one smart looking car which deservedly should wear the BMW badge. The redesigned rear lights retains the design spirit of its larger siblings and one can easily identify it as part of the BMW stable. In keeping with the times, both front and rear lights are now LEDs, the front twin kidney grilles are larger there is a more aggressive overall stance at the front.
Safety features are abound with the usual multiple airbags and Dynamic Stablitiy Control (DSC). Special mention is given to the Cornering Braking Control (CBC) system which distributes brake pressure to minimise skids when you apply brakes while cornering at higher speeds. The test car carries the M sport badge, so you will also get M alloy wheels, M aerodynamics package, M sport suspension and the M Sport leather steering wheel.
Other features include comfort access system (unlock your car doors via touch on the door handles on the driver’s side), heat insulated glass (green all around), auto engine start / stop with a disable switch, sport seats for the driver and front passenger with electrical adjustment. Park Distance Control via the LCD display and the cruise control with speed limiter is also provided.
Inside the cabin, the interior trim features aluminium hexagon panels with Estoril blue matt. Seats are comfortable with a mix of cloth /alcantara with tasteful blue cross stitching. All these are an improvement over the pre LCI model. The 3 point M Sport leather steering looked the part and was pleasure to hold. In fact I think this is one the better steerings that I have come across from BMW giving excellent comfort and an assured feel.
The car can comfortably seat 4 adults and having 4 door ensured convenient access for all. Boot space is sufficient and can be extended from 360 litres to 1,200 litres as the rear seats are foldable via a 60:40 split. To add to the comfort and convenience of the rear passengers there is a set of rear air-cond vents and right below, an extra 12v socket which is an invaluable power source for todays smartphones/tablets.
A quick comparison of this test model (LCI) and the its predecessor revealed the following:-
|Max Output (hp):
|Max Torque (nm):
|Top Speed (km/h):
|Fuel Consumption (ltr/100km):
|Acceleration 0-100km/h (s):
With no idea on what lies beneath the bonnet, I took a few initial test drives around the neighbourhood. The first impressions from the engine were strangely familiar mannerisms. Going by convention if a car model states 120i or 320i, one would hazard a guess that the engine capacity is at least 2,000cc. Not this car, which is why the initial impressions from the engine led me to suspect that we are dealing with a smaller engine.
This later proved to be correct as the spec sheet stated that the engine is a 1,598cc four cylinder twin power turbo petrol engine. Further checks revealed that this engine codename N13 is shared with the F30 316i, which then explains why I got a sense of familiarity the first time. I had a quick run in a month earlier on a F30 316i, not enough time to do a proper review but sufficient time to get acquainted with the car.
On paper the max output of 130kw (177hp) and max torque of 250Nm / 1,500-4,500 rpm should be more than sufficient to power a car of this size. No doubt this was the case but I was expecting a bit more. The M Sport badge sort of raised the expectations. Here, when I floored the accelerator I could sense the engine was close to pushing to its limits a couple of times.
The nature of the N13 engine is such that it if we pushed the car towards higher speeds, invariably the engine has to work harder resulting in higher engine noise. This begins to creep into the cabin as you moved towards 100kph. Not that the noise is obtrusive but it takes away some of the premium ambiance of the car.
To be honest I had a bit of misgivings about the performance of the N13 engine in the F30 316i and there is a similar trend here for this test car. I think this boils down to the law of diminishing returns particularly in the attempt to use the smallest engine to achieve a respectable power/torque performance levels and good fuel efficiency. For this test model the average fuel consumption I got after the test drive was around 9 litres (plus) per 100km which was well above spec sheet of 5.9 litres per 100km.
This was obtained over a period of a two week drive using the ‘Comfort’ mode of the Driving Experience Control. The test car had already run in about 2,000km+ by the time it reached my hands, so it was not an issue of a new car coming out of the production blocks. With a fuel tank of about 52 litres, and the relatively higher than expected fuel consumption, we had to refuel a bit more frequently than desired.
The car is fitted with 18 inch tyres, with the rears having slightly larger and wider sets compared to the front. Once the tyres warmed up, you get good levels of grip. In the past M sport suspension set up would have meant a hard and stiff ride but the ride now is better, not too stiff but you will still feel the bumps if road conditions are poor.
The electric power steering is easy to steer at low speeds and the handling improves once you pick up speed. The 8 speed steptronic automatic transmission is able to give smooth and undetected gearchanges. There are no pedal shifters on this model, so any intermittent manual gearchanges will have to be done via the gear lever.
Floor the accelerator for a quick push of the N13 engine, the car quickly picks up speed. High speed cruises are a breeze for the 120i with a stable platform and the car retains BMW’s legendary handling characteristics. There is minimal drop in performance even in the ECO PRO mode. Initiating an overtaking manoeuvre is easy with a quick flooring of the accelerator.
For entertainment there is a 7 loudspeaker Hi Fi system with 205 watts. Sound quality is good with a good low end and balanced mid and highs. The LCD display in between the two zone air condition controls is able to switch from blue (day mode) to amber (night mode). The car is also equipped with a GPS thru the 8.8 inch LCD display, something which the pre LCI F20 118i lacked. This made the car more complete as a package.
Overall, I liked the new design of the car, the interior fitting and features. My personal preference would be to equip this car with the N20 engine which I think is a better fit and would have provided a more satisfying driving experience. At this point I am not convinced on the benefits of having the smaller N13 engine on this car. Average fuel consumption figures remain on the high side while the ‘modest’ engine performance for a M Sport badge offered little mitigation.
However, in Malaysia where the road tax structure is based on the engine capacity of the car, there are annual cost savings to be gained from a smaller engine. Time may change my view on smaller engines and who knows in a few years BMW may just be able to improve its smaller engine line up to attain higher performance levels with discernible lower fuel consumption.
|52 litres (Ron 95)
|5 years BMW Warranty with scheduled service
These are estimated costs applicable to Malaysia only which are subject to change without notice. Road Tax is for private registration in Peninsular Malaysia. Standard/scheduled service excludes additional or specific service/repairs requested. Please reconfirm these terms and costs with an authorized BMW dealer.
|BMW Twin Power Turbo four-cylinder petrol engine
|130 kW (177hp) @ 4,800-6,450 rpm
|250 Nm @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
|5.9 litres per 100 km (combined)
Source: BMW Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer
This Short video experimental video of the BMW 120i was shot using the Nikon Coolpix P330.