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BMW 1 Series 125i 2012 Review

The BMW 125i doesn't look like a sports car, but it does go like one.

Tradition goes out the window in terms of the BMW 125i five-door hatch. It looks and drives like a Beemer but if buyers can restrain themselves on the options list it doesn't cost prestige prices.

And it goes harder than a Golf GTI while using less fuel. I'd pay the $5000 premium over the VW just for the look on the "hot-hatch" drivers' dials as the regular BMW takes them down.


Prestige carmakers are pushing hard on the top-end of the mainstream market. The 125i starts at $45,700 for the six-speed manual. That's just $100 dearer than the comparable Audi A3 - and Mercedes is about to join the fray with the A-Class. Talk about spoiled for choice. In the case of the BMW standard equipment includes rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, fog lights, dual-zone air conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity. The eight-speed automatic adds $3077.


Adaptive cruise control is the headline act here. Autonomous emergency-braking systems are the next big thing in vehicle safety and the BMW will auto-brake if the driver doesn't detect the car ahead slowing down. The auto stop/start system in the manual relies on the driver flicking the shifter into neutral and the engine restarts as the clutch is depressed.

The engine itself is a turbocharged 2.0-litre that uses an official 6.6 litres/100km, or 6.4 litres for the auto. In both cases it's dependent on drivers leaving the "Driving Experience Control" switch in Eco-Pro mode. Go for Sport and fuel economy rises on a p ar with the throttle response.


The only compromise the 1 Series hatch makes to its BMW heritage is the departure with the signature ribbed tail-lights. The side view is still demonstrably Beemer - and no one is going to mistake the kidney grille, even if it does look squashed relative to the 1 Series sedan or 3 Series models.

Nitpickers will notice the plastics aren't as plush as they are on the dearer BMWs but for someone new to the brand, it's still a classy seat at the prestige table. Back seat space isn't limo-like but few 1 Series buyers are going to be chauffeuring captains of industry around town. For the occasional 180cm-plus passengers, it's far from intolerable.


EuroNCAP has bestowed the top five-star rating and all models are fitted with six airbags and the expected brake-related software systems. Pedestrian safety is reasonable, though the leading edge of the bonnet was criticised but occupant protection for adults and infants rated highly.


Front-drive cars are so capable these days that it's easy to forget why rear-drive cars are still the pick for driving enthusiasts. The 125i resets the memory to the days when letting the back step out slightly was the preferred method for setting up corners. Being able to steer the car with the wheel and throttle is a skill that's actively discouraged from being taught today, but it is remains the most entertaining way to experience a performance car.

And that's what the 125i is, as shown in the 0-1 00km/h time of 6.4 seconds. That acceleration is matched by Servotronic steering that's light in the city and responsive on the open road, the brakes like mini anchors and butt-hugging seats that are as good as you'll find at this price. Road noise - from the engine and the tyres - is higher than I'd have hoped for and that's exacerbated by the fact the engine, while it hauls hard across the rev range, doesn't have the accompanying aural note of a performance vehicle.


The BMW 125i doesn't look like a sports car, but it does go like one. The fact it'll take the weekly shopping for a young family - along with the kids - puts it up there with the Golf GTI as a car I'd be happy to park in the garage. It's hard to argue with practicality and performance at this price.

BMW 125i hatch

Price: $45,700
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Service Interval: 12 months/15,000km
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS with EDB, TC, ESC CRASH RATING Five stars
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, 160kW/310Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body: 4324mm (L), 1765mm (W), 1421mm (H), 2690mm (WB)
Thirst: 6.6/100km, 154g/km Co2

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