The BMW 1 Series has always been a fantastic little car. Okay, so the first generation was a bit crook looking, but facelifts (or “Life Cycle Impulses” in BMW-speak) and an all-new second generation car have taken care of the worst visual offences.
But if you want a small five-door hatch with fantastic RWD handling characteristics, then the 1 Series was a no-brainer, regardless of looks.
Now, however, the 1 Series is a handsome little beast, but it still packs those utterly addictive RWD dynamics. But possibly not for much longer… With the advent of the FWD 2 Series Active Tourer, the writing may well be on the wall for for RWD Small BMWs, so getting in now may well be a good idea.
Of course, the full-fat M135i is always the best place to start looking, but while that has the power, it also has the price tag to match. Look a tiny bit further down the range, however, and you will discover the slightly unassuming BMW 125i for a whopping $21,000 less than the M-ified car.
While it lacks the M135i’s angry 240kW turbo inline six-cylinder engine, it does pack the impressive 2.0-litre turbo four seen in the 320i and 328i. It pumps out 160kW in 1 Series guise and that is enough to make the 125i very swift indeed…
Likes: The little 1 Series has matured into a good looking little thing, far from the first-gem cars somewhat “challenging” looks. Nicely aggressive front adds menace. More aggressive tweaks to the rear work nicely as well.
Dislikes: Except, perhaps, for the newly-extended taillights, which just look oddly generic – strange, given how many small hatches shamelessly knocked off the rear of the 1 Series when it came out…
Likes: Fantastic seats (part of the $5,000 optional M Sports package) are a highlight, along with the M Sports interior trim. Nicely high-quality feel to interior. Brilliant slightly-retro steering wheel.
Dislikes: Without the M Sports package, it would be a bit bland…
Under the bonnet
Likes: The grunt 160kW version of BMW’s excellent 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is perfectly suited to the 1 Series. Smooth and powerful, yet still remarkably economical. 8-speed auto is incredibly fast and smooth as well.
Dislikes: Eight gears really is too much in manual mode – it is WAY too easy to lose track of what gear you are in…
On the road
Likes: Delightfully agile and chuckable. 160kW engine is just perfectly suited to the 125i, remaining light and sharp at the front end, while delivering more than enough grunt to the rear. Utterly fabulous handling in no way compromises the firm, but well resolved and comfortable ride.
Dislikes: There really isn’t much we can think of…
Is the 125i the perfect 1 Series? While, on the face of it, the M135i offers more of everything in that wonderful way the Germans have of doing, but it also asks way more. Money, that is. You pay a LOT more for it.
For what? Searing acceleration, for sure, but it is easy to argue the case for the 125i’s purity of handling and sweet constant power delivery, as opposed to the M135i’s unsubtle sledgehammer smash.
Delightfully agile and eager, the 125i’s wonder RWD dynamics are an absolute delight for the keen driver, while anyone, regardless of their opinion on the joy of corners, will appreciate the decent ride quality that it also possesses.
- PRICE (incl. GST/excl. on road costs): $59,900
- PRICE AS TESTED: $66,900
- ENGINE: 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder turbo petrol
- TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
- PERFORMANCE: 160kW/310Nm
- FUEL ECONOMY: 6.5L/100km