From black sheep to cool kid on the block – such has been the transformation of BMW’s F20/1 1 Series hatchback. Thanks to its recent facelift, the 1 Series is now as handsome as it should have always been.
Happily, it’s still as good to drive as before. We tested it in 125i M-Sport three-door guise – which means it’ll appeal to those looking for something with a bit of zest. But, first thing’s first; we need to address the reason for this test…
The pre-facelift F20/1 1 Series was almost cartoonish in its appearance – no more though. BMW has done well with this little nip ‘n tuck exercise … The traditional BMW Kidney Grille is more defined; the headlights sleeker. At the rear, enlarged tail lights give it a wider, squatter appearance.
The 1 Series is now smart, purposeful and, with the optional M-Sport package, athletic. In three-door guise the attitude level goes up as well.
The interior remains largely as it was and anybody familiar with BMW products will feel right at home. The quality, fit and finish are great. There’s plenty of storage space and all controls fall nicely to hand. Our test car was fitted with optional electrically adjustable sport seats that are both comfy and supportive. Space in the rear of the 1 Series, while not class-leading, is at least acceptable.
Standard spec in the 125i includes the likes of runflat tyres, automatic wipers and headlights, cruise control with brake function and intelligent emergency calling. The options list on our car, however, was at least twice as long as the standard features list – adding over R200 000 to the car’s base price!
That’s great for us road testers, but it must be hell for buyers …A glass sunroof, front and rear park distance control, comfort access, adaptive LED headlights, navigation with real-time traffic info, a glorious Harman Kardon sound system, internet connectivity … the list goes on. And on.
Thankfully, no matter how you spec it, a 1 Series with a powerful engine is always going to be a hoot to drive. The 125i features BMW’s 2,0-litre, four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine in 160 kW/310 Nm guise. That torque comes on stream from an early 1 350 r/min, allowing for some brawny get-up-and-go that’s sustained all the way along the rev range.
Driving through the superb eight-speed automatic ZF gearbox, progress in the 125i is truly effortless. In Sport mode the shifts can be a bit harsh, but, otherwise, the 125i is a bomb to drive when you take it by the scruff of the neck. Engine and gearbox response are sharp, the rear-wheel drive dynamics are largely unflappable (the handling only numbed by the almost dead electric-steering feel), and the brakes (optional … yet again … M-Sport items) are strong.
And, when you settle down, the ride is rather good – despite the suspension being on the firm side.
BMW claims combined fuel consumption to be 6,3 l/100 km. Presumably, that’s in Eco mode. Drive the 125i like you stole it and you can forget that, though don’t expect worse than around 10,5.
A five-year/100 000 km motor plan, with BMW On Call, and a two-year/unlimited mileage warranty are included in the purchase price – which is R455 000, before all those pricey nice-to-haves are added.
Beware the optional-extras list (applicable to all the Germans herewith) and the base price isn’t too bad. It’s a bit more than similar performance hatches such as the VW Golf GTI DSG and Alfa Romeo QV; roughly the same as the less-powerful Audi A3 1,8 TFSI Quattro and far cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport.
In this company, those who place rear-wheel drive driving dynamics above all else on their list of hot-hatch must-haves need look no further than the BMW. But, beyond that, with the 1 Series transformed into a car that you’d want to be seen in, the 125i is a very accomplished option.