What is it?
It’s the cheaper, four-pot petrol version of BMW’s smallest cabrio, the 120i Convertible.
We drove this car’s six-cylinder cousin, the blue-and-white propeller’s 125i drop-top, back in January, and it attracted an impressive four star verdict.
That car had Munich’s award-winning magnesium 3.0-litre petrol six under the bonnet though; now we find out if it stands out as clearly with a lesser 2.0-litre petrol four-pot doing the donkey work.
What’s it like?
Our first steer in a 120i Convertible is also our first chance to try one in right-hand drive form. Moving the car’s primary controls to the right has brought no compromises to the position of the steering wheel or pedals.
BMW has even moved the handbrake from left to right: less fastidious continental manufacturers should follow its lead.
The 120i Convertible’s Hams Hall-built petrol four-pot serves up 168bhp and 155lb ft of twist – outputs which the car’s 1.5-tonnes smother to a noticeable extent. The engine likes to be revved, and does its best work between 4000- and 7000rpm; below 4000rpm it’s a little lacking in potency.
Still, the 120i driver can maintain a decent pace, and can even take advantage of the car’s rear-wheel drive layout now and again. You just have to work that little bit harder for your fun.
Our second drive in a 1-series ragtop gave us another look at this car’s cabin, and although the majority of its passenger-facing surfaces feel solid to the touch, one of the 1-series’ long-standing bugbears recurred in the shape of some cheap-feeling plastics under the steering column.
BMW claims to have sorted this quality issue once; frankly, from the maker of the E90 3-series and the new X5, you expect better.
Should I buy one?
Yes – if you’re either mad or allergic to diesel fuel. Because for all its agility, compactness, surprising roominess and zest, what should stop people from buying a 120i Convertible isn’t a few flimsy plastics; it’s the existence of its more powerful, more economical, quicker, and only marginally more expensive four-cylinder range mate: the 120d Convertible.
With the car market now used to the idea of a diesel drop-top, wouldn’t you have to be mad to shun the 175bhp, 55mpg option in BMW’s smallest drop-top range for the 168bhp, 43mpg model – particularly when it’s only £805 more expensive, and probably no less refined?
Diesels are often hard to turn down when they’re marginally less powerful than the equivalent petrol option; this one’s a no-brainer.
We’ll wait to confirm it for definite once we’ve driven BMW’s smallest diesel cabrio. However, knowing how good its four-cylinder oil-burner is, we’d advise against backing the 120i as Munich biggest-selling little cabrio.