Slip through the six-speed manual gearbox and progress feels swift and incredibly smooth

Our Verdict

BMW 1 Series

Measures up on comfort and space, but the BMW 1 Series is still boring to drive

  • First Drive

    BMW 120d xDrive

    Adaptive four-wheel drive adds winter safety and dynamic interest to the BMW 1-series’ solid base at a potentially attractive premium
  • First Drive

    BMW 125i M Sport

    Slip through the six-speed manual gearbox and progress feels swift and incredibly smooth
Matt Burt
25 June 2012

What is it?

Until the arrival of BMW’s blazing 316bhp M135i, this BMW 125i is Munich’s hottest 1-series hatchback currently on sale. 

Behind the 125i’s comparatively snarling face beats a 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged engine, which pumps out 218bhp, with 228lb ft of twist available between 1350-4800rpm.

Like its oil-burning 125d brother, 0-62mph is dispatched in 6.5sec, with top-end achieved at 151mph, just 2mph more than the diesel.

To distinguish the 125i from its more modest stablemates, BMW has garnered the exterior with 18-inch alloys, sporty bumpers and side skirts, plus twin chrome exhausts.

As you’d expect, the interior’s been upgraded to include figure-hugging sports seats and flashes of aluminium-effect finishes on the doors and centre console.

What's it like?

Depress the starter button and the first thing you’ll notice is the two-pot-shy four-cylinder engine note. (For the full-fat six-pot, you’ll need to wait for the flagship M-car).

Slip through the six-speed manual gearbox and progress feels swift and incredibly smooth thanks to the twin-charger’s linear delivery of turbocharged power. The only thing missing from the experience is an equally gratifying exhaust note, which currently disappoints. 

That said, the BMW 125i is a pleasing thing to drive. Pedal weights are spot on, driving position good and steering direct and nicely weighted. In-gear performance is another plus as the force-fed motor pulls strongly through the rev range. 

Four driving modes are selectable in the 125i and include Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. In all but the latter two, the willing 1-series is a comfortable and relatively smooth cruiser, in both town and motorway driving. 

Prod the centre-console-mounted button to Sport or Sport Plus and firmer damping and tougher steering produce increasingly skittish road holding on our notoriously scarred roads.

Launched at a series of twisty tarmac, however, the 125i corners with confidence and minimal body roll. Strong brakes (courtesy of the model’s M Sport braking system) ensure that the hatchback scrubs off speed particularly well, too.

Should I buy one?

Fitted with a four-pot motor, the 125i's lighter front-end (compared with its six-cylinder predecessor) makes this a chuckable and rewarding hot hatch. It certainly looks the business and offers the sort of performance and handling to match the needs of keen drivers.

And pitched against its slightly slower, more expensive Golf GTI rival (0-62mph: 6.9sec, 149mph, £26,235) the BMW 125i makes for an increasingly tempting package.   

BMW 125i M Sport

Price: £26,070; 0-62mph: 6.5sec; Top speed: 151mph; Economy: 42.8mpg; Co2: 154g/km; Kerbweight: 1440kg; Engine: 4-cyls in-line, 1997cc; Power: 218bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 228lb ft at 1350-4800rpm; Gearbox: six-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
14

25 June 2012

It looks like a fairly attractive price point although I'm sure being a BMW it'll need a lot more speccing than the GTI will.

Not sure about it having a "Snarling Face" though, more like a wide eyed cartoon dog.

25 June 2012

Another great looking car from BMW - agressive yet restrained! The previous poster creates a comparison with the incredibly mundane Golf GTI - bizarre!

25 June 2012

I couldnt stand the look of the new 1 series when it first came out, however, I think the front looks much better with the M Sport package.  I would even go as far as saying the front looks rather good now. 

25 June 2012

ewanmac76 wrote:

I couldnt stand the look of the new 1 series when it first came out, however, I think the front looks much better with the M Sport package.  I would even go as far as saying the front looks rather good now. 

I agree. The new 1-Series has grown on me over time and as an M-Sport I think it looks very good.

Some great figures for this 125i, I just wonder if the 125d would be a better prospect for most people? Especially as the 125i is 4 cylinder only so doesn't have that great straight 6 noise.

25 June 2012

Lee23404 wrote:

Some great figures for this 125i

 

Ford Focus ST 5dr

Price: £21,995; 0-60mph: 6.2sec; Top speed: 154mph; Economy: 39.2mpg (combined); CO2: 169g/km; Kerb weight: 1362kg; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 2000cc, turbo, petrol; Installation: Front, transverse, front-wheel drive; Power: 247bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 250lb ft at 1750rpm; Power to weight: 181bhp per tonne; Specific output: 124bhp per litre; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

BMW 125i M Sport

Price: £26,070; 0-62mph: 6.5sec; Top speed: 151mph; Economy: 42.8mpg; Co2: 154g/km; Kerbweight: 1440kg; Engine: 4-cyls in-line, 1997cc; Power: 218bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 228lb ft at 1350-4800rpm; Gearbox: six-speed manual

Not really, less power, slower, heavier, less torque, more expensive, and probably no where near as well specced or practical. Slightly disappointing for the ultimate driving machine, and it actually manages to make the Focus good looking.

26 June 2012

Citytiger wrote:

Lee23404 wrote:

Some great figures for this 125i

 

Ford Focus ST 5dr

Price: £21,995; 0-60mph: 6.2sec; Top speed: 154mph; Economy: 39.2mpg (combined); CO2: 169g/km; Kerb weight: 1362kg; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 2000cc, turbo, petrol; Installation: Front, transverse, front-wheel drive; Power: 247bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 250lb ft at 1750rpm; Power to weight: 181bhp per tonne; Specific output: 124bhp per litre; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

BMW 125i M Sport

Price: £26,070; 0-62mph: 6.5sec; Top speed: 151mph; Economy: 42.8mpg; Co2: 154g/km; Kerbweight: 1440kg; Engine: 4-cyls in-line, 1997cc; Power: 218bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 228lb ft at 1350-4800rpm; Gearbox: six-speed manual

Not really, less power, slower, heavier, less torque, more expensive, and probably no where near as well specced or practical. Slightly disappointing for the ultimate driving machine, and it actually manages to make the Focus good looking.

But on the plus side for BMW the latest Focus looks like a dog's dinner, will depreciate like any previous Ford, will include items in the spec that you do not want but have to have just to get the features you really do want, and it just does not have any brand kudos.

The other issue is that the 125d is probably much better suited to most potential buyers, and that is where the Focus really falls flat on its face - there is no 200+bhp diesel option (not sure but close to 150 bhp in diesel may be the nearest Ford gets, and then only in top-spec format).

As my parents always said two bits of tin and a bit of board, put them together and get a Ford!

 

27 June 2012

Like Lee, I also appreciate the Focus, however when it comes down to it the BM will be a better proposition for all the reasons he and Toptidy have quoted AND all that power is at the rear. QED.

 NeVeR L8te Smile

Myk

25 June 2012

I think you'll find it was the article made the GTI comparison.  At a similar price and image etc I think it's safe to say they'll compete for the same sort of people.

Seems like an ok package and price.  Shame it looks like some nightmare dredged up from the bottom of the ocean. 

25 June 2012

Not!

 Still looks very unbalanced and only marginally less ugly than early 1 series. 

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

25 June 2012

I've always thought the BMW 1 Series looked ungainly with its long snout and short rear but at least the old headlights suited the face ... These new headlights make it look like Droopy ... There may well be a brilliant car here, but it's still lurking under comedy clothing ...

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