Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Bill Buys

MANY a driver would put one or more of the Teutonic trio on their wish­lists, be­cause al­though they as­pired to one, the ex­otics were usu­ally out of their price range.

No longer. You can now get en­try-level mod­els at pretty at­trac­tive prices, and no, they're not bare-bones mod­els.

We had the lat­est lit­t­ley from BMW last week, the 120i, a high­spec num­ber with lots of go, and priced at just a sniff over $40,000.

There's an even more af­ford­able one in the 118i ($36,900) and even the top-of-the-Se­ries 1 range, the fiery M135i, which costs $62,900, is about $2000 cheaper than it was a year ago.

The $41,900 120i will please purists in re­tain­ing rear-wheel drive, but there's not a lot to tell the dif­fer­ences be­tween the newie and the ear­lier model.

The head­lights have been made to look as if they have eye­lids, the grille is wider, the tail­lights have been restyled and there's a fresh style line along the sides.

The num­bers can be a bit con­fus­ing: in the past one could tell the size of BMW en­gines from their badges. A 118i would have had a 1.8litre mo­tor, a 120i a 2.0.

But now they both have 1.6litre turbo four-pot­ters, al­though the 120i gets 30kW more than the 118.

It's a sweet mo­tor, good for 130kW and 250Nm and it sends its mus­cle to the back wheels via an eight-speed ZF au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Those with high oc­tane blood in their veins can opt for a sixspeed man­ual. Same price.

The smart hatch runs on 17inch al­loy wheels and other stan­dard gear in­cludes fog­lights, au­todim­ming rear-view mir­ror, re­vers­ing cam­era, dual cli­mate con­trol, smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity, auto-on lights and wipers, lane de­par­ture and for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing.

It's pretty quick, run­ning to 100km/h in 7.2 sec­onds, uses very lit­tle fuel on the open road – 5.7litres/100km – and if you want to add fea­tures, there's a long list of good­ies avail­able.

Ap­par­ently few peo­ple buy just the car and drive off in it.

Most add a sun­roof, fancier al­loys, up­mar­ket au­dio, leather and a great deal more.

But it can eas­ily push the car back into the wish­list bracket. It's fine as it is.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion is ad­e­quate for four adults and the 360litre boot can be ex­panded to 1200 litres with the rear seat folded.

It's a de­light to drive, with keen per­for­mance from its peppy en­gine, a typ­i­cally Euro taut sus­pen­sion, near-per­fect mass dis­tri­bu­tion and ex­cel­lent steer­ing, brakes.

Rob, our ral­ly­meis­ter, gave it a big thumbs-up.

A very ap­peal­ing thor­ough­bred. With ri­vals such as Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Alfa Romeo Gi­uli­etta, VW Golf and Volvo V40, it has truly opened the door to pres­tige mo­tor­ing.

Ver­dict: BMW's 120i puts premium mo­tor­ing within reach of many more peo­ple.

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