DREAM N0 LONGER
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.