Pack a big engine in a small package and you have all the ingredients of a sports machine, reports NICK DALTON.
THE BMW 125i is part of the German maker’s entry level range which includes five-door hatches, coupes and convertibles.
The 125i is the mid-specification 1-series convertible. Despite what its name suggests, it is powered by a 160kW/270Nm version of BMW’s legendary 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine.
This is a great engine and well suited to the 1 Series convertible, even better in the more rigid coupe.
Above that in the line-up is the award-winning twin-turbo 135i and below is the four cylinder 120i.
PRICING AND EQUIPMENT
The test car was a 125iM convertible auto with a drive away price of $83,075. The base model starts from $64,700 but the test car had several options including an M Sport Package, metallic paint, 18in M Sport alloy wheels, parking sensors front and rear and electric seats.
Standard 125i equipment includes climate control airconditioning, sun-reflective leather trim, cruise control, fog lights, remote central locking, Datadot security, an illumination pack including footwell, puddle and doorhandle lights, a trip computer, Bluetooth preparation and six-CD audio with aux input and USB interface. The 125i’s tyres are run-flats, so there is no spare tyre.
The 125i’s pricing places it a step above the metalroofed coupe-cabrios such as the VW Eos and Holden Astra, as well as Audi’s new A3-based soft-top.
IN THE ENGINE ROOM
This is one of the highlights of the 125i, a detuned 3.0-litre engine produces 160kW and 270Nm. The torque figure is not startling so it’s no firebrand through the low and mid range. It does love a rev, though, giving its best beyond 4000rpm.
The well-tuned six-speed automatic transmission does a good job of keeping things going, delivering economical motoring in "D" and more sporty, albeit noticeable, changes in "DS".
For really sharp response you will want to shift manually via the lever or steering wheel buttons and paddles. The best of the engine is then on show, with a characterful desire to rev nearly to 7000rpm, something it does smoothly with a nice soundtrack.
BMW says fuel u use should average 9 9.1L/100km, 1L/100k a fi figure that is credible from my experience. Carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 217g/km.
ON THE ROAD
THE INSIDE STORY
The 125i is the only rear-wheel drive cabriolet in its class and drives well. The steering is sharp, the ride firm yet controlled and the handling good.
But the convertible does feel more remote to drive than the fixed-roof coupe. There are hints of scuttle shake and window wobble with the roof up or down.
The talent of the chassis combines with the enthusiastic drivetrain to make this a really fun drive for all, not just hardened sports car fans.
Roof up, there is a decent amount of noise insulation, while down it’s only the top of the head that gets a ruffling when the side windows are up and the (standard) wind blocker is in place. Mind you, fitting the blocker reduces the 125i to a two-seater.
I had a great run up the Gillies range and was able to keep the 125i on song, keeping it in third gear as it zipped through the myriad of bends on this challenging piece of tarmac.
The car loved being revved and it sounded glorious as the German growl bounced off the rocky hillsides.
BMW really know how to produce sporty drives and together with its rear drive chassis and the wonderful 3.0-litre straight six, the 125i is a delight to motor in.
It also cruises quietly and comfortably on the stretches between Atherton, Mareeba and Kuranda.
The 125i looks good outside and in. The interior is more modern and better presented than the more expensive 3 and 5-Series. The way the centre stack controls are angled in towards the driver is a shift back to the good old days for BMW.
The driver is catered for by reach and rake adjustment of the sports steering wheel and a deep, body-hugging, powered and heated seat.
Storage is reasonable, with door bins, a small glovebox, a space for iPods and phones under the centre armrest and map pockets on the back of the front seats.
With the roof in place, forward visibility is OK. Side visibility is excellent because there is no B-pillar. But the backwards view is poor because of the headrests and the small size of the rear window.
Rear seat space for two isn’t all that spacious either, but no one would buy this car with the intention of it being family transport.
Boot space is an unremarkable 305 litres with the roof raised and a still usable 260 litres with it lowered.
The roof opens and closes away automatically in 22 seconds at up to 40km/h.
Standard safety equipment includes front and front-side (thorax and head) airbags, traction and stability control, ABS, parking sensors and tyrepressure monitoring. All four passengers get lap-sash seatbelts and adjustable headrests.
Pop-up hoops integrated behind the rear seats provide roll-over protection.
This car is a sure-fire sales winner. Attractive, fun to drive and pretty good value by the standards of the German luxury brands, although be wary of adding options which soon stack the price up.
The next cheapest Beamer open top is the Z4 Roadster from $86,200.
It has the added pulling power of that BMW roundel on the bonnet.
It’s easy to see potential convertible and coupecabrio buyers stretching themselves to buy a 125i. They shouldn’t be disappointed.