BMW 125i Sport Line

Indicative drive away price: $54,340

After something of an assault by new contenders in this category, in the end the winner was an established model which proved, sometimes, original is best.

In 2016, the 1 Series 125i Sport Line overcame new competition in the form of Infiniti Q30, Renault Megane and Subaru Levorg – all widely varying interpretations of what makes a premium Small car. However, it was a sporty, if somewhat pricey, all-rounder from Germany which took the trophy.

The evolution of the BMW 1 Series since its introduction in 2004, which has seen the model continue with its rear-wheel drive chassis, has helped keep the German maker’s smallest model at the top of the class for driver appeal. BMW has also proven in various vehicles that it can make cars with benchmark ergonomics, and the 125i Sport Line is no exception.

When it comes to finding the optimal driving position for your size, the 1 Series is king. Small-framed people through to those well over 180cm tall can get into it and become  comfortable, yet cleverly there seems to be no wasted space either.

It’s in two areas – the seemingly telepathic handling and its brilliant ergonomics – where the 125i really puts its nose ahead of the opposition. Frankly, it really needed to in order to offset the points it gave away due to its premium price. The 125i costs $54,340 on the road, making it the most expensive non-electric vehicle in the category. However, while it did suffer a penalty here, its depreciation score was slightly above average for the category, indicating buyers in the second-hand market still rate the 1 Series highly.

Under the bonnet is BMW’s 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine which, following an update to the 1 Series range in November 2016, makes 165kW (up from 160kW) and 310Nm. Impressively, this increase in output coincided with a reduction in the vehicle’s fuel consumption, down from 6.5 litres/100km to 5.9 in the ADR test. And the flow-on effect of this lower fuel consumption was a reduction in exhaust emissions, from 151g/km to 134.

In addition to all of these traits as a driver’s car and an environmentally sound one at that, the 125i also has strong safety credentials, including front and rear parking sensors, a rear camera, lane departure warning and a pedestrian warning feature. The 125i’s interior, while intimate, still conveys the message that this is a luxury car, albeit downsized into a sporty hatchback.

The fascia and door trims are finished in BMW’s typically restrained style, and to us found a happy medium that was evident throughout the car – it has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Minor controls such as heating and ventilation, audio and driving modes are clearly laid out and logical to use without looking like labelled kitchen containers.

The BMW 125i Sport Line is a deserving winner which, although pricey, does also clearly demonstrate where that expenditure goes.

SCORE

1ST: BMW 125I SPORT LINE, 858

2ND:  VOLVO V40 T4 INSCRIPTION, 848

3RD: MERCEDES-BENZ A 180, 810