BMW 120i

BMW gave the 1-series a refresh back in 2016, introducing (amongst other things) new, more efficient engines.

A more recent spruce up included some equipment revisions, minor cosmetic changes, and some pricing adjustments.

The good news on the pricing front is the ‘gun’ model in the range, the desirable M140i, now lists for $59,990, a cut of nearly $5K. Other models, though, haven’t fared as well. In the case of the 120i, the price has risen by nearly $4100.

But there’s extra equipment as standard to help offset this. LED headlights are now standard, as is the Urban Line package.

BMW 120i inside screen

It includes new-design 17” alloys, Dakota leather upholstery, multi-colour adjustable ambient lighting, and specific interior and exterior trims/finishes. Infotainment has been upgraded to the latest-generation iDrive6 with 6.5” screen.

The 120i’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine is very responsive, delivering solid and linear performance. It’s mated to an excellent eight-speed auto, and together they give the powertrain a very refined feel.

 For those wanting more stimulating performance, there’s the 125i with a more highly-tuned 2.0-litre engine or, our favourite, the ‘full Monty’ M140i with 250kW 3.0-litre turbo six.

The baby Beemer holds true to the company’s reputation for producing dynamic rear-drive cars with great driver appeal. The 120i’s chassis is sweetly balanced, the handling precise and nimble, and the steering light but accurate.

There’s no doubt the suspension has been tuned with dynamics the highest priority, rather than a cosseting ride. That said, the firm suspension and run-flat tyres mostly provided acceptable comfort levels over a variety of road surfaces on our regular test loop.

Front occupants will enjoy the supportive sports seats with wind-in bolsters for a perfect fit around the torso. It’s easy to find a good driving position thanks to the range of seat and steering column adjustments and the controls, including the iDrive system, are easy to interact with.

Rear passengers aren’t so well catered for though, with leg and foot space quite limited. It is, after all, only a small hatchback, albeit a fairly expensive one. But then it carries a BMW badge and it’s a delight to drive.

The boot, at 360 litres volume without the flatfolding split-fold rear seats dropped, isn’t huge, but reasonable for a small car. It coped easily enough with two large bales of sugar cane mulch required for some weekend garden maintenance.

Fast facts

  • ENGINE: 2.0-litre, TwinPower turbo-petrol 4-cyl


  • TAILPIPE CO2 (g/km): 135

  • FOR: Handling, willing engine, fuel consumption, ergonomics, refinement.

AGAINST: Space limitations, price.