dates : 7th November 2004
11th November 2004
few cars have been as keenly awaited as BMWís debut
into the hatchback market, the 1-Series.
And it probably came as little surprise at the recent
Auto Africa show when it was announced that the BMW 120i
had been chosen as one of eight finalists for the 2005
Car of the Year competition
In the months leading up to the announcement in March
next year, Car Torque will be reviewing all eight
contenders for the title.
You either like them or you donít. The looks of the
new 1-Series, that is, and the same could probably go
for all BMWs.
These cars engender strong emotional responses, and the
proportions of the 1- Series will probably be a talking
point for a long time to come.
There will probably be no arguments about the excellent
styling of the interior.
The dashboard is a further interpretation of the clean
straight-line look of modern Beemers.
The switchgear is nicely laid out, particularly on the
drop-down console housing the audio and air-conditioning
The 120i uses the new key-card starting system with
separate button for engine ignition. But there is a
refreshing lack of gimmickry and complexity to this
A full compliment of six airbags offers crash
protection, and the steering column is adjustable for
height and reach.
In the case of our test car, the automatic shift lever
is simplicity itself, offering a manual shift option
that most people will rarely use.
The layout has been compromised to accommodate the
longitudinal arrangement of the engine as the 120i is a
This means slightly cramped rear space, difficult
ingress and exit from the rear door aperture, and boot
space that is not exactly massive.
The boot space measures about two-hundred-and-forty
litres, although this rises to just under a thousand
litres with the rear seats folded.
Another controversial feature is the lack of a spare
wheel. The 1-Series, like other BMWs in the range, is
fitted with run-flat tyres.
In fact the battery has been located beneath the boot
load deck, to achieve 50-50 weight distribution in the
car between front and rear axles.
BMW has also made much of its rear-wheel-drive only
policy, sticking to the format in the interests of what
its marketing honchos call "sheer driving
In fact many of todayís front-wheel-drive cars are so
well sorted in terms of torque steer, understeer and
oversteer, that this is a bit overplayed.
Nevertheless, the BMW 120i feels amazingly solid on the
road, and the more you drive it, the more you appreciate
its perfect poise and grip through corners.
The only dynamic downer we pinpointed was a very heavy
steering action at parking speeds, strangely enough as
rear-wheel-drive cars should have lighter steering.
While driving pleasure is high on the list, performance
is strong without being exceptional.
The two-litre four-cylinder Valvetronic motor has been
profiled for torque rather than peak power and its
hundred-and-ten kilowatt output is only middling by two-litre
It also has a rather strange, woofling exhaust note as
if there is some power to be freed up in that
Car Magazine recorded a 10 second nought to one hundred
time at sea level.
In our automatic version at Reef altitude that time
would be closer to thirteen seconds.
Top speed, of fairly academic interest in a car like
this, is in the region of two-hundred-and-ten kilometres-per-hour.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the BMW 120i is
its price. At R215 000 for the manual version and just
under R230 000 for the automatic, itís competitive
with similarly-specced cars in the two-litre hatch
And with the pulling power of the BMW badge, the 120i is
going to have a six-month waiting list for some time to
Engine: Four-cylinder, 1 995 cc
Power: 110 kW @ 6 200 rpm
Torque 200 Nm @ 3 600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
0-100 km/h: 9,2 seconds
Top speed: 213 km/h
Fuel consumption: 7,9 litres/100 km (BMW claimed
Price: R228 000
Car Torque is