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BMW 120i

Broadcast dates : 7th November  2004
11th November 2004


Very 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 controls.

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 cockpit.

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 rear-wheel-drive car.

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 pleasure".

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 standards.

It also has a rather strange, woofling exhaust note as if there is some power to be freed up in that department.

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 market.

And with the pulling power of the BMW badge, the 120i is going to have a six-month waiting list for some time to come.

BMW 120i 
  • 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 figures)
  • Price: R228 000

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