It’s been taking me quite a while to come to a conclusion with the 125i, it looks good, especially in white. It carries a decent amount of power under the bonnet and it manages to transport me from place to place in relative comfort, ease, poise and quickly too. It handles well, darts from lane to lane readily with it’s compact-by-BMW dimensions and with a squeeze of the throttle, wafts most other cars on the road away. I should really like this car, but to tell the truth, i keep having the feeling that something is missing.
Amongst all the 1 series models, the hatches, the cabriolet and the coupe, most will agree that the 2-door coupe is the best looker. With it’s compact yet sporty dimensions, short overhangs and handsome 2-door profile, it’s the most stylish amongst it’s 1 series brethren. With the M-sport body add-ons, the 125i looks the business. A deep front gaping air intake, lowered ride height, and a rear bumper with a blackened rear apron. All you need to do now is to slot in a proper set of rims (18”s or 19”s) and you’ll have one lean mean looking street machine.
My recommendation would be a set of multispoke, deep-dished DPE’s, BBS LM’s or 3D-Design Brombacher rims.
From most angles the angular lines of the 125i give the car a stout appearance, but from some other angles, it might look just a tad stumpy. Pictures don’t really do the car justice, it looks better in real life then it does on screen or on paper. My favourite angle of the car? The rear 3-quarter view shot just below the waistline. Gives the car a nice slant, as if it’ sloping forwards eager to attack. The ladies seem to like the coupe more than the hatch too if a lass that kept glancing by the side of the road is of any indication. Oh, and unfortunately, boy-racers seem to swarm to this alpine white example as well, trust me on that.
Open the generously sized door and be greeted with an interior devoid of most toys, like other 1er’s on local roads. But the layout is BMW-fine and on the 1s, the interior is geared more towards the driver, with controls angled towards the driver and every control falling into place easily. The steering of the 125i misses out on the M-badged item and in it’s place is a normal sports steering. Feels decent, but the M steering should be given a big fat tick on the list of options. Sitting inside, the car feels compact and with it’s black trim bits, gives the car an even more premium feel.
The seats in their red leather against black are a beautiful combination of colors but they are again, like other 1 series’ on sale, manually adjusted, but with the 125i, you still get those wonderful electrically adjustable seat bolsters that clamp you into the driving seat like well, a clamp. Seats behind look strictly for 2 and with a lower ceiling, probably not a place to be for long periods of times.
When the time comes for attacking tricky roads, this 125i is not as it’s name suggest, a 2.5litre. What it does have though, is a generous 3 litre of sweet silky BMW inline-6 power. Delivering 218 horse at 6100rpm and 270Nm of torque between 2500-4250rpm. All this might sound fine and dandy, but here lies one of the little niggles that keep tugging at me. It’s powerplant is similar the 130i hatch’s, but on the hatch, that same engine manages to push out 265 horses and 315Nm of torque. That’s a difference of almost 50 horses and 35Nm’s of pushing power.
Although official on-paper figures show acceleration times are only 0.8′s of a second slower, the feeling i get is that this car could have been a lot better. The loss of torque shows on initial acceleration runs and on the expressway, the 125i glides toward the horizon whereas the 130i slingshots you in. Same engine, but what a difference a detune makes in the numbers game.
Find a nice and flowing road however and the 125i’s superb chassis and handling will almost make you forget about the slight deficit in power. The 125i turns in easily with no drama even through opposing twist and corners. Push hard into a corner and the car understeers a little, slowly ease off the throttle and you’ll be able to feel the front start to find it’s grip, doesn’t take too long for that to happen.
Once the front end bites, feed in the power whilst the rear end squats down and as the driven tires dig into the road, the car shoots forward onto the next corner, aim-repeat-shoot. With the traction control on, this car sticks to the road whilst allowing very very very minute power-over moments, push the DSC button once and it’ll allow for slightly greater exit angles, until either the car senses your going off the road or until you back off the throttle, allowing the computer to shuffle the car to behave properly.
Pushing the throttle pedal into the carpet not just releases a small swell of power, but also the silky song of BMW’s beautifully balanced inline-6. You can never really tire of hearing it as you sweep up the rev range all the way to the redline. A beautiful symphony being played right in front of you.
What this car does is allowing you to drive it rapidly with ease, especially so on the highway. It might lack the grunt of the 130i hatch, but it’s for this very reason that you’ll begin to understand what this car seems to be made for. It’s not really and out and out sports car which it’s outward appearance suggest. That job will most likely go to the manic 135i Coupes.
What this car is, i find, is more of a cruiser. Made more for wafting around town in rather then gunning through the central business district. With it’s slightly less powerful engine, it carries with it a more laid back feel. With perhaps, maybe a little squirt of power-play on an occasion or two. The car is feels better to drive with less aggression and gives a more gentle flowing feel. Take it this way, the 130i’s is more of a rough ride down the rapids, wherea’s the 125i’s behaviou is more akin to a still fast but not as manic, cruise downstream.
To be fair, each of the 1 series car’s seem to be catered to a unique niche target audience. So my take on it is there is no one car for everyone. The 118′s will be for those that want a smooth and easy runabout and for those who most likely, don’t care about “power” and “handling”. The 120 cabrio’s are for those stylish people who love to have a nice drive down the street with wind in their hair and the roofs of the car down. The 130′s and 135′s are for… well, they are for irrational people who care about performance and love tossing their cars about on winding twisty roads and probably don’t give a hoot what others might think of them.
So where does that leave the 125i? It’s a car made for people who want a big spoonful of style, with a hint of playfulness on those rare occasional spirited drives. A car for most people then.
On a personal side note though, i like the car, but i really wish i could love it. I took the car on the roads which i drove the 130i to try and find that touch of magic which i found in the hatch. But to be frank, the more i drove the 125i, the more i’m inclined towards the 130i. (Along with it’s slightly cheaper list price) The 130i hatch genuinely puts a big smile on my face. This coupe, might look better, but the one nagging feeling i get whenever i drive is that it could have been so much better. If only the car delivered that little bit more punch when you wiggle your little toes, that might just reignite the spark. Bring on the 135i.
Take my personal note with a pinch of salt though and bring the car out for a test drive. That’s the only real way to gauge for yourself how much you’ll like it. It’s probably just one of those cars which divide opinions down the middle.