The BMW 125i is the second-hottest petrol version of the 1 Series hatchback. Only the much pricier six-cylinder M135i is quicker.
The 125i has a 218bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, rather than the six-cylinder unit the car's name might suggest. It comes only in M Sport trim, so it has a distinctly sporty look, with 18-inch alloys, chrome exhaust tailpipes and chunkier bumpers on the outside, and sports seats and cloth/Alcantara upholstery inside.
Lowered M Sport suspension is standard, although you can specify the standard 1 Series suspension set-up at no extra cost.
At £26,070, the 125i costs £1635 more than the equivalent 118i, and £4455 less than the M135i. BMW quotes a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds and CO2 emissions of 154g/km.
What's the BMW 125i M Sport like to drive?
The 125i has the distinctly pleasant combination of being very easy to drive and very easy to drive quickly.
Most importantly, its 2.0-litre engine pulls strongly right across the rev range, which means you never need to work it too hard if you're not in the mood. Around town and in traffic on the motorway, just a gentle flex of the right ankle is enough to keep you moving along at the right pace; more often than not, there's no need to worry about a gearchange.
BMW 125i has a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine
Then, when you get a bit of open road to enjoy, you can use the full rev range to great effect. Bang your way through the six-speed manual gearbox to get the engine spinning at the top of the rev range and the 125i flies along. It's fast – and effortlessly so.
If there is a criticism, it's the noise. The engine doesn't sound very exciting when it's revved, and there's too much wind and road noise on the motorway.
M Sport adaptive suspension provides different modes; it's a £515 option for M Sport models
Our car came with M Sport adaptive suspension, which is a £515 option for M Sport trim and costs £750 for other 1 Series models. With this fitted the 125i is a perfectly decent thing to drive and rides surprisingly well for a car with such strong performance. Yes, when you choose one of the Sport modes, it takes on a sharper edge, but it's never uncomfortable.
It's also sharper through the bends in Sport mode, with less body roll and sharper steering than in Comfort mode. Mind you, whichever of the modes you choose, the rear-wheel-drive BMW is neat through bends and very well balanced.
The only trouble is that, when you're really pressing on, the car isn't quite as poised and as sharp as you might want. The steering, in particular, is a frustration, with a little too much play as you turn in to corners.
The price and power of the 125i might suggest that it's a rival for genuine hot hatches such as the VW Golf GTI, but it's not quite that sharp. Instead, if you treat it more like a high-speed grand tourer on a smaller scale – go fast, rather than flat-out – you'll be playing it to its strengths.
What's the BMW 125i M Sport like to inside?
To all intents and purposes, the 125i is identical to every 1 Series inside. The only major differences are that it has an M Sport steering wheel and cloth/Alcantara upholstery.
What that means is that you get plenty of head- and legroom behind the wheel, plus a good range of adjustment for the seat and wheel. Drop the driver's seat right down and it gives a subtly sporty feel that matches the performance on offer.
However, there's no way to adjust the driving position, which is spoilt by having the pedals offset to the right and a high centre console that hems the driver in.
It's not fantastically easy getting into the rear seats, because the rear wheelarch juts into the door opening; and, once you're in there, you'll find there's not quite as much room as in, for example, a VW Golf. However, it will still take a couple of adults – although no more than that, because the transmission tunnel in the floor limits the space for feet.
The boot, likewise, isn't the best. It's narrow and shallow, but things are better when you folding down the rear seats, because that leaves a large, flat loadbay.
Should I buy one?
For company car drivers, the 125i will make little sense – the combination of its high list price and relatively high CO2 emissions makes for high tax bills.
However, there’s something undeniably attractive about the car – the effortless way its engine goes about giving such strong performance, and the well-balanced handling, for a start.
The 125i may not have the ultimate poise or pace of a genuine M car – and won’t satisfy anyone who’s after hot-hatch thrills – but it costs a lot less than the M135i, and very ably fulfils a subtly different role in the 1 Series range.
If you want a fast hatchback with a premium badge, but without some of the drawbacks that can accompany high performance (a jarring ride, for example), this is a very decent choice.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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