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Road test: 3-door BMW 130i

2007-12-07 07:58

Wilmer Muller

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model 130i
Engine 3-litre straight-six
Power 195 kW @ 6 650 r/min
Torque 315 Nm @ 2750
Transmission 6-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 6 seconds
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Tank 53 litres
Fuel Consumption 9.2 / 100km
Price R300 500
What's it about?

When BMW launched the 1 Series hatchback in 2004 one of the biggest criticisms the car faced was its 5-door design.

The complaints were about the lack of space for rear passengers and the cramped access via the rear doors. It wasn't considered as a comfortable people carrier or family wheels.

For example, park the 5-door 1 Series (even an acceptable distance) next to another vehicle or wall and you'll need to be an acrobat to get into or out of the back. Furthermore the extra set of doors makes the 1 Series look awkward too.

BMW launched a three-door model earlier in 2007 and after driving this Beemer, in 130i guise, it makes one think that BMW should have launched this body shape first.

Not only does the 1 Series looks better with two less doors, but it is probably more acceptable for a three-door car to offer less rear space.

With the launch of the 3-door, BMW freshened-up the whole 1 Series range too with better fit and finish and a subtle facelift.

On the inside

Thanks to the recent upgrade the new 3-door model feels better put together than earlier 1 Series models with improved-quality materials.

Naturally the overall dashboard layout is similar to that of the 5-door, but it is still bland. The cockpit lacks some zest but it is straightforward and controls are easy to operate.

Access to the rear seats is surprisingly easy with the front seats featuring a sliding function. Dare we say it is better getting into the rear of this model than that of the 5-door?

Also, unlike the 5-door model the rear bench features a split-seat arrangement with space for only two individuals. Not that the 5-door's seating arrangement can really accommodate three people!

Although the car has all the must-haves such as electric windows and mirrors, air conditioning, on-board computer and a radio with a front-loading CD player the spec list is quite comprehensive too.

Optional extras include keyless access, automatic climate control, satellite navigation with iDrive, sunroof, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and xenon lights.

Passive safety features include front airbags, side airbags at the front and curtain head airbags.

Under the skin

Naturally the 3-door's engineering is exactly the same as the 5-door's.

Under the bonnet is a 3-litre engine found in the 330i and 530i, but there is 5 kW more power thanks to a better exhaust system and changes to the engine management system.

This straight-six thrusts outs 195 kW and 315 Nm of torque, which is available from as low as 2 500 r/min right through to 4 000 r/min.

ABS with EBD and DSC+ (Dynamic Stability Control) which include Automatic Stability Control (ASC) and Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) are standard.

Driving it

The 130's lightweight straight-six engine transforms the 1 Series into a serious hot hatch contender.

This engine is truly at home in the 1 Series while being smooth and sophisticated. There is no lag or hesitation and in real-world circumstances it is just awesome.

Pull away and there is a short take-up on the clutch - instant power that makes your first takeoff a bit jerky until you get used to it. And then the 130i simply rockets off.

It is backed up by a crisp six-speed manual gearbox with short gear changes, as well as excellent braking power.

Active Steering, which adjusts the steering rack's ratio according to the speed of the car, is optional too. In practice, this means that at low speed, you get more turn-in for less steering lock to make parking and low-speed maneouvering easier.

At higher speeds, the ratio adjusts to make the steering response less 'nervous' for a stable and predictable steering response.

Typical BMW the 130i is an agile number and a car that begs to be driven. It offers top-class performance and top speed is limited to 250 km/h, while the claimed 0-100 km/h sprint is in less than seven seconds.

Of course its rear-wheel-drive layout results in incredible road grip and it is king when it comes to handling.

The 130i's real ecstasy as it is a car that involves the driver in every bit of driving it.


It took BMW about three years to expand the range with a 3-door model, and we can't help to wonder why. The three-door setup works well for the 1 Series. In 2008 the coupe and drop-top derivatives will follow too, adding more appeal to the range.

But despite the fact that we prefer the 3-door bodystyle, the 1 Series, as BMW's entry-level range, isn't cheap either. You still do pay a price for that blue-and-white propeller badge.

Otherwise the 3-door is a welcome addition to the BMW stable. The 130i model is also a killer hot hatch that offers some real thrill.


  • Fun to drive
  • Straight-six power


  • Doesn't come cheap
  • Bland interior


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