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Tested: BMW 125i Convertible

2008-12-24 07:54

Wilmer Muller

 What’s it about

Sometimes one has difficulty understanding why some family members, sharing the same gene pool, are ugly and others rather attractive. This is of course the case with the BMW 1 Series range too…

When the Bavarian carmaker launched the 1 Series about four years ago, it shocked the world with an odd-looking, impractical hatchback that was criticised for being ugly.

But then (after a long wait) BMW conceived the coupe and cabriolet derivatives, and although the family resemblance is there, they are much sexier than their hatch sibling.

In fact, the 1 Series looks as if it was meant to be a cabriolet – although last in the succession – and the drop-top doesn’t appear like some afterthought with awkward design features.

The 1 Series is also the fourth topless BMW range and its entry-level convertible since the 3 Series moved much more upmarket.

BMW also opted to give its baby convertible a soft top instead of the fashionable folding metal roof. Not only does it save weight on the cabrio, which is already about 100kg heavier than the hatch, but the traditional canvas top looks well and definitely adds to the car’s stylish image.

And thankfully the 1 Series soft top, well, didn’t go soft either as typical BMW engineering adds to the vehicle’s driving appeal – especially our test 125i’s sweet 2.5-litre engine…

On the inside

The 1 Series’s interior was never anything special and it is still the case with the convertible models as it shares the same architecture. But everything seems well bolted together, materials appear durable and the car is comfortable.

Furthermore the 125i comes with sports seats and owners who plan to spend a lot of time in the sun would benefit from BMW’s sun-reflective technology.

Unsurprisingly room in the back is tight, and prospective owners should keep in mind that the 1 Series makes more sense as a two-seater – and with a squeeze two adults will fit in the rear and struggle with leg and headroom.

Also, boot space is limited at 260 litres with the roof retracted and 305 litres when it is raised.

The roof takes a lifetime at 22 seconds to open but fortunately it can be operated at up to 40 km/h. But the roof stows really neatly giving the 1 Series a clean, uncluttered look.

Top down safety is as good as it gets and in the event of a rollover, sensors will trigger rollbars to pop up in milliseconds. BMW also strengthened the windscreen while airbags along with traction and stability control will give you peace of mind.

Driving it

Naturally underpinnings are shared with other 1 Series models and in typical BMW fashion it has 50:50 front-rear weight distribution. Together with the car’s rear-wheel drive setup, this baby drop-top offers an entertaining ride, with trademark BMW handling.

Enthusiastic drivers will be pleased with its sporting credentials and the car is really well-balanced. The overall ride is smooth and the car feels secure on most road conditions.

Furthermore it offers sharp steering and excellent stopping power.

But the real fun waits when you tackle the twisties… Even losing the roof rigidity the handling is top notch, and it is nearly as good as its coupe brother. It slices through corners showing confidence and good grip.

Despite the 125i badge, which one should think hints at a 2.5-litre power train, it actually has a meaty 3.0-litre unit under the bonnet. And we can’t help but to love this great straight-six…

It’s a perfect match for the 1 Series drop-top offering more than enough oomph with 115 kW available at 6 400 r/min, while torque is 200Nm at 3 600 r/min. Also, it has the sound to match and instant throttle response.

Our test 125i had a manual transmission adding to the overall fun.

Performance is good too and from standstill to 100km/h it will take a claimed 6.9 seconds. Like other new generation BMWs the 1 Series is also a beneficiary of its energy-saving “Efficient Dynamics” system, with a combined fuel consumption of 9.1 litres per 100km.


The 1 Series Convertible might be BMW’s entry-level drop-top range but that doesn’t mean it comes cheap. At R383 000 for a base 125i, and R334 000 for the 120i, it is an expensive way to go topless...

But it is a very together car, and a quick road companion while one can’t fault its cruiser abilities either. It’s definitely a slick cabriolet which will appeal to trendsetters and sunseekers.

So, thumbs up to BMW for giving the world yet another cool convertible.

However, the Audi A3 cabriolet is a very accomplished small drop-top too though offering a more premium look and feel than the Beemer.  


- Driving dynamics
- Sexy looks


- Cramped rear
- Dull interior
- Pricey


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