2016 Winner
Small above $35k

BMW 1 Series 125i Sport Line

It may not be the freshest metal in the class but the BMW 125i Sportline still shone against the competition.

BMW 125i Sport Line

Despite an assault of new contenders, the winner was an established model - the BMW 125i Sport Line.

Quick specifications
  • Engine2.0T
  • Transmission8A
  • Indicative drive away$54,340
  • Fuel economy5.9
  • Fuel type95 PULP
  • ANCAP5 star

In 2016, the 1 Series overcame new competition in the form of Infiniti Q30, Renault Megane and Subaru Levorg – all widely varying interpretations of what makes a premium small car. However, it was a sporty if somewhat pricey all-rounder from Germany which took the trophy. The evolution of the BMW 1 Series since its introduction in 2004, which has seen the model continue with its rear-wheel drive chassis, has helped keep the German maker’s smallest model at the top of the class for driver appeal. BMW has also proven in various vehicles that it can make cars with benchmark ergonomics, and the 125i Sport Line is no exception. When it comes to finding the optimal driving position for your size, the BMW 1 Series is king. Small-framed people through to those well over 180cm tall can get into the 1 Series and get comfortable, yet cleverly there seems to be no wasted space either.

It’s in these two areas – the seemingly telepathic handling and its brilliant ergonomics – where the 125i really puts its nose ahead of the opposition. Frankly, it really needed to in order to offset the points it gave away due to its premium price. The 125i costs $54,340 on the road, making it the most expensive non-electric vehicle in the category. However, while it did suffer a penalty here, its depreciation score was slightly above average for the category, indicating buyers in the second-hand market still rate the 1 Series highly. Under the bonnet is BMW’s 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine which, following an update to the 1 Series range in November 2016, makes 165kW (up from 160kW) and 310Nm. Impressively, this increase in output coincided with a reduction in the vehicle’s fuel consumption, down from 6.5L/100km to 5.9L/100km in the ADR test. And the flow-on effect of this lower fuel consumption was a reduction in exhaust emissions from 151g/km to 134g/km.

In addition to all of this car’s traits as a driver’s car and an environmentally sound one at that, the 125i also has strong safety credentials, including front and rear parking sensors, a rear camera, lane departure warning and a pedestrian warning feature. The 125i’s interior, while intimate, still conveys the message that this is a luxury car, albeit downsized into a sporty hatchback. The fascia and door trims are finished in BMW’s typically restrained style, and to us found a happy medium that was evident throughout the car – it has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Minor controls such as heating and ventilation, audio and driving modes are clearly laid out and logical to use without looking like labelled kitchen containers. The BMW 125i Sport Line was a deserving winner which, although pricey, does also clearly demonstrate where that expenditure goes.