“Good looking car bro!” That was the response I got while I was paying for a toll while driving the recently-facelifted BMW 120i M Sport. The 120i has definitely grown into a looker, but how far can its good looks bring it? We had one for a few days, and here’s what we discovered.
Love at first sight, perhaps? The review unit here is fully decked out with optional M Performance bits and pieces, which enhances the outlook of the 120i M Sport by quite a margin. Hold you horses though, as these parts are mostly for cosmetic purposes, with the only performance part being the BMW M Performance 18-inch Sport Brakes. Under the hood, much of the 120i M Sport here is identical to the regular variant.
Blistering fast hot hatch, the BMW 120i M Sport isn’t. With a 1.6-litre BMW TwinPower engine with 177 hp and 250 Nm of torque, standstill to 100 km/h takes roughly 7.2 seconds. Not earth-shattering quick, just decent. Thankfully, the eight-speed Steptronic torque converter automatic offers silky smooth gear shifts, though the omission of paddle shifters does rob the 120i of its sportiness.
Personally, I am used to four cylinder engines which produces aural soundtracks, but the BMW 120i does not fall into this category. Engine note, I feel, sounds rather uncharacteristic, which is rather surprising for a BMW. Exhaust note is also rather muted on the 120i M Sport. A bit ironic, considering the M Sport moniker should have brought along some tasteful soundtrack.
Shortcomings aside, I really appreciate the interior of the BMW 120i M Sport. Finding a comfortable driving position is one of the car’s strong point. It did not take much adjustments for me to get comfortable. If need be, the car offers a lot of adjustability options for other drivers. Why can’t more car manufacturers follow these footsteps?
While the dashboard is laden with buttons, getting used to each of the function do not require a rocket science degree. Controls are all laid out sensibly and are easy to reach. The 120i M Sport also comes equipped with the iDrive Touch Controller, which again, is not a complicated affair. The 8.8-inch LCD display which sits on the centre console can display vital stats well, though the navigation is a hit and miss affair.
My friend who rode shotgun with me had the opportunity to try the navigation system out, which users can either key in or speak their desired points of interest. On his first try, he tried conversing with the system to get us to Sepang. Well, only that didn’t happen, as the system decided that sending us to Terengganu would be better. Well then, I figured that he could try keying in the locations. Well, thanks to the bumpiness of the 120i M Sport, it was soon discovered that swiping out the words is not a viable option. Each time the car bumps, the word came out wrongly. On hindsight, I could have stopped the car and typed it out..
Moving on, I especially love the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and Alcantara-adorned seats. As mentioned earlier, the BMW 120i M Sport is fully-kitted with M Performance bits, which also extends to the interior of the car. The dashboard, centre console, handbrake level and gear knob have carbon fibre added. Personally, not ticking these options does save you quite a sum of moolah, as the stock 120i M Sport looks good.
On the go, the BMW 120i M Sport is a mixed bag. With 177 horses going to the rear wheels, the 120i M Sport won’t be winning any traffic light drag races. On the other hand, the 120i M Sport does excel on highway cruising, as high speeds are barely noticeable. In fact, the BMW 120i M Sport is unfazed by high speed runs. A number of potential speeding tickets may ensue.
Through the twisty stuff, the BMW 120i M Sport starts to shine. The steering weighs just nice in the hand, and coupled with the chunky steering wheel, taking corners is a joy with the junior BMW. Road feedback could have been better, but remains very accurate. There is almost no body-roll, thanks to the well-sorted chassis and 19-inch wheels. Speaking of wheels, the 19-inch wheels you see here are the optional M Performance units, and they come wrapped with 35-series rubbers up front and 30-series at the rear.
While the 19-inch alloys do lend a hand at the BMW’s looks and handling, ride comfort has definitely taken a toll. On smooth paved roads, the 120i M Sport rides decently well, with little to no road noise. But when traversing on typical Malaysian roads, the BMW’s ride starts to get really busy, and road noise can and will irritate passengers. Do keep an eye out for potholes and bad road surfaces, as those are bound to leave a mark on these lovely rims. The 18-inch M Performance Sport Brakes is not just for looks, as they provide excellent braking performance for the 1.4 tonne BMW.
Do I miss not having paddle shifters on the BMW 120i M Sport? Well, yes and no. The gear shifter already has the necessary + and – for manual shifting, but personally, paddle shifters are more intuitive. On the other hand, squeezing the throttle does keep the 120i M Sport in the right powerband, and with the full 250 Nm of torque readily available from 1,500 rpm till 4,500 rpm, manually shifting gears are practically irrelevant. Not much of a deal breaker for me, but it might just be for others.
All in all, BMW Malaysia has yet another niche market hatchback on hand. With prices starting at RM219,800 (OTR without insurance), the 120i M Sport commands a premium over its bigger sibling, the 316i. Most sensible buyers will no doubt opt for the latter, as the 316i offers more boot space and better practicality. The optional M Performance bits and pieces bumps the car’s base price by another RM42,724, bringing the total price to RM262,524.
Sibling rivalry aside, the BMW 120i M Sport also faces stiff competition from rival German brethren. But for those who wants to stand out from the crowd with a rear-wheel-drive German hatchback, the BMW 120i M Sport fits the bill nicely.
Specifications: BMW 120i M Sport
Price: RM219,800 (OTR without insurance)
Engine: 1.6-litre TwinPower inline-four
Horsepower: 177 hp @ 4,800 to 6,450 rpm
Torque: 250 Nm @ 1,500 to 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8 speed Steptronic automatic
Panning photo credit to my friend, Ken Ng.
BMW 120i M Sport photo gallery