BMW 1-Series 130i M-Sport

November 2006

picture of car from the front

Deeper front spoiler marks out the 130i M-Sport

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 7Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 6Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 6Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Straight-six engine is powerful and musical
  • Handling and grip are excellent
  • Interior is solid and good to use
  • M-Sport bodystyling adds to exterior style

Gripes

  • Rear seat space is relatively poor
  • Ride may be too firm for some
  • Gearshift requires a firm hand
  • Clutch can be heavy in traffic

Arguably the most desirable small car in its class, the BMW 1-Series offers buyers the combination of rear-wheel drive handling and a premium badge in a small package. A high performance version is available in the form of the 130i, with the M-Sport package adding to the car's sporting credentials.

In the transformation from regular 1-Series to the performance oriented M-Sport version, the 130i has gained significant appeal. In lesser forms the 1-Series can look a little ungainly, squeezing traditional BMW styling cues onto a car smaller than a 3-Series, but with the addition of deeper front and rear valances, larger alloy wheels and a lower ride height, the 130i M-Sport looks significantly tougher and cuts a dynamic profile on the road.

The 130i makes the most of BMW engine technology by using the lightweight six cylinder unit put to good effect in much larger cars, so in the smaller 1-Series shell it represents a significant increase in performance. With a six-speed gearbox and rear-wheel drive, it has the credentials to be an excellent sporting drive, making the most of its excellent weight distribution and the flexibility of the 3.0-litre engine.

To match the engine changes, the M-Sport 130i benefits from lowered and stiffened suspension, combined with the larger 18-inch alloy wheels means impressive levels of grip and handling, helped by the weight distribution and drivetrain layout.

A further feature is DSC+, an advanced version of DSC, which incorporates a large number of safety features. As well as controlling wheelspin and correcting a loss of grip, DSC+ provides a hill start facility, dries the brakes in wet weather, primes the brakes for full power in the event that the driver lifts from the accelerator suddenly, and also smoothes braking by releasing a small degree of pressure at the last second.

Our verdict on the BMW 1-Series 130i M-Sport

In cold terms the 130i M-Sport may seem like an expensive option, but the reality is that to drive and to own it is highly pleasurable. The character, build quality and overall finesse adds to its desirability, while its unique mechanical layout gives it an advantage of its rivals.

Costs
Costs rating 7

The 130i will be a relatively expensive car, given its purchase price. Insurance costs will also be at the higher end of the scale, although fuel economy is respectable when driven with restraint.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 6

Compared with some of its rivals the 130i lags behind, sacrificing some rear room due to the rear-wheel drive layout. However, front seat passengers have plenty of space, and those in the rear will only suffer if they are slightly above average height. Boot space is also respectable, although less than comparable hatchbacks.

picture of car from the rear

Short rear overhang distinguishes the 1 Series

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

In most respects the 130i has an excellent layout of controls and displays, with very clear and understated instruments and simple buttons. This simple layout is due to the use of the i-Drive controller, which manipulates more complicated functions. At first this can be difficult to use, but with familiarity it allows an uncluttered dashboard without any loss of functionality.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 6

The seats in the 130i, particularly in the front, are supportive and offer a wide range of adjustment. Those in the rear are also comfortable. Wind and road noise levels are well controlled, although the stiff M-Sport suspension can make the ride quite hard on rougher roads, and transfer some noise to the cabin.

Car security
Security Rating 8

A standard alarm system and immobiliser should keep the 130i secure, as should locking nuts on the alloy wheels plus remote central locking.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

The 130i offers a high level of safety as standard, with a strong passenger safety cell, six airbags and electronic stability control. The run flat tyres are also a useful safety device, ensuring a degree of control even if a tyre deflates.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 9

The 130i offers driving pleasure in most driving conditions, thanks to the accuracy of the controls and the flexibility and character of the engine. Constant slow-moving traffic can be a bind due to the relatively heavy clutch, but otherwise it is a pleasure to use. The engine offers instant response, even at low revs, and delivers highly impressive performance when extended. In tandem with this are excellent brakes and an accurate gearshift, although this requires careful and positive changes.

picture of car interior

Understated and high quality interior is a pleasure to use

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

A family could use the 130i as a regular car, although rear seat and luggage space may well become an issue for those of a certain height or those who need to carry bigger loads.

First car appeal
First car Rating 3

Size-wise the 130i is suitable for a first-time driver, but otherwise it is probably too much of a handful. The firm controls, high power output, rear-wheel drive and expense will rule it out for most new drivers.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 9

This is an area where the 130i excels, with a high quality feel inside and out going some way to justifying the price premium compared with many of its rivals. This quality comes through the materials and the impressive design. The image of the 130i is desirable, thanks to the badge but also the performance on offer. The M-Sport package adds to the performance car image.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Front seat passengers will have no trouble gaining access to the 130i, as dropping down into the figure-hugging seats is simple. At the rear, the relative lack of legroom may be an issue for taller passengers. The boot is accessed easily via the smart badge release, and a tailgate that is easy to open.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The standard stereo unit features a radio/CD with auxiliary socket, providing good sound quality and ease of use, thanks to a simple layout and steering wheel controls for the basic functions.

picture of car in detail

Lightweight engine is powerful and a pleasure to use

Colours and trim

The options list allows a decent choice of interior colours, although even when finished in all black, the cabin is tasteful and good to sit in. The quality of the trim is also impressive, lending the 130i a high quality feel.

Parking

Although the windows are relatively shallow, the compact dimensions and short rear overhang make parking the 130i straightforward. Optional parking sensors can also give a visual and audible display for extra reassurance.

Spare wheel

Run-flat tyres and emergency inflation kit fitted as standard

 

Range information

Engine options: 1.6-litre petrol (115bhp), 2.0-litre petrol (129bhp and 150bhp), 3.0-litre petrol (265bhp) and 2.0-litre diesel (122bhp and 163bhp). All models are fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, and a five-speed automatic is available on petrol engines of 2.0-litres and above and the high output diesel. Trim levels are base, ES, SE, Sport and M Sport, with Sport and M Sport gaining different suspension settings and larger alloy wheels as well as increased specification.

 

Alternative cars

Audi S3 Quality image and strong performance

Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Fantastic engine and styling, but front-wheel drive

Volkswagen Golf R32 Superb all-round package, styling may be too subtle

Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport Coupe Solid build but lacks driver appeal



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November 2006