A few years ago, U.S. auto market was all focused on producing bigger and more powerful cars than ever. How many of us would have imagined that the day will come when we will “crave” for a smaller BMW with a more efficient, but still powerful engine? Well, I didn’t for sure, to me it was always about the more  horsepower and cubic capacity, the “cooler” I was.

But it’s 2009 and while I’m still pretty cool, I started to develop a “fetish”, okay….obsession maybe, for some of the smaller engines found in the BMW models available only in Europe and one of my favorite  ones is the BMW 123d. Since we’re based out of Chicago, it’s a bit harder to test those cars frequently, but thanks to some of our close friends and partners, we can still bring you some unique test drives.


Just a few weeks back, Benny, our German editor at BimmerToday, shared with us his BMW 125i Convertible review. Today, our buddies over at AutoEvolution brings us an even smaller(engine wise) convertible, the BMW 120i.


They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or the beer holder, in case you’re a Kinky Friedman fan). Here you’ll find the kind of impact the tested model is going to have on us, visually speaking.

With a front fascia identical to the 1-Series Coupe and quasi-identical (minus the bumper) to the 1-Series hatchback, our 1-Series Cabriolet test car also sports the BMW double-kidney grille trademark and the “eagle-eye” headlights with the “Angel Eye” treatment. Being black, it manages to appear wider than it actually is, while the menacing design of the headlights works quite well in giving the same impression.

The side view presents a very clean design especially with the top down, with absolutely no distracting lines to spoil the front to rear shoulder line, since the roof completely disappears into a space in the luggage compartment. With the top up on the other hand there’s a pretty non-BMW-like discontinuation of the overall proportions, especially since the very BMW-like Hofmeister kink is missing from the C-pillar. Purist BMW fans who can’t live without it can still choose either the coupe or the hatchback versions of the 1-Series.


Unless your neighbors are a small family of kangaroos or the infamous Sasquatch trespasses your property on a daily basis, you probably spend most of your time in the city. Well, so do we, so this is where you’ll find how and IF a car is usable on the busy streets.

The two-liter four-cylinder under the hood is typically BMW. There’s no low end grunt whatsoever, so driving it in the city might seem like it’s a much less powerful engine. Above 3-4.000 rpm on the other hand, the engine springs to life, it’s like 100 more horsepower are added just by going above that rpm threshold. Of course, this is pretty much useless when dealing with busy stop and go traffic, so the occasional “How much horsepower was this Bimmer having again?” question is bound to be asked more than once when driving with the needle in the lower part of the tachometer.

The fuel consumption on the other hand, despite not being exactly a featherweight at over a tonne and a half (3307+ pounds), is pretty good. After a pretty abnormal session of city driving, and by abnormal we mean a lot of acceleration followed by braking in a short time, we managed to achieve around 12.5 liters per 100 kilometers (US 18.8 mpg). The real surprise came when we observed those figures dropping to a relatively low 10.7 liters per 100 kilometers (US 22 mpg), which isn’t half bad for a 170 horsepower vehicle that runs on petrol.

The start/stop system, part of the BMW EfficientDynamics program is mush less intrusive that others we’ve tested and, even though it also has an “off” button, we kept it on almost the whole time. Together with direct injection, electric power steering, brake regeneration and radiator blinds that open for airflow only when required, this means that fuel consumption should be lower than an equivalent car without these technologies. Considering the high number of cars on the road and traffic lights we usually experience in our test drives, that might just well be plausible.

Continue reading Test Drive: BMW 120i Cabriolet – 2009 – “New Cars Collection”