squat, lusty image

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

Up to a couple of days ago BMW had an impressive 95 different models available for the South African car-buying public to choose from.

From the baseline 116i 3-door (R211000) through to the ridiculously powerful 760Li Steptronic (R1250000) there is definitely something for everyone - if you are a BMW lover that is.

But now we can make that 97 different models with the introduction of the new 1 Series Coupe that was launched in Soweto last week.

Yes, you read right, Soweto.

"It is time for us as a company to make a statement. A lot of our customers are from this area and this is not just a hollow gesture from BMW," said Richard Carter, communications and public affairs general manager for BMW SA.

Speaking at Kliptown's Freedom Square, Carter reminded us how "important it is for us to realise the significance of where we are today".

Back to motoring matters!

The 1 Series has been around for three years now, and the latest additions - the 120d (R283000) and 135i (R364000) - have given the segment a much-needed boost.

The new coupe is definitely an improvement on the previous hatchback. Looking slightly like a smaller version of the M3, both the 120d and 135i project a squat, muscular image that should go down well with those who like to make a statement with the vehicle they drive.

The performance matches the looks.

As one has come to expect from a coupe, space for the front passenger is ample, but pretty cramped for those in the back.

But then, again, rear passenger space is probably the last thing on the mind of those opting for a 1 Coupe.

The 120d is surprisingly quiet and to hear it idling you wouldn't even know it is a diesel.

The four-cylinder engine produces an impressive 130 kW and has a top speed of 225 km/h.

Its makers claim a 0-100km/h sprint in 7,6 seconds, but the real beauty lies in its fuel consumption - 5,5 litres/100km. With the price of fuel forever increasing, more and more car buyers will be looking to diesel vehicles as an alternative and the 120d is certainly an option.

The new car demonstrated good handling and braking ability as well as ride quality.

The real fun is to be had, though,with the 135i.

Coming standard with the M package, performance-wise the 135i will give a couple of its more recognisable siblings a run for their money.

With an electronically governed top speed of 250km/h, the 135i boosts a three-litre engine and cranks out 225kW of raw power.

Throw in twin-turbo technology and you are guaranteed more fun than a day at Gold Reef City's theme park.

Turbo lag is a thing of the past with the 135i. Put your foot to the floor and you can feel the turbo kick in straight away. Keep your foot down and it just keeps on going, and going, and going .

As one would expect from a vehicle coming out of the BMW stable, the vehicles come speced with a wide range of safety features.

Six airbags, specially padded headrests and backrests all come as standard features in all cars.

A 125i and convertible will be launched locally in May.

lTo view a video of the launch log on to www.sowetan.co.za