Upon discovering that my wife was pregnant with our first child, my initial thought was surely the same as any other father-to-be: what car shall I buy? The TT RS had to go, and we'd have to replace my wife's Fiesta with a family car (read: boring SUV). Therefore, I'd need something more sensible that'll take a car seat and pushchair in the boot, but not a full-on dad wagon given that my car will only be used for occasional parenting duties.
With the prospect of having two cars to buy, it turns out a positive pregnancy test is very exciting indeed. I gave myself a £6,000 budget and starting hunting for hatchbacks, as an estate felt a bit overkill for my first dad car. Five doors, a spacious enough boot and something fun were my only must-haves, although there weren't that many sensible options that fitted my budget.
Surely, at this money, the only five-door hot hatch you ever need consider is a Mk5 Golf GTI - right? I actually came very close to buying a modified, 300hp Edition 30 last year, right up until the point I drove it. Heading to the dealership I'd already bought the car in my head, but the driving experience felt sterile and did absolutely nothing for me, so I left with my tail between my legs. I appreciate what the Mk5 did for reviving the Golf GTI and that it has a cult following, but it wasn't for me.
Other options were the Mazda 3 MPS and Ford Focus ST, but neither piqued my interest enough to want to go and drive one. After browsing pages of our very own Reader's Car forum, I stumbled across a few threads for the BMW 130i. Not a car I was well aware of despite having previously owned a 123d, but BMW's attempt at a fast 1 Series with a 3.0-litre straight-six crammed into the engine bay was intriguing. Having owned an E8x 1 Series before, I knew already that I liked the interior and driving environment. It turns out the flagship 1 Series of the time was so overlooked (some might say expensive, Ben... MB) that Volkswagen sold more Edition 30 Golf GTIs than all variants of the BMW 130i put together, and that's not even taking into account the standard GTI.
So, what have I bought? It's one of the last made, a 2009 BMW 130i M Sport auto. Yes that's right, it's not a manual. I know it's sacrilege to even consider writing about an automatic on PH, but actually for my daily, it's bloody lovely. For the first time in seven years I'm back down to owning one car, but I'm hoping it won't be long before a weekend toy makes an appearance and I can promise you it'll be a manual.
As with all the 130is, mine has BMW's N52 3.0-litre straight-six engine driving its rear wheels, producing 262hp, 232lb ft and a soundtrack to match. I found it in the classifieds on PH, being sold to fund an E39 M5. The member I bought it from also had a TVR and a Caterham tucked away in his garage, so I knew it had been in safe hands.
Going a bit over budget, I got my five doors, my spacious boot and my something fun. It also came with adaptive Xenon headlights, heated full leather seats, BMW Professional sound system and basically every other option you could have, bar a sunroof and sat-nav. Being a late model, MJ09 OTH benefitted from the Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) updates, including minor interior tweaks, LED rear lights, revised suspension, an oil temperature gauge, electric power assisted steering and, importantly, an updated cylinder head, which disposed of noisy hydraulic lifter issues that can be found on earlier cars.
Some criticise the electronic steering for being inferior to the hydraulic steering it replaced, but I can live with that. More will criticise the lack of a manual gearbox in my car particularly, which on occasion I'll admit I miss, but more on that next time...
Car: 2009 BMW 130i M Sport
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: February 2020
Last month at a glance: Ben gains cylinders and seats as TT goes and 130 joins
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