Tuesday 16 July 2019

First Drive: BMW upfront about its smallest hatch, the new 1-series

  • First Drive in Munich: BMW 1-Series

  • Prices start at €32,100

BMW 1-series: here end of September
BMW 1-series: here end of September
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

So what's new? BMW's smallest hatch, the 1-series, is now front-wheel-drive. Why change for this third generation (2004 initial launch)? Because they can; they have the platform. With transverse engines and a lowered centre tunnel it should mean more cabin space.

The result? More cabin space for sure, though a six-footer won't be comfortable for long behind another of similar length. Nice idea with the two-level boot but lip is a bit high.

What about extra space? I've just been driving/sitting in it and the figures (33mm extra space for the knees; 19mm more rear head room and a small increase in boot space - 380 litres) stack up.

Not bad for a car that, at 4,319mm, is 5mm shorter, 34mm wider and 13mm taller. The wheelbase (2,670mm) is 20mm shorter.

Is it sporty? They insist they've kept the sporty feel and handling of the old model - rear-wheel-drive gives you that. The multi-link rear axle can enhance too. And the performance control system comes as standard.

And power? The 302bhp M135i range topper gets all-wheel drive for the first time.

From launch it will be accompanied by the 118i (140hp) 1.5-litre 3cyl petrol, the 116d, 118d and all-wheel-drive 120d xDrive diesels, with 116hp, 150hp and 190hp respectively. There are 6spd manual and 7spd automatics. The 120d has 8spd auto as standard.

Price? Starts at €32,100 for entry level 118i and ranges to €50,830 for the M135i.

When's it due? September 28. Around 300/400 Irish people have bought a 1-series most years; BMW hopes to better that next year. Expect a 50:50 petrol/diesel split.

Tech: The Live Cockpit Plus is standard; includes touch controller, navigation, two USB ports, wifi interface. The control display is an 8.8in touchscreen; there's a 5.7in instrument cluster.

Top trim models get two 10.25in displays. They say the digital cockpit (operating system 7.0) reflects customers' desire to have their interface with the car as simple as their smartphone use. The 'Hey BMW' prompt runs lots of digital errands: nav, radio, air con etc. Controls for driving functions are clustered in one area. There's also a digital key: you can have it on your phone and share it with up to five people.

What about transmissions: No fewer than three, depending on engine and trim: 6spd manual, 7spd dual clutch, 8spd Steptronic. Wheel sizes range 16in-19in; entry level SE has 16in, Sport-trim models 17in, MSport 18in.

And suspension? Also three systems: standard, M Sport and an adaptive model that includes variable damper control.

How does it look? The most eye-catching change is the bigger grille. There are subtle lines; new headlight arrangement, shorter bonnet etc. Still unmistakably a 1-series 5dr hatchback.

And drive? Can't tell you until next week: embargo on driving impressions.

What trims? They differ outside and in. SE has matt black air guide grilles, Sports are finished with a high-gloss black, M Sport has aerodynamic bodystyling while inside is bedecked in Dakota leather. Range-topping M135i xDrive has a mesh-design grille and frame, special front bumper air inlet clasps etc with special seats and integrated headrests. I don't like the copper effect border on the grille. Order the black one.

Techie bits: it uses wheel slip limitation (ARB) technology from the all-electric i3S - a first for a BMW combustion-engined car. Results in better traction when pulling away, cornering or driving in the wet and works in tandem with performance control. The M135i xDrive has several chassis improvements; works with the standard M Sport suspension and the M Sport steering.

And engines? Petrols - 1.5-litre 3cyl powers entry level 118i petrol; emissions down 29g/km, power up 4hp to 140hp. Newly developed 2-litre in the M135i races to 100kmh in 4.8 sec. Diesels: 5pc cut in CO2 emissions overall. The 116d has a 1.5-litre 116hp 3cyl (103-100g/km), the 118d pumps 150bhp, emits 111-108 g/km; 120d xDrive 2-litre 4cyl (119-117g/km) with AWD has the 8spd auto as standard. The 116d, 118d and 118i have 6spd manuals but you can order the 7spd dual-clutch transmission for the 116d and 118i. The 8spd Steptronic Sport transmission is an option on the 118d but, as I said, standard on the 120d xDrive and M135i xDrive.

Driver assistance systems: Cruise control with braking function is standard; active cruise control with stop & go is an option/extra.

Standard spec? There are so many mixes and matches it's confusing, but standard includes collision/pedestrian warning with city braking function.

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