New BMW 1 Series road test
BMW has upped the ante in the small luxury hatch segment with its new 1 Series, as it puts the pressure on leaders Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
With a newly-styled sharper exterior, improved interior comforts and better on-road dynamics, the 1 Series cut a swathe figure during its Australian launch.
Despite the very real attempt to keep costs down while increasing value additions, drive is still led by the rear wheels which is the key point of difference for the 1 Series.
There has been increases in power and torque across the range too, necessitating new naming conventions.
The old 116i is now the 118i; the 120i replaces the old 118i; with the 125i and M135i - the seriously sporty offerings - finishing off the petrol range. The sole diesel variant, the 118d, will be launched in the next few months.
THE interior has been freshened up with new console trims and seat upholstery to keep the 1 Series in the luxury line, and together with the trademark driver-focused cockpit, it makes for pleasant surrounds.
It still falls a little short of its competitors though and a quick perusal will reveal where cuts have been made to keep costs down.
Still, the seats are comfortable across the shoulders and under the thighs, holding well even around the twisties and for the front occupants, at least, there is generous room.
Instruments are easy to read and navigate. The iDrive operating system with its 6.5-inch control display is easy to operate, much more so than a couple of other German brands we can think of, but the map graphics are looking a little tired, especially from a manufacturer known to lead the field in this area.
The second pew will hold a couple of adults if you must, but both head and leg room are tight enough to leave it to the kids.
On the road
A BEAUTIFULLY clever and super-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission does duty across the range and rarely misses.
The new 118i, powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, was presented in its true base form and impressed around the city with its good grip and handling and easy manoeuvrability, especially at the times of day when tempers seem to fray.
The 120i shares the same engine as the 118i but a different tune with 30kW more power and more torque too, and to be honest that alone is worth the extra the $5000.
The added power transforms it into a much more pleasurable driving machine, especially in Sports + mode.
The 125i with BMW's silky 2.0-litre turbo-petrol and larger brakes are most likely to bring a smile to the face of driving enthusiasts. It has excellent grip and great acceleration, with the safety features staying at bay long enough to let you have your fun. But the M Sport suspension and lower ride height did make for a bumpier ride.
The 1 Series flagship, the tantalising M135i, is definitely hampered by Australian roads and speed limits - a turn on the very wet track revealing its prowess.
With a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine and a 0-100km sprint time of under five seconds, our advice would be to just hold on and enjoy the ride.
What do you get?
THE 118i is now offered with Sport Line as standard and adds a rear-view camera, rain sensors, automatic climate control, auto stop-start, Connected Drive services and real time traffic information to the sat nav, keyless entry and Bluetooth connectivity.
The 120i adds 17-inch alloys, two-zone climate control, extended instrument cluster and Smartphone connectivity, while the 125i will also give you access to the M Sport package and brakes, variable sports steering, LED headlights, 18-inch alloys and front and rear park distance control.
Safety features include six airbags, ABS with brake assist, active differential braking and corner braking control, traction and stability control, parking distance control and Connected Drive emergency call system.
The 120i, 125i and M135i add the Driving Assistant package with lane departure warning, approach warning control, light city braking and pedestrian warning.
OFFICIAL figures stand at 5.6l/100km for the 118i, 5.7l for the 120i, 6.5l for the 125i and 7.5l for the M135i. Warranty is three-year unlimited kilometres with roadside assist for the same period.
IT IS plain that BMW is serious about making up lost ground, with the cars in the 1 Series range presenting as good, sometimes excellent, drives, value-for-money inclusions and a sportier look.
Keeping the rear-wheel drive is a nice bonus too. There is car enough to keep most drivers considering this segment happy.
What matters most
What we liked: Value-for-money proposition, excellent 8-speed transmission across the range, better styling.
What we'd like to see: More steering feedback, less bumpy ride, more luxurious interior.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited km warranty and road assist with buy-ahead servicing plan.
Model: BMW 1 Series.
Details: Five-door rear-wheel drive hatch and sports hatch.
Engines: 118i 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 100kW and peak torque of 220Nm. 120i 1.6-litre four-cylinder 130kW and 250Nm. 125i 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol 160kW and 310Nm. M135i 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-petrol 240kW and 450Nm.
Transmissions: Eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual (on special request).
Consumption: 118i: 5.6 litres/100km combined, 120i: 5.7 litres/100km, 125i: 6.5 litres/100km, M135i: 7.5 litres/100km.
Acceleration (0-100kmh): 118i: 8.7sec, 120i: 7.2sec, 125i: 6.2sec, M135i: 4.9sec.
Bottom line: 118i from $36,990, 120i from $41,900, 125i from $48,900, M135i from $62,900.