REVIEW DATE: 13 Jan 2009
BMW's 1 Series May Look A Little Unconventional But Underneath It's Business As Usual With Traditional BMW Excellence. June Neary Reports
When the first press pictures of BMW's 1-Series were issued, I have to admit that I absolutely hated it. I couldn't see how on earth BMW could sell a car that looked as if its sills had collapsed. After a while, however, I started to become a bit more accustomed to its unconventional proportions and when I first clapped eyes on one in the metal, I must admit that I was starting to appreciate the baby BMW. It's manageably proportioned and nothing seems overly intimidating. The engines currently available are a massively impressive bunch, variously utilising High Precision Direct Injection and Brake Energy Regeneration to deliver outstanding levels of economy and performance. It'll be interesting to see how the car's image develops as more are seen on the road. At the moment it's positioned as a more sporting alternative to cars like the Audi A3.
If carrying capacity is a prime concern, the 1-Series isn't the best pick. Whether you go for the three of five door car, there's not a whole lot of legroom in the back and luggage space isn't stellar either. There's plenty of room up front and it seems the car is geared towards the needs of couples or those with young families. The front doors open widely and reveal a clean, uncluttered fascia. The five-door's rears are less generously cut and there's a chunky transmission tunnel that limits either car's use as a five seater. The interior features a start button to get things fired up and a clean, minimalist look to the fascia. The dashboard resembles that of the BMW Z4 roadster and there's dotted around the cabin are twin front airbags and head airbags for all occupants. Factor in Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Dynamic Brake Control and the non-dynamic but still worthwhile Electronic Differential Lock and there's also a high level of active safety offered.
This is where the 1-Series plays its trump cars - rear wheel drive. Whereas most cars of this ilk drive their front wheels, BMW have long stressed the superiority of directing drive aft. Although this does mean that cabin space is compromised as a result, the driver will soon feel the benefits. Without being tasked with the burden of traction, the front tyres can instead devote themselves solely to steering the car and the result is a beautifully smooth, uncorrupted feel to the steering. Accelerate hard in a front-wheel drive car and the front wheels will judder and squeal, the steering wheel bucking in your hands. There's none of that with the 1-series, just smooth, unruffled progress. Even if you don't drive your car as if you're on the way to the delivery room, it's easy to appreciate the work BMW have put into the ride and handling. It just feels a more premium product than most rivals. There are four petrol engines and four diesel engines offered and the top diesel unit, the 123d, is probably the standout all-round performer. You'll get over 54 miles from a gallon of fuel and still have enough poke to leave most 'hot hatchbacks' for dust. Anyone seeking a really fiery 1-Series will find themselves leaning towards the 130i, however, this V6 petrol unit makes the 3-Series seriously quick so imagine what it does to the little 1.
There are many bigger, cheaper and quicker cars than BMW's 1-series but few that feel quite so polished without entering into the realms of silly money. It feels like an Apple iPod, expensive but reassuringly solid and something worth looking after.
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|BMW 1 Series 118d ES 2dr diesel coupe|
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