STILL THE ONE? (some text hidden)
By Jonathan Crouch
The third generation 1 Series looks to establish itself as the premium hatch of choice in a hotly-contested sector. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Reviewword count: 51
The MK3 version of BMW's 1 Series gets a new platform, a new drive layout and new engines. It's sleeker, lighter, safer, more practical and more efficient than before. And, the company reckons, it's still the most rewarding steer in the premium compact hatch sector. Big claims for an important car.
Backgroundword count: 123
Front wheel drive and BMW. Once, it was a phrase you'd never hear. But then the Munich maker introduced a front-driven platform into its 2 Series Active Tourer MPV. And now this layout's gone mainstream with the third generation version of the brand's smallest model, the 1 Series hatch. It's not so small these days, especially inside where the switch of drive layouts has freed up more room, particularly in the boot. But will the dynamic change of heart neutralise what has previously been this model line's greatest draw - uniquely rewarding handling? BMW says not - and provides a completely fresh range of engines to further sweeten the pill. On top of that there's a smarter cabin and upgraded safety. Sounds promising.
Driving Experienceword count: 312
Back at the launch of the very first 1 Series model in 2003, rear wheel drive was a non-negotiable part of BMW's engineering fabric. Yet this layout practically compromised both that MK1 model and its 2011 successor. And for what? The Munich maker's own research suggests that over 85% of 1 Series customers have no idea whether the drive wheels are front or rear. And whoever complained about the handling of a front-driven BMW-engineered MINI? If you opt for the brand's xDrive 4WD system of course, none of this will matter, but availability of that depends upon the engine you select, so let's take a look at the various powerplant options, all of them re-developed for this car. BMW expects the 150hp 118d diesel to be the big seller; for black pump variants, there's also a lesser 116hp 116d three cylinder 1.5-litre derivative and a more powerful 190hp 120d 2.0-litre model, the latter only offered with the xDrive system. That 4WD set-up is also a non-negotiable part of the top petrol M135i xDrive hot hatch variant (which offers 306hp), but most customers wanting to fuel from the green pump with this car will choose the 1.5-litre three cylinder 140hp unit powering the base 118i front-driven version. Three different transmissions are on offer, depending on variant. The 116d, the 118d and the 118i get an upgraded 6-speed manual gearbox and the two base three cylinder variants(116d and 118i) can also be ordered with an optional 7-speed Stepronic auto. At the top of the range, the brand's smooth 8-speed Steptronic Sport auto transmission is optional on the 118d and has to be had on the two top xDrive models. If you like the idea of potent 2.0-litre petrol power but find yourself happy with front wheel drive, BMW will offer you the M135i's engine in de-tuned 265hp form in the front-driven 128ti sports variant.
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Category: Compact Family Cars
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