Breathe in, Breathe out. Sigh with relief. The new BMW 1 Series is front wheel drive & unbelievably, drives better then ever ! Designed specifically to be more practical – it is – the new front wheel set up gives rear passengers an extra 33mm & when you sit back there, you really do notice the difference. The boot is bigger too, 20 litres to be precise & is now same size as that offered in the Golf. The last 1 Series was long-in-the-tooth & from a quality & infotainment perspective, it was. What’s on offer now though, is right up there with the best, as we found out when we spent a week in a 1 Series recently.
Under its aggressively styled bodywork, the BMW 1 Series sits on the same UKL2 platform that’s found underneath the BMW X1, X2 and 2 Series Active Tourer, along with MINI’s Countryman and Clubman.
There are two petrol engines & three diesel engines to choose from, with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, or an eight-speed auto as an option. The entry level petrol 118i is powered by a 138bhp turbocharged engine. The M135i features the second petrol engine, a 302bhp 2.0-litre, with standard four-wheel drive. This one flies, with a 0-62mph time of just 4.8 seconds.
The 116d is your entry level diesel, producing 114bhp from its 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine. Next up is the 118d, which is a 2.0 litre offering 138bhp, with the most powerful diesel engine the 120d topping the range & producing 187bhp from its 2.0-litre unit. Four-wheel drive is standard with this model.
For fleet customers, it’s well worth noting that the that the most efficient model in the range is the 116d, which returns 54.3 to 62.8mpg depending on gearbox & trim with CO2 emissions of 100g/km. The 118d comes with CO2 emissions of 108–109g/km & fuel economy of 51.4 to 60.1mpg. The more powerful 120d offers fuel economy of 48.70–53.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 117g/km.
In comparison, the petrol 118i, the model we tested, offers fuel economy of 40.9-47.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 114-121g/km. The flying M135i isn’t actually too bad either, coming as it does with CO2 emissions of 155g/km & a fuel economy of 34.4-35.8mpg.
Because the new 1 Series has been redesigned from the ground up & is now front-wheel drive with a transversely mounted engine, there’s more space in the interior for passengers & their luggage, a real bug bear of mine in the previous model. The new car also features a shorter bonnet & now looks more squat & bears at first sight, an uncanny resemblance to the latest Ford Focus. Inside, the dashboard layout & infotainment screen mirror that found in the latest 3 Series, with the quality of the components second to none. As soon as you get behind the wheel you’ll feel comfortable & happy with what surrounds you.
Our test model came in M Sport spec, which features front sports seats, illuminated Boston interior trim, active rise control with ‘Stop & Go’ function, anthracite headlining, black with blue Dakota leather perforates seats, exterior trim high gloss shadowline, M Sport suspension, steering wheel & aerodynamic body styling.
Disappointingly – this is an M Sport after all,- most of what made our test car feel special, was an extra cost. The dual-clutch auto transmission excepted, the manual would do just fine, our test car included an M Sport Plus package of, 18″ alloys, M Sport braking, steering, seat belts & rear spoiler for an additional £1500 + vat. A Technology Pack, £1250 + vat, that included Icon adaptive headlights, high-beam assist, parking assistant, a head up display, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging & WiFi hotspot preparation. A second Technology Pack, £1250 + vat, further enhanced our test car with a Harman/Kardon loudspeaker system, a connected professional package & BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional. And finally, a Comfort Pack which gave us a heated steering wheel, electric memory front seats & a powered boot lid, came in at an additional £1250 + vat.
We feel that the best addition you should consider adding to your M Sport, is the 10.25″ touchscreen, part of the Technology Pack, operating BMW’s latest infotainment system. This looks great & is very easy to use. I connected to Apple CarPlay wirelessly to engage Google Maps on my travels & overall, t his system is very intuitive & more than a match the system found on the latest Mercedes-Benz A Class.
Interior space has definitely improved. Driver & passenger’s get plenty of legroom, although headroom in the rear is only average at best. The lower transmission tunnel does make it more five-passenger friendly too.
Storage & connectivity has been cleverly incorporated, with two cup holders in the centre front, with a 12v socket & single USB. There’a also a lidded compartment/armrest which contains another USB. The front door pockets will also take a cup each, whilst there’s an additional two USB’s in the rear, great for rear passengers. The rear also features two more decent door pockets & in our test car, a through loading system that doubles up as a fold down armrest.
The larger boot now offers 380 litres of space, matching the VW Golf & beating the A-Class. Split-folding 40:20:40 rear seats are offered to expand the boot’s capacity, along with a number of optional luggage retention hooks and nets. The load space itself is wider & deeper than in the previous 1 Series & overall, the changes make it a more practical proposition.
Although motoring writers are not prejudiced for or against certain car brands, when it comes to the German marques, I am unashamedly in BMW’s camp. Whilst a number of their models don’t make much sense to me, X4 anyone ?, with it’s three, main, fleet offerings, the 1 Series, the 3 Series & the 5 Series, BMW nearly always strikes gold.
The last 1 Series was always a great car to drive, but really did need replacing. Have BMW succeeded in making the 1 competitive ? We spent a week in the petrol 118i 135bhp version to find out.
Whilst this version, does not offer electrifying acceleration, it handles brilliantly & you completely forget that this is now a front-wheel drive car. Indeed, the handling & poise of the 118i actually makes you forget that in the 135bhp version anyway, performance is average.
On the motorway, it cruises quietly & offers enough in the way of oomph to overtake slow moving traffic as required. In town, the auto box fitted to our test car was a joy to use. The suspension isn’t too hard & the car handled any road imperfections exceedingly well. Best of all, when we had the opportunity to hit the open road, it handles tight bends with aplomb & hugs the road like only a BMW can & offers the driver a real feel of the road, often leaving you with a broad ‘Joker’ smile across your face. Who needs rear wheel drive !
You can select from three driving modes; Sport, Eco Pro or Comfort & on the motorway we chose Eco Pro. It’s still engaging, but for all out fun, then Sport is the one to select, as it heightens & sharpen’s the ride & throttle response . Comfort sits somewhere in-between. To be fair we stuck with Eco Pro or Sport for almost all of our journey’s.
Wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay was excellent, the BMW infotainment easy to work & to understand & the driving position & all-around view, when out & about only lend to the enjoyment. The auto box is great in traffic, but is something you can probably do without. Upgrading to add at least one of BMW’s Tech packs, is also a good idea, because the larger 10.25″ touchscreen & BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional will add to the experience.
From an economy perspective, we drove 260 miles in our week, at an average fuel economy of 34.7 mpg. This isn’t fantastic, as we’d have hoped to achieve 40mpg. In order to get a bit more out of your fuel tank, we would strongly suggest that fleet customs consider the diesel versions, because you are likely to achieve 50mpg +on a regular basis.
The basic price of the car we drove, the 118i M Sport, is £26,715. With a couple of packs added, this will in reality take you up to around £31,000. BMW’s corporate contract hire & leasing rates should offer you a well specced version, for £300 per month on a 10,000 mile per annum 3 year contract.
Purist’s may have had concerns about BMW’s decision to make the new 1 Series front wheel drive. They needn’t have worried. This is a great car & an excellent addition to BMW’s fleet portfolio. 4/5