BMW should have launched the updated 1 Series to the tune of ‘I Come From A Land Downunder’. Young Australian Calvin Luke (originally from Sydney and a graduate of the U.S. Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena, California) was the designer responsible for the freshened looks.
So the outstanding rear-drive 1 Series range now in local showrooms is a first. It is the first product from the Munich superbrand penciled by an Aussie.
But BMW’s updated 1 Series hatchback is also the last of its kind. The entry-level 118’s turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine will soon be replaced by the ground-breaking three-cylinder engine (same performance, less fuel consumption).
And this is likely to be the last 1 Series with the sporty rear-drive chassis. Not that it’s a ‘biggie’ - as we’ve seen with the 2 Active Tourer model, BMW’s front-drive technology already matches the world’s best.
BMW 1 Series Overview
Freshened looks, revised model range (the 116i is gone), more power and extra specifications – as mid-life updates go BMW hasn’t held-back with the 1 Series. And, according to BMW’s local marketing boss Shawn Ticehurst, with prices starting from $36,900 never mind those considering the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3, buyers contemplating top-end Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf models should also put the latest 1 Series on their shopping lists.
It’s a point worth considering especially for driving enthusiasts - for them, the dynamics of the BMW 1 Series’ rear-drive chassis places the German hatchback at the front of the pack. And even if you’re not into the nuances of mid-corner balance, the overall quality and prestige interior of the 1 Series will score well when ranked alongside ‘3’ and Golf.
So now we have the 118i as the entry-level model (at $36,900, the same price as the previous 116i), and as well as the new looks, all BMW 1 Series models now come with a reversing camera and ConnectedDrive Real time Traffic Information for the satellite navigation.
Over the entry-level 118, BMW 120i adds extras such as 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, ‘Sensatec’ upholstery and Driving Assistant.
Extras for the mid-grade 125i include the 18-inch M alloy wheels, M Sport package and variable sports steering, LED headlights, Alcantara/cloth seats and Park Distance Control (front and rear).
Range-topping M135i scores 18-inch M alloy wheels in ‘Ferric Grey’, the M Performance Package, leather seats, upgraded audio including DAB+, upgraded satellite navigation and adaptive LED headlights.
The updated lineup is:
BMW 1 Series Engine
With the 116i deleted from the range, the 118i is now the entry-level model and it is powered by BMW’s 100kW/220Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. It’s more fuel-efficient with combined-cycle fuel consumption rated at 5.4l/100kms.
The BMW 120i employs a 130kW/250Nm version of the turbo 1.6. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is 5.7l/100kms.
Stepping-up we have the BMW 125i with 169kW/310Nm from its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. Combined-cycle fuel consumption scores 6.6l/100kms.
And of course there’s the sonorous M135i with its 240kW/450Nm turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine (as far as we know, the world’s most powerful six-cylinder small hatchback). For combined-cycle fuel consumption you can chalk-up 8.0l/100kms.
BMW 1 Series diesel power comes from the 118d’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel affording 110kW/320Nm (that’s 5.0kW more than the previous generation). Combined-cycle fuel consumption is listed at 4.1l/100kms.
BMW 1 Series The Interior
Pleasingly BMW has taken on-board criticisms regarding the extensive options lists which made ordering a new vehicle a multi-hour marathon. Yes there are still options aplenty (ditto for rival German brands by the way) but the updated 1 Series is much more generously kitted inside that its predecessors (although we reckon the entry-grade 118 still looks and feels a tad under-done).
Still the seats could be better. The ‘M Sport’ pack brings nice lumbar support for the fronts (admittedly we drove various models back-to-back so the changes were obvious).
And the steering wheels. Only the 125i and M135i come with the glorious ‘M’ leather wheel (not that the leather-wrapped version in other models is a low-budget alternative).
But that’s getting a bit harsh. What we have with the 1 Series is clean, precise BMW interior styling at its best.
Drivers of all sizes will quickly dial-up a sporty environment thanks to abundant seat adjustment and tilt/telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel. Ahead will be the usual top-shelf BMW instrumentation and to the left will be the freestanding nav/multi-function control screen (8.8-inch in M135i, 6.5-inch in the rest).
Surrounding you is the expected BMW sports/luxury with excellent soft-touch surfaces and brushed aluminium highlights.
Rear seat accommodation, like others in this segment isn’t massive and luggage space runs to 1200-litres with the rear seat folded or 360-litre when in-place.
BMW 1 Series Exterior & Styling
Aussie Calvin Luk had one mission when he graduated from the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena, California – to work for BMW. With his pencil work now on display in the form of the updated BMW 1 Series we reckon Calvin’s talents will be seen often in future products from the Bavarian giant.
For the 1 Series update the goal of the freshened looks was to provide a more pronounced on-road presence. Just a quick glance at the new model lineup confirms this has been achieved.
At the front we can see a larger BMW ‘kidney’ grille and sharper-looking headlights (LED lights for 125i and M135i). And larger air intakes provide a sportier look.
For the rear you notice sportier two-piece LED lights in the usual BMW ‘L’ shape. The two-piece layout was adopted to enhance width.
BMW 1 Series On the Road
A teeming wet Lakeside Raceway north of Brisbane greeted your www.carshowroom.com.au correspondent with a BMW M135i waiting. It’s been some time since Lakeside was last surfaced so grip was seriously lacking.
For what it was worth the M135i was enormously satisfying. In ‘Sport+’ mode you get the least intervention from the ESC and in those conditions the resultant power oversteer was just sensational fun.
Try doing that in a front-drive hatchback!
Of more relevance were the cars we drove on various Queensland roads the next day – a 125i, a couple of 120i models and a 118i. The 120 was in ‘Urban Line’ and the rest were in ‘Sport Line’.
Our favourite was the 125i – we just preferred the response of the 160kW/310Nm 2.0-litre engine. In a car this size it is a very sweet combination.
That said, the 120i was also very desirable.
But regardless of the model the aspect which stands out with the BMW 1 Series is that rear-drive chassis. BMW likes to boast about the 50:50 weight distribution – which is important – but it’s the way the 1 Series drives out of corners which leaves it head-and-shoulders in front of front-wheel-drive hatchbacks.
This thing turns-in with precision and in the sometimes slippery conditions of the drive route allowed you to use the throttle to get the rear-end singing. Enthusiast drivers will understand the sensation.
And yes, in the sportier settings suspension calibration is ‘European Firm’ but – here’s the surprise – in ‘Comfort’ there is a genuine compliance about the suspension which some European rivals can’t match.
BMW 1 Series Issues
If this is the last of the rear-drive BMW 1 Series generations…well it will surely be missed. We’re confident BMW will deliver a front-drive replacement which will please the sporty drivers attracted to the marque, but…you know…sheer driving enjoyment we think they said?
BMW 1 Series Verdict
What we have now is in many ways the sporty hatchback which the front-drive rivals look enviously towards. The response, the balance, the satisfaction is all 2002 reminiscent (and we don’t mean the year!).
Of course all of this comes bundled with the hallmark BMW quality obvious wherever you look.
And thanks to smart product planning plus a co-operative head office, Australian buyers can also now consider the BMW 1 Series a great value buy.
BMW 1 Series The Competition
BMW does make a good point – with the updated 1 Series priced from $36,900 it should be on the same page as upscale versions of the Mazda3 ($20,490 to $39,290) or more likely the Volkswagen Golf ($21,790 to $52,740).
Mazda3 SP25 Astina ($35,040) gets Mazda’s 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre engine while BMW’s 1.6-litre is available with either 100kW/220Nm or 130kW/250Nm (the latter in the $41,900 BMW 120i). So, OK we’ll accept the rear-drive German coupe is no longer out of reach for buyers of volume-selling mainstream models, in reality it is a still a bit of stretch and you’ll need to carefully cross-reference features specific to different model grades to get the full picture.
Same for the Volkswagen Golf. The 103TSI delivers 103kW/250Nm and in Comfortline guise will set you back $32,790. So, yes if you’re shopping in that league don’t rule-out the BMW 1 Series.