Supercar shopping trolley
a bargain from $68,400. The little five-door squats on 18-inch alloys with low-profile conventional rubber and has leather trim, optional eightspeed automatic transmission ($4000) and keyless ignition. Among the test car’s options were a glass sunroof ($2920), parking sensors front and rear ($600) and satnav ($3500).
The top-spec 1 Series hatch gets the rather confusingly named TwinPower Turbo six-cylinder. Rather than the twin-turbo of its recent forebears, the 3.0-litre has a single twin-scroll turbocharger as well as direct injection and variable valve and camshaft settings.
The result is 245kW at 5800rpm and 450Nm (including an overboost surge) between 1250rpm and 5000rpm, propelling a vehicle that weighs just over 1500kg.
Once those outputs were the preserve of V8s, although the little Beemer’s kerb weight is not far off those of the musclecar era. A six-speed manual is standard but stepping up to the clever ZF eight-speed auto drops the sprint time to 100km/h from 5.1sec to 4.9sec.
It changes ratios in 200 milliseconds. It claims 7.5L/100km of premium unleaded using engine startstop system, brake energy regeneration and an Eco Pro setting on its multi-mode drive selection system.
TheMbodykit does a good job of butching up the little hatch, which has a surprised look on its face thanks largely to the bixenon headlights. It’s balanced up a bit by larger air intakes added as part of the M-body kit and the rear diffuser gives it plenty of purpose. The interior is snug front and rear but not uncomfortable. At 190cm I’ma little larger than the mainstream buyer but can achieve a comfortable position. Can we delete the sunroof, please?
Lack of space in the rear makes it mostly a pre-teen domain but at least headroom isn’t eroded by a coupe’s descending roofline. Boot space is useful without being cavernous: 360L in five-seater mode or 1200L with seats folded flat.
It’s a five-star crasher. The airbag count is six (front, frontside and curtains) and the beefierMSport Brake package brings four-pot front calipers, fade compensation and discdrying system and an electronic diff lock. The list also includes anti-lock brakes (including the cornering brake control system to apportion braking where it’s best applied) and a cruise control with braking function.
The first proper prod of the right-hand pedal, even before I start playing with Sport and Sport Plus modes, produces a surprising surge of acceleration.
Anything claiming to hit the legal limit in less than five seconds from standing is not hanging around.
TheBMWis unchallenged in this class until September when Merc’s A45 AMGarrives.
It’s a choppy ride around town. The $2200 for the adaptive damping option would be money well spent if you have a deep desire for more compliance. But drivers are going to like the standard suspension set-up, which allows for a bit of play.
TheMSport suspension has stiffer spring and dampers, dropping the ride height by 15mm. The ride quality issue fades into the background after the first series of switchback bends. Turn it in and it is immediately obedient, with impeccable balance. And straights feel very short, such is the rapid pace from the straight-six turbo.
It sings with gusto, devouring revs and talking back on over-run. Even without playing with the paddle-shifters it’s more than amusing. The ZF auto’s brains (in Sport modes) leave both hands to deal with the helm. The electronic nursemaids are from the school of positive reinforcement. Put them down for a nap and they will still manage to keep you heading in the right direction without being a complete killjoy with the rear axle.
Playful rear-drive dynamics, decent steering and ridehandling compromise, an epic powerplant and a clever gearbox combine for a hatchback with the talent to scare sports cars.