Su­per­car shop­ping trol­ley

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

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).

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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