One zippy makeover
BMW’s 1 Series is a cheap ticket to a prestige badge for singles or young couples
A BMW for less than $40,000. That’s the sales pitch for the BMW 1 Series.
In the past this meant a barebones feature list and a reversing camera as an expensive option.
But the most recent 1 Series comes with a promise of more value for money, matched to the same class-leading driving experience for the enthusiast.
The midlife update for the BMW includes a visual makeover, a new eight-speed automatic and a name change for the cheapest model. The 116i is gone, replaced by the 118i, which confusingly gets a 1.6litre engine.
Last of a breed, this little BMW is the only small luxury hatch to drive the rear wheels. When the new model comes in 2018, it will be front-wheeldrive like its German and Japanese rivals.
Unlike a lot of midlife facelifts, the new 1 Series is easy to pick from the old. The headlights are narrower and the lower section of the grille has a much larger opening with a bigger air intake.
Penned by Sydney-born designer Calvin Luk, this look has more presence and menace. The interior hasn’t changed much at all, apart from the reversing camera. It remains minimalist, with easy to navigate menus and controls.
Our test car had an optional Urban Line package that lifted the cabin with leather trim and white metal inserts on the doors, centre console and dash. At $1400 it is great value. The rear seats, though, are austere: no cupholders, centre armrest, storage in the door trim, USB or 12-volt outlets and no storage nets on the back of the front seats.
The BMW is well suited to cross-town cruising, with startstop technology to save fuel in traffic jams and real-time traffic updates to avoid the jams in the first place. You can also engage the Eco-pro setting, with a fuel- saving coasting function for low-speed driving.
Owners get access to a subscription service that delivers news, weather and Google search information to the car. You can also get the car unlocked remotely and track it within a 1.5km radius, which is handy for finding it in big carparks. It’s also comfortable around town, with smooth gear shifts and a tight turning circle.
ON THE ROAD
The rear-drive setup may mean less space in the cabin but it translates to more enjoyment on the road. The 1 Series is great fun to drive along a winding road. The steering is sharp and well weighted, there is loads of grip and the car doesn’t get upset by mid-corner bumps or corrugations.
The seats have plenty of support for enthusiastic cornering and longer freeway trips, while the ride is comfortable, despite the firmness of the run-flat tyres.
The 118i is modestly powered, with just 100kW on tap, and BMW claims a leisurely 0100km/h time of just under 9.0
seconds. But by the seat of the pants, the 1.6-litre turbo feels lively enough.
The slick-shifting eightspeed transmission helps to keep the little engine on the boil, particularly if you switch to sports mode, which holds on to lower gears for longer. It’s also impressively frugal, with an official rating of 5.6L/100km.
The latest 1 Series is better value and just as much fun to drive, with a classy cabin and great roadholding ability. It may not be the roomiest in its class but for singles and young couples, it’s a great entry into a luxury badge.
Minimalist: The mid-life makeover didn’t include major changes to the 1 Series cabin