One zippy makeover

BMW’s 1 Se­ries is a cheap ticket to a pres­tige badge for sin­gles or young cou­ples

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE EDITOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

ABOUT TOWN

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.

PER­FOR­MANCE

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.

VER­DICT

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

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