This is the all-new BMW 1-Series and the big news is that the model has switched to a front-wheel-drive platform.
Since it was launched in 2004, the 1-Series had been the lone rear-wheel-drive contender in the small hatchback class. But, in an effort to increase the car’s interior space and practicality, the FAAR platform that underpins the BMW X1, X2 and Mini Countryman SUVs has been adopted for this third-generation iteration.
Enthusiasts will no doubt be up in arms, but BMW insists the new car will offer a similarly dynamic driving experience as the outgoing version.
At launch, there’s a choice of a 140hp 118i petrol engine and 116d, 118d and 120d xDrive diesels, ranging through 116hp, 150hp and 190hp. Low-end models come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with a seven-speed auto optional. The four-wheel-drive 120d gets an eight-speed auto.
The FAAR platform can also accommodate hybrid powertrains that will no doubt follow.
Topping the range is the M135i xDrive, powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine producing 302hp and 332lb/ft of torque, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed auto. We’ve already seen the engine in the latest Mini Clubman JCW.
The new M135i is down on both power and torque against the outgoing M140i – by quite a large chunk – but BMW insists that the new car doesn’t lose out in terms of real-world performance, thanks to its stiffer chassis and 20kg weight reduction. The M135i records a 0-62mph time 0.2secs slower than the M140i, at 4.8secs. The top speed is unchanged, limited to 155mph
Those numbers are on-par with rivals like the Mercedes-AMG A35, Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3.
Again, enthusiasts will no doubt lament the loss of the M140i’s six-cylinder engine. But that was mounted lengthways, while the new platform only accommodates transverse engines, so there was no way the old car’s lump would be transferred over.
Technology pioneered in the i3 electric car has found its way into the M135i to aid handling. The actuator-controlled wheel slip limitation system (ARB) which senses the amount of wheel slip is plugged directly into the engine’s control unit, reducing the time it takes for the dynamic stability control to intervene to reduce understeer.
Every model gets multi-link rear suspension, featuring a curved strut that increases rigidity. Three suspension set-ups will be offered – standard, M Sport and an adaptive system.
As mentioned before, the interior of the new 1-Series is both more spacious and practical than before. There’s extra knee- and headroom for rear seat passengers and the size of the boot increases to 380 litres from 360. The car is slightly shorter but wider than its predecessor.
An 8.8in touchscreen infotainment system comes as standard, with voice and gesture control and BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant. High-spec models get twin 10.25in displays, with a digital instrument cluster and a head-up display. Full UK specs have yet to be announced.
We haven’t talked about the styling yet, because we prefer to let you make up your own mind. Suffice it to say, the new 1-Series follows BMW’s current themes with a large ‘kidney’ grille at the front and a pronounced ‘Hoffmeister kink’ down the sides. We think there are strong echoes of the X2 coupe SUV about it, as well.
The new BMW 1-Series is available to order from today – 28 May – with deliveries scheduled to start in September. Prices start at £24,430 for the 118i SE.
By Graham King