Let’s get right into it. This is the new BMW 1 Series, it will go on sale next October, and it is now a front-wheel drive car.
The 1 Series was introduced in 2004 and petrolheads all over the world (well, more or less) were very happy because it was the first hatchback* ever to come with rear-wheel drive. Car people have always known and respected that but it appears that actual buyers couldn’t care less. A BMW survey in 2010 revealed that around 80 percent of 1-Series drivers thought the car was front-wheel drive so while you and I may frown at the idea of a front-wheel drive 1er, the truth is most people probably won’t even notice.
The third generation 1er, officially known as the F40, is built on the UKL2 platform, which is the same platform that the Mini Countryman uses. It looks a bit different because its proportions appeared to have changed a bit. It looks more slender than the previous version although the bonnet appears to be slightly shorter.
The 1 Series now comes with the new BMW Operating System 6.0 as standard but you can also get the latest iDrive 7.0 which is an optional extra and makes the car talk way too much. I’m not kidding, I’ve driven another BMW that’s been fitted with this new live cockpit and it is just constantly giving you information about where to park and how to do it and where to go and what the hell. I do, by all means, like a good infotainment system in a car, but this one’s a bit too invasive.You can, in theory, make it shut up but I still think that Mercedes.Me is a better system, easier to use. I do like the seats, though. Like the new 3 Series, the 1er has many buttons on the dashboard and centre console, which is an interesting choice because most modern cars are getting rid of buttons altogether.
The 1 Series will be available with a variety of engine options from the tiny 116d to the super powerful M135i xDrive which makes 302 bhp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Even though it’s called the “135”, it is actually powered by 2 L engine, which will put the 1 Series in the same market bracket as the Golf R, the AMG A35 and the Audi S3. The M135 also features BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system, that’s good news because 302 bhp is a lot, with 50:50 weight distribution and a limited slip diff.
I’ve always liked the 1 Series for several reasons and the way it drives, or drove, was just one of many. BMW know how to build a car because everything, especially the brakes and the engines, feels good and solid. Better than competition anyway because you feel like it’s sort of more taut, more on point. I agree with those who say that the front grille is way too big on most models now and I think that some of their cars look featureless, I personally miss the Chris Bangle era. But this doesn’t look featureless. It has a lot of interesting angles and curves, especially the rear end, and I think it looks better than the previous gen, which in turn did look better than the first gen. Cristina said she likes it, too. And I daren’t disagree.
The M135i should cost around £36,000 whereas the base model should start around £24,000 in the UK and around €22,000 in Italy, which is where these photographs were taken.
*hatchback / C Segment / Medium cars