BMW 1 Series Review

$36,900 $47,000 Mrlp
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If you’ve got your heart set on a small luxury car, the all-new BMW 1 Series may prove impossible to go past

BMW Australia says the all-new BMW 1 Series hatch is targeted at “city folk with options”. The world’s largest luxury vehicle manufacturer believes most new BMW 1 Series buyers will be stepping into a BMW for the first time, up from cheaper cars like the Volkswagen Golf. The rest are likely to be ‘empty nesters’, downsizing from larger luxury cars but without wanting to sacrifice quality, driving dynamics or that all-important propeller badge.

The amount of choice is incredible, but if you’ve got your heart set on a small luxury car, the all-new BMW 1 Series may prove impossible to go past.

Overshadowing all of this, however, has been the BMW 1 Series’ new look. CarAdvice’s own readers have described it as a glorified Volkswagen Polo at the back, and “a bit three-eyed fish from the Simpsons” at the front (thanks Nada).

The 116i and 118i are powered by an all-new 1.6-litre turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine. The 116i produces 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque, while the 118i generates 125kW and 250Nm. Teamed with the automatic transmission, the 118i is 1.6 seconds faster than the 116i (7.5 seconds vs 9.1 seconds), yet surprisingly their combined cycle fuel consumption is identical at 5.8 litres/100km (116i manual: 5.7 litres/100km, 118i manual: 5.9 litres/100km).

All powertrains incorporate auto start/stop, brake energy recuperation and electric power steering for greater efficiency. Also standard is the new Driving Experience Control, which allows drivers to select between Sport, Normal and ECO PRO driving modes to balance the responsiveness of the accelerator and optimise the gearshift patterns.

The 118i is a good little engine with more kick than most would expect given its diminutive 1598cc displacement. Its real strength is in the mid-range, where acceleration is progressive and continuous thanks to a broad max torque range (1500-4500rpm). The petrol engine sounds blissfully metallic near the top of the rev range, but will disappoint those after a growly performance note.

The ZF eight-speed automatic teams smoothly with both engines. Shifts are rarely perceptible, and only noticed when you stick the boot in, requiring the gearbox to drop multiple gears at once. The powertrain’s only gruff moments occur when auto start/stop kicks the engine back to life. BMW’s system is still not quite as refined as some of its competitors.

Heightening the quality drive is the 1 Series’ involving seating position. It’s simple to adjust the seat height and steering wheel to get yourself into a commanding vantage point. There are a couple of nagging points, however. The data at the base of the trip computer is difficult to see over the wheel without craning your neck. Rear visibility is also a little restricted due to wide C-pillars, a compact and high rear windscreen and a small rear-view mirror. Visibility out the front is excellent, however, thanks to narrow A-pillars and deep side windows.

Adding to the comfort of the interior is the 1 Series’ class-leading noise suppression, which betters even the classy Lexus CT 200h. Next to no engine, road or tyre noise enters the cabin, giving you a drone-free environment to listen to the audio system, which is high quality and gives great sound.

Bringing these functions and many more together is a 6.5-inch central colour display and the iDrive controller. The combination allows you to navigate between audio, telephone, and vehicle information and settings. The 1 Series also facilitates internet connectivity, and unlike some other manufacturers’ systems it integrates well with iPhones. It’s a $154 option on its own, but can only be fitted when Extended Connectivity and $2693 Navigation System Professional are also optioned, meaning you have to spend $3232 for the privilege to update your status and ‘like’ things from the driver’s seat.

Overall, the interior exudes an irresistible sense of class and quality, with the only blight a tacky feel to the glove box.

The 118i and 118d add 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, anti-dazzle interior mirror, climate control and the storage package, which includes segmented cup holders, rear seat nets and pockets and two additional 12V sockets.

BMW 1 Series manufacturer’s list prices (excluding government and dealer prices):

  • 116i six-speed manual – $36,900
  • 116i eight-speed automatic – $39,593
  • 118i six-speed manual – $42,800
  • 118i eight-speed automatic – $45,493
  • 118d six-speed manual – $43,500
  • 118d six-speed automatic – $46,193

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