After just 15 years on the market the BMW 1 Series is now into its third generation, code named F40, and it marks a significant change by adopting front wheel drive.
The first generation 1 Series ruffled a few purist feathers by having a hatchback body design but this was quickly forgiven when the 2 door Coupe 1 Series was released, topped off by the manic 1M version.
By the time the second generation came out in 2011 the controversy over a 5 door hatchback had been forgotten.
Will front wheel drive, and a 3 cylinder engine, put the 1 Series back in the purist’s cross hairs again? Time will tell, but the on-road reviews give no cause for concern.
Although not scheduled for public launch until the end of October, Shaaron and I were invited to a static “sneak preview” at Geelong BMW. The show car was a M135i in Misano Blue, my first impressions were of a stylish interpretation of the familiar 1 series form well suited to the colour. The kidney grille features the same aeroplane motif treatment as used on the new Z4 (lower grade versions get a plain grill) but without the puckered face look which blighted the previous generations. This is one grill which looks better for being a little bigger.
It looks longer, but it isn’t, 5mm shorter in fact. The illusion is caused by the “glass house”, the windows and roof, which is longer, extending further forward over the shorter bonnet. The bonnet can be shorter because the engine is now mounted sideways, or transverse, not front to back, or longitudinal which means 6 cylinder engines will not fit.
The upside is increased room in the passenger compartment, in particular in the rear where knee room goes up 33mm.
The F40 is also taller, although when viewed in isolation that is not apparent, by 13 mm all of which is reflected in extra head room in the rear and allows a panoramic sunroof to be fitted without compromising front headroom. I can sit in both front and rear seats without a problem with the sunroof fitted which is not the case with the previous generations. It is verging on being a “cross over” from hatch to SUV but not quite an X2.
I like the styling, which was also not the case with the previous generations of hatchback.
The show car has the M Sports seats as standard and they are superb, nice and snug with adjustable side bolsters to match your hip and waist size. Although the seats are a little further off the ground than before, the seating position is more Z4 than X4. Shaaron found entry and exit to be easier than our E90 3 series and, subject to a back to back test, a little better than the X2 we had been considering because of its higher seat position (sit into rather than down to) but which is perhaps a little too high for her. Plus, the door frames give better head room when getting in and out.
The interior has been brought right up to date and no longer looks like a cheaper version of the bigger cars’ system. The show car featured the full Live Cockpit Professional system (seen here in promotional mode) with a clear digital display replacing the analogue gauges in front of the driver. I could see all the important bits of the dash – I have a long body and usually the steering wheel blanks off the top of the dials.
The specification and inclusions is impressive, LED headlamps on all trim levels for example, yet the 118i starts at $42,990 excluding dealer/delivery and the M135i xDrive (all wheel drive) is at $63,990 excluding dealer/delivery. There is, of course, a tempting and extensive options list which is almost certain to boost the price of every car ordered. But if you have a strong will you can get what I think is a bargain.
Lawrence Glynn | Member #3
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne