What else is new on the BMW 1-series?
You’re as qualified as we are to judge the new One’s styling, so we’ll save you a subjective critique on that rather fussy grille and skip straight to things like the increased level of technology on offer. The brand’s imaginatively-named BMW Operating System 6.0 is standard fit, although you can get the more advanced iDrive 7.0 version (seen on the latest 3-series) as an option.
The latter is one of the best infotainment systems around, and while it might not have the wow factor of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class’s equivalent MBUX, the level of all-round polish in the infotainment is impressive. We really like having a choice between the rotary dial, touchscreen and voice – it caters for all preferences. The voice recognition system works really well, too (you can do everything from change radio stations, input sat-nav instructions and even change the colour of the interior lights).
Aren’t you missing something?
Ah, you mean the rear-wheel drive bit? Well, it’s gone. And by the looks of things it’s gone for good. Depending on which flavour you get your 1-series in, it’s going to be either front- or all-wheel drive. For a small section of buyers – most likely those who think their 118d M Sport is a performance car – this will no doubt be the end of the world. However, for the rest of us (eg those who just want a quality premium hatchback) this will be about as inconsequential as changing the breed of cow the dashboard leather is taken from.
They’ve compensated by making the One’s steering really pointy and sharp; it’s almost as quick-racked as a Ferrari V8, with an almost nervous quality to your first delicate inputs. But you quickly get used to it and realise this agility just makes it feel quite sporty, despite being front-wheel drive.
What’s the M135i’s engine like?
No longer a 3.0-litre straight-six, the 1-series now uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol producing 302bhp and 332lb ft of torque. As you’d imagine, it doesn’t have the silky smooth yet sonorous character of the six, yet there’s plenty to like once you realign your expectations.
For starters, the noise produced is an appealing off-beat rumble punctuated by polite pops and bangs from the twin-pipe exhausts, while the outright pace on offer is deeply impressive – even if it doesn’t necessarily feel that fast. On a derestricted stretch of German autobahn we saw an easy 140mph+ with the M135i still pulling.
How does the rest of the range drive?
Very nicely, actually. We drove a Sport-spec 118d (with a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel) and were impressed by the level of refinement; the engine is whisper-quiet at a cruise, wind noise is minimal and the overall drive is very polished. It also felt noticeably different to a Golf/A3 et al, partly because of an extra feeling of solidity, but also due to the adaptive suspension that we reckon – even in Comfort mode – errs on the firm side. We’ll have to wait for a proper UK drive to confirm this, though.
Aside from the 118d and M135i, customers can choose from a 114bhp 1.5-litre 116d diesel, a 138bhp 1.5-litre 118i petrol and a 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel 120d with xDrive all-wheel drive.
The BMW 118i reviewed in the UK
We have now spent decent time in the popular 118i and found the 1.5 a good workhorse; it’s refined and willing, though the six-speed manual transmission is quite stiff-suited, needing a precise and chunky heft to swap cogs. The gearing is very tall, too.
Gearboxes on offer range from that six-speed manual, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and an eight-speed Steptronic auto. Quite the selection, but BMW says it’s all down to ‘right-sizing’, whereby each engine is only fitted to a transmission that’s both necessary and cost-effective. For example, the lower-powered 116d can be had with the manual and seven-speed DCT, yet if you want an auto 120d it will only be available with the eight-speeder owing to its ability to manage the extra torque.