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2011 BMW 1 Series Review

BMW's new 1 Series has controversial looks, but it is cleaner and more accomplished.

The new BMW 1 Series is not going to be to everyone's taste from a design perspective, but it certainly has grown up and feels more upmarket and refined than the previous version. The pricing is good too, so it might be good for around 400-500 units for BMW Ireland in 2012.

Review

When: July 29th 2011

Where: Berlin, Germany

What: BMW 1 Series

Occasion: International First Drive


Model tested: BMW 118i SE


Pricing:

Range starts at €26,790 / model tested costs €30,560
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Audi A3, Alfa Romeo Giulietta
CO2 emissions: 137g/km (Band B €156)
Combined economy: 5.9 l/100km
Top speed: 225 km.h
0-100km/h: 7.5 seconds
Power: 170bhp at 4,800rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,500 - 5,000rpm


In the Metal: 3/5


When we first saw the photographs of this latest version of the BMW 1 Series there was quite a sharp intake of breath. It looked like BMW had tranposed the front of the 5 Series onto its small hatchback with disastrous results. In the metal, the result isn't anywhere near as odd-looking. Depending on the colour and trim you choose, the car can look from very smart to very tacky (the Urban spec, which can be had with white wheels is an acquired taste).


The new grille is the contentious area, but it does look much better in three dimensions. What is perhaps the car's weak point from a design perspective is the rear three quarters, which looks a little ‘dumpy', but the requirement from customers for more head- and legroom has probably lead to this.


The new interior is very good, with a driver-focused design and the usual gentle evolution of the iDrive system. We really like the new Eco Pro mode, which uses a display to help you drive more smoothly and more economically. There is plenty of room up front for driver and passenger and, as mentioned, there is greater head- and legroom in the rear.


Driving it: 4/5


The weather on our test drive was truly shocking. Sheet rain and fast autobahns make for uncomfortable driving so we didn't really push the car too hard, but what we can tell you is that the ride comfort has been greatly improved right across the range and our tests cars, despite being shod with 18-inch alloy wheels, coped much better with road bumps and lumps than the previous version.


We spent the majority of our time in the petrol 118i model and it is really quiet and refined.


You might automatically assume that everyone will buy the diesel variants, but at this end of the market there is still an appetite for petrol and these new petrol engines are very good and very efficient. All petrol versions of the new 1 Series are in Band B, with annual road tax of just €156, despite ranging in power from 136- to 170hp.


The diesels range in power from 116- to 184hp and all reside in tax band A. As you might expect, the 120d, which has the same engine as the 520d, is a superb car. It remains the best engine for the 1 Series.


What you get for your Money: 4/5


There is a range of trims now for the 1 Series. These are ES, SE, Sport and Urban. Even the 'base' ES model is really well-equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels and manual air conditioning. SE models add different 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth hands-free with USB audio interface, BMW Professional radio with single CD player, fog lights, multi-function steering wheel and a speed limiting function. Sport models have 17-inch alloy wheels, Drive Performance Control with ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, sports seats and track cloth upholstery. The Urban models, which are a little on the quirky side, have 17-inch alloys, matt chrome exhaust, kidney grille in high gloss white, run-flat tyres and sports multi-function steering wheel with speed limiter function.


Worth Noting


The new BMW 1 Series will go on sale in Ireland on October 8.


Summary  

The new BMW 1 Series is not going to be to everyone's taste from a design perspective, but it certainly has grown up and feels more upmarket and refined than the previous version. The pricing is good too, so it might be good for around 400-500 units for BMW Ireland in 2012.