|smh New BMW 1-Series.|
The original 1-Series was a great car for the driver, but not so good for passengers. Is the new model more accommodating?
BMW's current 1-Series has a stellar reputation as a driver's car, but for rear seat passengers it's always been a bit of a drag.
Sub-par rear-seat legroom combined with a jarring ride around town meant the car delivered driving thrills at the expense of passenger comfort.
BMW has attempted to address those shortcomings in the new model as it looks to turn around a sales slide and at the same time stave off competition from a growing band of compact luxury car offerings.
So has it succeeded? A short drive of the petrol version of the car on the outskirts of Berlin suggests it has definitely taken a step in the right direction.
The car has retained the typical BMW hallmarks, with well weighted, communicative steering, excellent balance and a ton of grip through corners. And the driving experience has been further improved by a more willing petrol engine that is better suited to the sporty character of the car.
The 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine in the outgoing model car is an underwhelming unit that needs to be revved hard to produce any meaningful urge.
But the new 1.6-litre turbocharged engine - a modified version of the engine in the Mini Cooper S and available in two states of tune - is a far more willing companion, with a strong mid-range and good in-gear acceleration for overtaking and climbing hills.
We only sampled the 125kW version matched to a six-speed manual transmission (a 100kW version will power the base model 116i). BMW says the new, smaller-capacity engine in the 118i is almost two seconds faster to 100km/h than its predecessor, while using up to 10 per cent less fuel.
It certainly feels noticeably stronger by the seat of the pants, while fuel consumption on our country drive was around the 7 litres per 100km mark, compared with a claimed figure of 5.7L/100km.
The engine is also available mated to the segment's only eight-speed automatic transmission, but unfortunately no petrol autos were available on the overseas launch, held in Berlin. A third engine, a 2.0-litre diesel, will also be available at the car's local launch in October, while a top-of-the-range turbo six-cylinder version is rumoured to be in the pipeline.
All the engines have a stop-start system for saving fuel in traffic jams and an Eco mode that changes the engine mapping and transmission shift points on the auto, as well as turning down the air-con to save fuel and advising the driver of the most economical time to shift up a gear. BMW claims changes to driving habits can shave up to 20 per cent off people's fuel bills.
There's also a sport mode that gives sharper throttle response, different shift points and a sportier steering feel.
The upgraded cabin has been noticeably lifted, with higher-quality materials, slightly better storage and a logical and attractive dash layout. The seats grip you tightly - perhaps a little too tightly for bigger drivers - while the chunky sports steering wheel feels great in the hands.
The Urban Line package, with its shiny white inserts on the doors and dash, could take a fair bit of getting used to, but most buyers will like the look of the Sports Line pack, which trades white for brushed metal highlights and red stitching on the steering wheel and seats.
BMW won't reveal pricing for the new individualisation packs, but says the cost of the pack is less than the cost of the individual items. The maker says there will also be a host of other options, including lane departure warning, automatic parking and active cruise control. Expect the price of a new 1-Series to spiral once these are on board.
While the new 1-Series has made noticeable gains in a number of areas, the lack of room in the rear seats remains an issue. The new car is longer and wider, with a bigger boot, but the 2cm of extra rear legroom doesn't elevate the BMW to spacious by any stretch of the imagination.
The ride, on the other hand, appears to have improved. BMW says its new-generation run-flat tyres have been developed with softer sidewalls to make them more compliant over bumps, while the suspension has also been tweaked to provide a better compromise between control and comfort.
We'll reserve final judgement until we've driven the car on local roads, but the initial signs - albeit on smooth German highways - are promising.
It's hard to give a definitive verdict on the new 1-Series until we've driven all variants and their various engine-transmission combinations, but at first glance the new 1-Series looks well prepared for the imminent arrival of all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3 models.
Gallery Pictures NEW BMW 1-Series
source: sydney morning herald via: Link