Hilarious car, ludicrous price tag. We’ll wait for the supercharged 130i.
28 September 2005

Before we begin, let me reassure you that no M5s were injured in the creation of this, the 1 Series for those who find the 130i under-engined.£75k seems a lot for what began as a 116i, but in place of the old four-pot Hartge has shoehorned in an E39 M5’s 5.0-litre V8, tuned to produce 444bhp and 376lb ft of torque. Both BMW’s Z8 and Hartge’s Z4 have used this motor before, yet both felt like a waste of an engine that always belonged in the M5. But in the H1 it’s a beautiful installation, set well back in the engine bay to achieve a 52:48 front:rear weight distribution, and at 1455kg it’s just 40kg heavier than a 120d.Which means Caterham-style punch, irrespective of the gear or rpm when you choose to bury the throttle, accompanied by a hard-edged bellow from the centre-exit exhausts.The six-speed manual is clunky, there’s little middle pedal feel and an M5’s pronounced driveline shunt is magnified to uncomfortable levels. But for a hatchback capable of 0-124mph in 15.8sec it’s oddly docile. Unlike the circuit-biased Z4 the H1 is designed for road use and manages surprising compliance along scarred B-roads.There’s no traction control, but 225/35 front, 255/30 rear Pirellis give ample dry grip and, like an M5, the H1 prefers to understeer when pushed. But 444bhp and a short wheelbase mean it’s keen to oversteer, too, stabbing the throttle produces spectacular slides kept controllable by its 0-100% M-differential.Inside, the cloth rear bench feels humble, but extra legroom gives away the pair of thin-backed M3 CSL buckets bolted to the floor in front. The H1 isn’t a sensible purchase - if you must have a fast 1 Series there’s a supercharged 130i in the pipeline. But as a case of One-upmanship, it’s unbeatable.Alastair Clements

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