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

Our Verdict

BMW 1 Series

Measures up on comfort and space, but the BMW 1 Series is still boring to drive

  • First Drive

    BMW 120d xDrive

    Adaptive four-wheel drive adds winter safety and dynamic interest to the BMW 1-series’ solid base at a potentially attractive premium
  • First Drive

    BMW 125i M Sport

    Slip through the six-speed manual gearbox and progress feels swift and incredibly smooth
28 September 2005
BMW 1 Series Hartge V8

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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