What is it?
The third-generation BMW 1-Series hatchback, which has now landed in the UK. And, while it may not be a widely held opinion of any new BMW right now, I’d say that it looks, more or less, like it ought to.
Because it looks nothing at all like a traditional three-box saloon of the 1980s, of course, some will call this car inauthentic – but I’d bet that few of the younger customers at whom BMW is aiming this car will be among them. For your average 2019 thirty-something car-buyer, after all, a typical modern BMW is an BMW X1, an BMW X3 or perhaps a 2-Series Active Tourer – those being the modern BMWs we now see the most of.
If that typical buyer is familiar with an ‘E34’ 5-Series saloon at all, meanwhile, he’ll probably know no part or facet of it more intimately than his memory can conjure of the patterned cloth on the front seatback. Times, they are a changing – and it’s the job of this car, perhaps more than any other, to change BMW’s customer base.
Were you to point out that the styling robs the 1-Series of some of the old models’ distinctiveness, of course, I wouldn’t argue. But wasn’t that inevitable? The ‘F40’-generation car looks a bit Lexusey from the rear, as the 3-Series does – while the adoption of plenty of wedgy, creasy attitude into the frontal aspect and profile doesn’t set it apart from hatchback rivals quite as clearly as intended. Nevertheless, it’s smart enough and doesn’t offend – not, at least, to my eyes.
The new 1-Series lineup includes diesel engines ranging from 114bhp 116d to 188bhp 120d xDrive, while the petrols take in the range-topping M135i xDrive (on which a group test is in the pipeline) and this 138bhp 118i. Prices start just below £25,000, and the trim level walk is a familiar progression from SE, through Sport, up to M Sport – with the usual bundled options packages to beef up your equipment level.
For suspension SE- and Sport-spec cars gets standard coil springs; M Sports get lowered, stiffened passive suspension; and adaptive dampers are optional – although can’t be combined with the very biggest 19in alloys of the range or with BMW’s M Sport Plus package (which gets you uprated brakes and a variable-ratio M Sport steering setup).
Our test car has the passive M Sport springs, optional 19in wheels, conventional non-runflat tyres, as well as the car’s standard six-speed manual gearbox. The automatic option is either a seven-speed twin-clutcher or an eight-speed torque converter depending on engine choice (the latter is standard-fit with 120d- and M135i xDrive models).