BMW 1-series F20 Review

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BMW 1-series. Upmarket Golf alternative

BMW 1-series F20 Review
BMW 1-series F20

 

BMW 1-series F20

Immediately after flogging the crap out of BMW's new-generation F20 1-Series hatch through Victoria's splendid Yarra Ranges, an updated 123d coupe arrived in the office carpark. And talk about chalk and cheese. It's a well-known fact that ride quality has been a lost art for sub-luxo BMWs since the run-flat tyre appeared, but I wasn't prepared for the tragedy that is the 123d's pitchy, unsettled, brittle ride. Even the hardcore 1M rides more comfortably than a 123d.

The new-generation F20 1-series hatch, on the other hand, is dramatically different. Every F20 model gets adaptive damping (BMW calls it Driving Experience Control), and even in Sport mode, the 1-Series' ride is actually supple. Selecting Comfort doesn't make it a whole lot cushier either - just lighter and more aloof in the steering, with less disciplined yaw control in hard cornering. In fact, the new One is a much better-balanced car in Sport, with barely any detriment to ride quality. And that applies to cars wearing optional 245/35R18 run-flats as much as it does to the 118i/118d on standard-fit 205/50R17 Continental treads!

The F20 doesn't quite have the steering crispness or feel of the original hydraulic-steered E87 hatch, but it's a definite step-up from the electric-steered coupe. The standard chassis in Sport mode lets you push pretty hard without too much DSC intrusion (bizarrely, turning it off reverts the settings to Comfort) and a lot of that can be put down to the One's altered proportions. She's 85mm longer and 17mm wider, but the tracks are out by 51mm up front and a sizeable 72mm out back for a more planted feel and a tougher stance. The wheelbase has been stretched 30mm to achieve a much-needed 21mm increase in rear legroom, though you still have to feed your feet into the footwells to get in there. And despite improvements, you still don't get a lot of kneeroom or under-thigh support.

While the 118d's well-mannered 2.0-litre 105kW/320Nm turbodiesel four is essentially carried over (with a new eight-speed auto option and standard stop/start), the 118i's 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four is new, punching out 125kW at 4800rpm and 250Nm from 1500-4500rpm. Tied to an eight-speed auto (six-speed manuals weren't available at the launch), it has a traditional BMW sweetness to its delivery - up-shifting at 6600rpm in Drive with near-flawless precision. It's a lot torquier and sounds more interesting than the old 2.0-litre, yet BMW claims it averages just 5.9L/100km. Whether you think the new 1-Series looks any good is entirely up to personal taste.

But as an upmarket Golf alternative, this car has merit. It's cheaper, yet better-equipped and much classier than the old one. And even if its handling isn't quite as edgy, it's a far better all-rounder. It's also still rear-drive. In a class of bum-draggers, that counts.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

BMW 118i

 

ENGINE: 1598cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger

POWER: 125kW @ 4800rpm

TORQUE: 250Nm @ 1500-4500rpm

WEIGHT: 1315kg

GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic

0-100KM/H: 7.5sec (claimed)

TOP SPEED: 222km/h (claimed)

PRICE: $45,495

 

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