dates : 15th August 2004
19th August 2004
In a few weeks time, one of the
most interesting light cars will make its appearance on the
South African market.
This is BMW’s new 1 Series, a five-door hatchback that is
completely different from any other hatch on the market.
What makes the 1 Series so different?
That extended bonnet is a major clue. It houses a
four-cylinder engine that’s mounted longitudinally in the
engine bay, the reason for this being that BMW has stuck with
its rear-wheel-drive policy for this entry level Beemer.
By using a rear-wheel-drive layout, the engine logically has
to be laid out front-to rear, rather than the transverse or
sideways layout used by all other hatches, which are front
wheel drive. And a longitudinal engine requires a longer
BMW is a firm believer in putting driving pleasure first and
foremost on its design briefs. The Bavarian Company is of the
opinion that rear wheel drive gives much more steering
sensitivity and balanced road holding than a front-wheel drive
Hence the rather unusual proportions of the car to those of us
used to snub-nosed front-wheel-drivers. The 1 Series plugs the gap in BMW’s marketing line up
between the Mini and the 3 Series.
The car has already been introduced overseas in 120i and 120d
form, these being petrol and diesel variants.
Initially South Africa will get the petrol version, scheduled
for early October. The diesel version will follow, probably in
It uses the 1,8-litre engine used in the current 318i. But the
beautifully-smooth four-cylinder has been up-rated from a
hundred and five to a hundred and ten kilowatts.
With a weight of just over twelve hundred kilograms, the
1-Series should be quite swift. BMW claim a sub-nine second
nought to one hundred for the 120i and a top speed of two
hundred and seventeen.
And the turbodiesel version will be even faster, with a
seven-comma-nine zero-to-hundred and a two-twenty top whack.
Strange times indeed, when diesel cars are quicker than their
petrol equivalents, although it should be pointed out that the
diesel engine is a full two litre.
Styling on the car is unmistakably BMW, or at least
Chris-Bangle-era BMW. The so-called "flame surfaced"
flanks are reminiscent of the Z4, as are the multiple radius
headlight edges. And the twin kidney grille is a quite
aggressive rendition of the BMW trademark, given that this is
the baby model in the range.
Quality-looking alloy wheels have always been a BMW preserve
– if you discount its flirtation with chrome-look wheels on
the M3 – and in Europe 16 inch wheels are standard, while
17-inch alloys are optional.
The rear end styling treatment is elegant, unlike some recent
BMW offerings on the 3 and 5 Series, especially with regards
to the tail light clusters.
Car Magazine’s preview on the 1 Series reported that only
BMW could get away with presenting a five-door hatch that is
not a genuine five-seater.
Rear legroom is compromised by the transmission tunnel for the
rear-wheel-drive layout, and a complex five-link rear
suspension. Once again driving pleasure again taking
precedence over utility.
Inside the design is typically minimalistic new-generation
BMW, similar to the Z4 and X3. I-drive, the mouse-operated
function control for items like climate control and
navigation, is an option on the overseas models and may be
introduced here too as an option.
Transmissions will be six-speed in either manual, automatic or
Steptronic form. And ignition is via an electronic card
system, popular with the major European manufacturers these
The boot is reasonably capacious for a hatch. To save space
there is no spare wheel, as the 1 Series will be equipped with
run-flat ryes, like other models in the BMW stable.
Car Torque is