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BMW 1 Series

Broadcast 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 BMWs 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 thats 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 bonnet.

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 car. 

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 BMWs 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 early 2005.

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 Magazines 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 days.

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.

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