BERLIN – Whether you appreciate the looks of the controversial new BMW 1 Series hatchback or not, it’s clear to see that the newcomer and its E87-series predecessor are quite similar in profile, proportions and overall appearance. The front view – in particular – seems a little out of kilter, as though the need to stick to the familial face was the overriding objective for BMW designer Nicolas Huet, whether the outcome was harmonious or not.
The overall length of the F20 has increased by 85 mm, its wheelbase is up by 30 mm – with a resultant 21 mm extra rear legroom – and there is an added 17 mm of width. Much like the old car, one still has to clamber over the rear wheel arch to enter the rear of the cabin, but at least the build quality of the interior is typically BMW-solid, which will appease those who had reservations about especially the pre-facelift E87’s levels of fit and finish. The facia curves towards the driver, which will please BMW purists, and there are a myriad of trim and specification choices to specify on both the Sport and Urban designated models.
The new One retains the typical BMW rear-wheel-drive layout and, in conjunction with the 50:50 weight distribution, the dynamics are the better for it. On public roads, we were allowed to explore the differences between various settings on the adaptive chassis set-up. Apart from the now familiar comfort, sport and sport+ settings, there is eco pro. This new option, which makes its debut in the F20 model, can, according to BMW, reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent. Apart from cutting back on power supplied to certain systems, such as the heated seats and air-con, there are several visual cues to help coach and guide drivers to save fuel, and a gauge to inform one how much range you have added by driving carefully. Stop/start technology as well as low-rolling-resistance tyres also help in the war to reduce CO2 emissions.
I experienced two engine derivatives, a 2,0-litre diesel (135 kW/380 N.m) as fitted in the 120d and a 1,6-litre petrol (125 kW/250 N.m) in the 118i.
At the local launch in October this year, these two models will be joined by a 1,6-litre (100 kW/220 N.m) engine tagged 116i.
All the models in the range are turbocharged, feature direct injection and in a first for the segment, BMW offers an eight-speed auto ‘box as an option.
The 1,6-litre turbopetrol engine is all-new. It has near linear power delivery with maximum torque realised from 1 500 r/min until 4 500 and the powerplant is mated with a six-speed manual transmission.
BMW seems to have stuck closely to the winning recipe it created with the original 1 Series and, with prices ranging between R270 000 and R330 000, the new One looks like it will pick up where its forebear left off when it launches here in November.
Read a full driving impression of the F20-generation BMW 1 Series in the September 2011 issue of CAR.