Mercedes-Benz kick started the luxury hatchback segment with launch of A-Class. Volvo followed soon with V40 cross country. The category that was virtually nonexistent few years back is now brimming with activity. BMW joined the league of premium hatch with 1-series. The car is touted to be driver-focused as BMW claims the 1-series to be an extraordinary driving experience. Launched in two versions - 116i and 118 d- the 1-series has its work cut out.
For the car to succeed, it has to display some unique capabilities. Some of the features that does make 1-series quite worthy contender is its uniquely mounted longitudinal engine, rear wheel drive, and loads of equipment. We get behind the wheels of new 1-series, and here's what we think about it.
Design, Style and Interiors
1-series is unmistakably BMW with large kidney grille, ring styled headlamps, and long bonnet. Though move to the side, and 1-series start feeling awkward. The proportional discrepancy is glaringly evident as short overall proportions coupled with long nose makes this BME a weird design. This feeling accentuates further when you compare 1-series with Mercedes A-Class. Mercedes is certainly more attractive of the two. That said, there are some strong design points. For one, strong shoulder line zings up the proceedings. Integrated rear spoiler and chrome finished rear bumper give 1-series quite lively design.
Inside the cabin, top end 118 d comes loaded with all bells and whistles. Automatic climate control, leather seats, automatic xenon headlamps, and rain sensing wipers are some of the features standard on top of the line line 118 d variant. Space inside the hatch is surprisingly good though from outside, it does look very compact. There is enough headroom and legroom is quite generous too. However we found the seat back angle quite upright that interfere with to the comfort. The transmission tunnel protrudes heavily; thereby making 1-series strictly a 4-seater. Boot space, how, is quite large for a hatch.
Engine, Transmission & Driving Dynamics
2.0-litre four - cylinder diesel engine works under the hood of 1-series. We have already experienced this motor in other BMW’s. Here, in 1-series, this motor makes 143 PS of max power. The most impressive bit about the engine is its highly refined nature. The engine is very linear in its power delivery too. There is no characteristic surge of torque that is usually associated with diesels. The midrange is quite punchy though the motor tends to lose steam towards the top-end. 8-speed automatic transmission works in a seamless manner as it channelizes the power to the rear wheels. In economy mode, the up shifts come early throughput the engine in sports mode, the gearbox retains the gear to its limit.
It doesn't require an expert to tell you about driving expertise of BMW. 1-series is no different as it displays class-leading driving dynamics. Steering is light, feels very responsive, and tuck the car exactly on the spot it was intended. Sure, there is some body roll though it doesn't hinder your drive experience. That said, the big surprise for us is pliant ride quality. 1-series soaks the bumps with quite an ease. There is no sharp thud movement that jolts the occupants. On the contrary, only potholes make some disturbances to the otherwise good ride quality of car.
1-series come with pair of brilliant motors, has entertaining handling, and boasts of a cabin that is spacious and fully loaded. That the car is thoroughly well engineered is above asking. Additional advantage of India-spec model is its pliant ride quality. However, the oddball styling of the car is not of everyone’s taste. Add to this the high price of the model, and 1-series face some serious skepticism about its appeal. In fact top of the line diesel variant of 1-series borderlines the price of 3-series. Soappeal of 1-series, we think, will be limited to only limited driving enthusiasts who don't care much about value for money.
Style & Substance 3/5 Ride & Handling 4/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3.5/5 Safety & Equipment 3.5/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 4/5 Fuel Efficiency 3/5
Value for Money 3/5