The country recently saw the advent of a new class of cars — the luxury hatchback. While it was virtually non-existent just a few months back, Mercedes-Benz was the first to introduce a model into this segment in the form of the A-class and was soon followed by Volvo with its V40 Cross Country. And now, BMW has launched its 1-series luxury hatchback.
BMW is touting the 1-series as a driver-focussed hatchback. To that extent, it has launched two versions – the 116i and the 118d – both making adequate power and boasting, for this segment at least, a unique longitudinal front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layouts. But despite these traditional BMW strengths, it’s not going to be a walk in the park for the 1-series. Except for a thin band of enthusiasts, will owners really care which pair of wheels is being driven?
The BMW is a five seater, five door hatchback. From the front it sports all the signature BMW lines but still has the design of the old grille as the car has not been updated with the new grille design. There is a pronounced hump on the hood that seems to flow into the front windscreen and the A-pillars. While globally the 1 Series is offered in three and five door options, in India we only get the latter.
At the back, the 1 Series looks like a scaled standard BMW design due to it being a hatchback. While the shape of the boot hatch is similar to that of the 3-Series, the tail lights are considerably smaller but still retain the familiar Bavarian manufacturers design language.
The car’s interior isn’t very modern. It is pure black with a very basic outlook. Talking about space, there’s a lot of room in the front of the 1-series while a person uncommonly tall will feel confined in the external back seats.On the other hand, it’s best to think about the 1-series as a four-seater. The focal back seat is restricted, and anybody sitting on it needs to straddle a cumbersome, raised segment of the floor. Getting into the back in any case isn’t especially simple for grown-ups, either, because of little back door openings on the five-door rendition of the 1-series and a clumsy move to the back of three-door models. Simple and clean instrumentationis a BMW trademark and the 1-series epitomizes this with straightforward, simple taper use-dials before the driver. You additionally work most capacities by looking through consistent onscreen menus utilizing a rotating dial that is situated simply behind the gearstick, where it iseasy to reach. Furthermore, the presentation screen is high on the dash so you can simply keep a large portion of an eye out and about while utilizing it.
The engine line-up will include a choice of two latest-generation four-cylinder petrol engines and three radically redesigned four-cylinder diesel units.
The new engine in the line-up is the 1.6-liter petrol engine that will be used in the BMW 116i and BMW 118i models in combination with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. In the 118i model it delivers a total of 170 HP at 4,800 rpm, and a maximum torque of 184 lbs-ft between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. It will sprint the car from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, while top speed is 140 mph.
The 116i model delivers a total of 136 HP at 4,400 rpm and a maximum torque of 162 lbs-ft between 1,350 and 4, 300 rpm. It will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, while top speed is 130 mph.
The diesel models will include: the 120d model with an output of 184 HP at 4,000 rpm and a peak torque of 280 lbs-ft between 1,750 and 2,750 rpm; the 118d with an output of 143 HP at 4,000 rpm, and maximum torque of 236 lbs-ft between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm and the 116d with an output of 116 HP at 4,000 rpm, and maximum torque of 191 lbs-ft between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm.
All the engine will be offered with a standard six-speed manual, but as an option BMW is also offering an eight-speed automatic transmission that is offering fast, smooth gear changes and excellent fuel efficiency.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
While the world is shifting to more economical and lighter front-wheel drive platforms, the 1-Series continues to channel power to its rear wheels but not for long as the next generation 1 will share its underpinnings with the new MINI (UKL platform), thereby moving to a front-wheel drive architecture. Rear wheel drive has its merits and it shows. The 1-Series is just a hoot to drive, offering terrific balance through the tightest of bends. Handling is just super sharp and precise, with every turn being a laser guided point and shoot action. In fact, even though BMW has now shifted to electro-mechanical power steering, the 1-Series continues to feel like a go-kart, you sit low and pilot the car using a super sharp steering. The three settings (ECO PRO, Comfort and Sport) also vary the weight at the helm, the steering becoming extremely heavy on Sport mode, making high speed feedback very rich.
The steering is decently light at low speeds so manoeuvring the car in congested city conditions isn’t that much of a task. In spite of being a sporty model (the 1-Series boasts of 50:50 weight distribution), BMW has achieved a fantastic ride quality on their entry-level hatchback. When we drove the diesel, we appreciated the good ride of the car and the petrol is even better. Running on 55 profile rubber (the diesel we drove had lower 45 profile tyres), the 116i rides very maturely. It remains glued to the road at high speeds, where you can switch directions in nano seconds, the 116i is just so quick and confident. On bad roads, the car does get a bit bouncy but that’s only post triple digit speeds. Braking performance is excellent, the pedal has massive bite and the 1-Series stops with surety in all road conditions.
The car is being assembled for the Indian market via the CKD route at BMW’s Chennai plant. This makes the feature list almost identical to the European spec model. The extensive list includes the BMW’s iDrive system with a 16.55 cm HD LCD display, start-stop function, driver side power-seat with memory function and sunroof, apart from standard safety features like ABS-EBD, airbags and ESP. Rear parking sensors are standard across the range.
With the launch of the 1 series at a price ranging from Rs 20.90 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the 116i petrol variant to Rs 29.90 lakh for the top of the line 118d Sport Plus, BMW marks its entry into the compact luxury car segment. One very important point to note here is that buyers of this segment of cars are likely to drive themselves and taking that into account Bimmer makes no errs as far as the 1 series is concerned. What it lacks in terms of looks, it makes up thanks to a brilliant amalgamation of comfort and performance while ensuring that the fun quotient of driving a car is not lost at any point in time. Having said that, the Sport Plus variant that we drove is slightly on the expensive side, demanding quite a premium over the A-and the B-Class and bordering around the base variants of the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class as well their own 3 series, but again for the kind of equipment level and driving pleasure it has on offer clubbed with the virtue of being a rear-wheel drive, it is well worth the price.