Believe it or not, the 1 Series has been sailing out of BMW showrooms for 15 years now. The model has succeeded where the 3 Series Compact largely didn't, bringing the BMW badge to a lower price point with a package people wanted. It's been broadly competitive with various A3s and A-Classes ever since, appealing to people like us with its unique-to-the-class rear-wheel drive and straight-six powertrains - the M135i/40i even becoming something of a cult hero in its time. Today, however, comes the long expected confirmation that all that's gone.
This third generation 1 Series is front-wheel drive, and won't boast any more than four-cylinders; the M135i, as we knew, now has xDrive and a 2.0-litre engine with 306hp. It makes sense, of course, with far, far more people buying a 1 Series because it's a BMW than because it's rear-wheel drive - front-drive is both cheaper and more practical. But don't be surprised if it takes a few purists some time to get used to.
This front-wheel drive, transverse-engined 1 Series is 5mm shorter than before at 4,319mm, 34mm wider and 13mm higher, with a wheelbase 20mm shorter at 2,670mm. There's also said to be more elbowroom, kneeroom and boot space, with an electrically operated tailgate an option for the firs.... Alright, enough of that.
The M135i is the flagship of the new 1 Series range, which will also include a 118i (140hp, 162lb ft), a 116d (116hp, 199lb ft), a 118d (150hp, 258lb ft) and a 120d, offered only in xDrive and with 190hp and 295lb ft. Over and above the normal 1 Series, the M135i will receive the full M Sport kit and kaboodle: steering, passive suspension and brakes have all been upgraded in the name of driving entertainment, with the xDrive system also benefitting from a mechanical limited-slip diff denied to the 120d. Variable Damper Control will also be a cost extra.
With 332lb ft alongside its 306hp, the M135i will be capable of 155mph and 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds; depending on wheel size, it will return between 34.4 and 35.3mpg, along with CO2 from 155-157g/km. The eight-speed automatic is standard - with no manual alternative - it being one of three gearboxes in the new 1 Series range; a seven-speed dual-clutch is optional for the 116d and 118i, with the six-speed manual standard on those cars and the 118d (the eight-speed being that car's optional transmission).
Indeed, there's a whole host of technology to get used to with this 1 Series. A heads-up display is available for the first time, a BMW Digital Key can use your smartphone to open the car, there's the Intelligent Personal Assistant, the Parking Assistant and not forgetting Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go. The 1 Series also gets automatic gearbox tech that works with the sat-nav to read the road and avoid unnecessary gearchanges, an innovation that feels like it was only introduced in Rolls-Royces a few years ago.
That equipment all resides in an interior described by BMW as featuring "high-quality materials throughout, driver-focused controls and innovative details", which will need to be good - how many A-Classes do you think have been told on the snazzy new cabin? Expect a lot of 1 Series to be optioned with the BMW Live Cockpit Professional, then, which brings a new operating system, the 10.25-inch screen and gesture control.
This new F40 generation of 1 Series is available to order in the UK now, with prices starting at £24,430 for the 118i. The M135i is £36,430, placing it exactly where you might expect - an AMG A35 is £35,595. The car has also been launched with a range of BMW Performance Accessories, with new wheels, body parts and interior garnishes on offer, but we'll let you get used to the standard one first...
1 / 16