What is it? BMWs new 1 Series hatchback, and, aside from a few engines, its all new. Its a bit bigger, looks more sophisticated, comes with revised petrol engines, and fuel-saving stop-start systems for all models. There are also loads of optional high-tech features, including lane departure warning, radar-assisted braking, a reversing camera, real-time traffic information, internet connectivity and applications for Facebook and Twitter.
Also new is a selectable drive mode function that includes an efficient Eco Pro setting, while a free-standing infotainment screen and iDrive system come on all but entry-level models.
Whats it like to drive? The 1 Series is the only rear-drive hatchback in its class, but BMWs research reveals that many owners are unaware of this more sporty mechanical arrangement. The cars dynamic character is slightly more obvious this time because the upgraded 116i and 118i petrol engines deliver noticeably more low-down torque, like the lightly revised diesels. This allows keen drivers to balance the cars path through a bend using the accelerator as well as the steering, which offers improved feel and excellent precision. The result is a car that feels more entertaining. Ride quality has also been usefully improved.
BMW 1 Series gallery
Whats it like inside? The new interior looks more sophisticated and the dashboard is better finished. A big criticism of the previous 1 Series was a shortage of rear room and the difficulty of getting into and out of it. The new car has slightly more kneeroom, but its still tight for back-seat passengers and the seat cushion is short on support. The front seats arent the most comfortable either. However, the boots usefully bigger, and theres more in-cabin storage.
Should I buy one? If you can live with a still rather small rear cabin and less-than-sumptuous front seats, this is a marked improvement over the previous car. Apart from its strong combination of performance, economy and low emissions, its a more sophisticated drive, delivers extra entertainment with its selectable-drive mode settings and can be had with a useful array of driver aids. It can be finished and trimmed in more interesting styles, too. A 99g/km Efficient Dynamics model comes next March, as well as M Sport and three door versions in 2012.
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