BMW 1 Series

Now better value and a sweeter steer

TOBY HAGON

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

ITíS a case of look twice, even three times, to distinguish the updated 2015 BMW 1 Series from the model it replaces.

Doors, roof and glasshouse are unchanged, leaving the visual grunt work to the new bumpers and heavily revised tail-lights that create a classier-looking rump.

The base 116i has been dropped, replaced by the identically priced ($36,900) 118i that uses a more powerful version of the same 1.6-litre turbo four. Itís to be a short-lived engine in the 118i, with Miniís 1.5-litre threecylinder turbo with identical 100kW/220Nm outputs set to replace it around September 2016.

That same 1.6-litre four-pot does work in the $41,900 120i, mustering 130kW and 250Nm.

Wheel size also grows from 16s to 17s, while fake leather and dualzone climate ramp up the appeal.

From there itís 2.0-litre engines, with the sole diesel in the 118d ($40,300, matching the 118iís gear) a familiar 110kW/320Nm unit.

The 125i ups the ante to 160kW/310Nm courtesy of a 2.0-litre turbo. And with an M Sport pack, bigger brakes and a sticker of $48,900, it has its guns aimed squarely at the Golf GTI.

Topping the range is the rorty M135i, with its 3.0-litre twin-turbo six good for 240kW/450Nm.

Genuine leather and digital radio adds to the appeal, as does the sharper pricing, down almost three grand to $62,900. All Ones now get a reversing camera and sat-nav, among other goodies, while the Sport Line pack is standard fare on lower models.

It remains the only compact rear-driver going (at least until it switches to front-drive for next generation) and, while the 118i and 120i will rarely fluster their planted tails, the 50/50 weight distribution ensures beautiful balance. The steering, too, blends accuracy with zero kickback and linear, predictable responses.

Those wanting hot-hatch flair should be well catered for in the 125i. Its 2.0-litre sings harder, up to almost 6900rpm, while the extra capacity ensures less need to go there. Itís the first in the range where the rear-drive benefits an enthusiast driver; itís able to be tweaked on the throttle.

The brakes on the basic car donít feel up to the ultimate driving machine pitch; they faded during a persistent, twisting, steep downhill run, but on the open Queensland plains, where we sampled the 1 Series, they were more reassuring. The bigger brakes of the 125i deliver longerlasting stopping power.

So chuck the new One on your shopping list if you want to enjoy the drive. Just donít expect the full car-load to enjoy it with you.

Rearguard action

WHILE the 1 Series set a local sales record of 2300 in 2014, and makes up 20 percent of BMWís global sales, it was outsold here two-to-one by the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3.

This time around, BMW is looking to the highperformance models to do most of the heavy lifting, relying on the 125i and M135i to demonstrate the unambiguous benefits of rear-wheel drive.

Driving the price of the flagship down to $62,900 increases the gap to highmargin rivals like the RS3 quattro and A45 AMG.

PLUS & MINUS

Tight back seat; 118i performance; 125i doesnít look special enough Rear-dr ive dynam ics ; willing eng e ight-ng ines; intuitive eight-speed auto