Hello and welcome to another car review. The topic of debate today is the new BMW 1 Series and more specifically, the 118i in the case of this review. It’s a controversial topic because the 1 has changed a lot but in ways that haven’t gone down well with the BMW army!
Now, if you find yourself reading this review then you’re probably the kind of person who likes cars. Actually, scratch that. You love cars which is why you were a bit cross at BMW when they announced that the new 1 Series was going to be front wheel drive and that it wouldn’t look like a coupe anymore.
With that said, does the change make the new 1 any less of a BMW? Let’s find out.
Yes, this 118i was wearing the M badge but it was just the M sport package so you got the frills but not the thrills. As much as I like to poke fun at impure M cars, there’s no denying that the addition of the stylish wheels and side skirts along with the M colours make the 1 series a lot better to look at. The new 1 isn’t going to win any beauty contests because it really isn’t a spectacular looking car and to the untrained eye, it looks no different to the 2 series.
“M Sport means all frills and no thrills”Matt
But us car enthusiasts, we are not heathens and we can tell our 1s from our 2s. You would have then noticed that the 1 isn’t as tall and is a little bit wider than the 2 as well. The design department has been rather conservative with this car which makes it all the more important to get that M package as it adds a bit of chilli powder to this otherwise bland mix. And there’s another thing, ticking that expensive M sport option box also means that the grille looks a reasonable size rather than dominating the front end of the car as it would on a non-M sport 1 series.
How about the interior then, has much changed there? Well, yes. It’s grown up. There’s a lot more soft plastics on the top half of the cabin and all the handles have a reaffirming feel to them. There’s a whole lot of textures in here as well, right from the leather to the plastic (soft and hard) to the stylised diamond pattern theme that they have going on. And that difference in texture makes it feel more premium to touch. A word of warning though, those piano black plastics will attract your fingerprints.
Once you start letting your hands wander to the dark depths of the scratchy plastics pit, you’ll be pleased to know that they aren’t all that scratchy after all. This is the 1 series anyway so you would’ve been naive to expect a leather enveloped cabin. Aside from the materials, the infotainment stuff is simple to use and the rotary dial makes light work of navigating through menus. You do get the infamous ‘Hey BMW’ feature which will change mood lighting, music and cabin temperature at your command. Though it does get pretty bloody annoying when you’re trying to film a car review and keep saying BMW. Otherwise, it’s fine when car reviews are not being filmed.
Another thing I like about the new 1 is the practicality of it. The rear door opens quite wide meaning that it’s easy to get children in the back and the generously sized quarter glass gives them a good view of the world from the backseat. The boot is a little shallow but it’s still big enough for one pram making it a good family hatch if you’ve got a kid or two.
Finally, here comes the elephant in the room. They’ve made it front wheel drive so it’s boring, right?! That simply isn’t true. Some of the best hot hatches have proven that you don’t need rear wheel drive to have fun and that is certainly the case with the new 1. It may look tall but it’s still got a fairly low center of gravity meaning that it does corner well. BMW still call their cars the ultimate driving machine and this new 1 does well in that respect. In fact, it’s had to work harder to prove itself because of the changes. Then there’s the engine which is a three cylinder 1.5 litre turbo unit packing 103kW in the 118i. It sounds a little small but remember that this is the same engine as the one in the i8 and people don’t accuse that of being low on power. The 118i isn’t going to beat the competition at the drag strip but it’s 220Nm worth of torque will pull when you want it to. Otherwise, it’s pretty happy purring along at cruising speeds and there’s no doubt that it will be economical in traffic as well.
I’m not generally known to be a BMW fan but there’s something about this new 1 that makes it quite special. It’s quintessentially BMW with its stupidly large grille and M badges but there’s just something about it that makes it a little more down to earth. I’m pretty sure the modern 1 series driver is the type of BMW owner who will use their indicator and who will keep their distance when following you. In essence, BMW took a childish car and turned it into a more responsible adult with a bit of a wild side. However, it is still a BMW meaning that it is susceptible to being purchased by BMW drivers and we all know what that means. The 1 series has changed massively but Beemer drivers have not which means they also won’t care that it’s front wheel drive now.