By on May 28, 2007

front-mountain.jpgIn Europe, BMW’s expanding model line-up has transformed the German automaker’s brand perception from the pistonhead’s prerogative to the arriviste’s wheels of choice. While the mighty M3 continues to rival Porsche’s 911 for street cred, and the previous gen M5 is still considered the Mack Daddy of sports sedans, BMW’s move into SUV’s and mass market motors has wounded its perceived pedigree. Is the hatchback-style, entry-level 1-Series another case of brand defilement, or is it a look back to classic small BMW’s like the 2002?

Judging by its looks, the 1-Series is to the 2002 what Gangsta Rap is to Rhythm and Blues. Whether you’re grimacing at the three or five-door, the BMW 1-Series is one seriously ugly ultimate driving machine. From its goofy proportions, to its misjudged details, to convex flame surfacing (that makes the car look like a pot belly pig from the side), this Bimmer is a bummer. While some people consider small, ugly vehicles “cute,” they’re wrong. Perhaps that’s why Bimmers’ bureaucrats have decided that the States might get the next, easier-on-the-eyes version in 2008, with three-box, two-door styling.

interior2.jpgFortunately, the 1-Series’ interior design is modern, sculpted, strong and coherent. The plastics are not up to Munich’s usual standards, but price considerations have otherwise inflicted a welcome, dare I say nostalgic minimalism.

The iDrive nav/menu screen is a perfect example. The foldaway screen lives on the top of the 1-Series’ dash; it’s a far safer and more elegant solution than the Teletubbies-style hutch sheltering Bimmer’s upmarket iDrive carriers. It should also be said that it’s well past time that BMW dropped its ergonomic arrogance and adopted standard icons and HMI procedures.

side.jpgEuro-hacks have criticized the 1-Series’ interior for being cramped. Not so: there’s ample room in the front. Seriously volks, while the 3-Series mini-me’s rear headroom won’t find favor with anyone over 6", legroom is carpool-compatible. Put another way, the 1-Series is less space efficient than a similarly-sized Golf, but more spacious than a MINI. Considering the fact that the diminutive Bimmer is Europe's smallest rear-wheel drive (RWD) car, the rear space is a mitzvah.

The same cannot be said about the 1-Series’ visibility. It’s yet another high-beltlined car that shows the world your armpit if you should ever, Gott behüte, do the urban cruise.

rear-hatch.jpgMy tester came equipped with the second least powerful engine in the European 1-Series range: a 143hp 2.0-liter four. (The 116i mostly sees rental and fleet service.) The 118i's miniature powerplant proved tractable and linear, with a useful power band from 1200 to 6200 rpm. So motivated, the 1-Series may not be particularly fast (0 to 60mph in 8.4 seconds), but it is fun.

The basic recipe is sound enough: RWD, short-wheelbase, reasonably low weight and BMW’s traditional 50/50 weight distribution. To this formula BMW adds a dollop of ingredient X: aluminum.

front-corner.jpgMunich’s mechanical maestros fabricate much of the 1-Series’ front suspension and subframe from aluminum, as well as the axle, suspension struts and pivot bearings. Out back, they’ve blessed the 1-Series with BMW’s justifiably famous five-link rear suspension; the same greasy bits that give the 1-Series’ big brothers their remarkable poise and ride quality. Better yet, Bimmer boffins have tuned the 1-Series’ multi-link’s toe-in, toe-out and camber angles to increase cornering agility.

The overall result is a fantastically chuckable and agile package that feels more solid than any other hatchback I’ve ever driven. BMW’s much maligned electric steering works perfectly in this application. Around town, it’s strictly point and squirt. At speed, the 1-Series’ helm feels as meaty as its perfectly sized steering wheel.

rear-corner.jpgThe 1-Series' suspension set-up is comfortable enough for older drivers who still kick out the jams from time to time. Above 95 mph, the car gets a bit bouncy, reminding you of its short wheel base. At autobahn speeds, the 1-Series is sensitive to crosswinds (perhaps the only real disadvantage of the RWD concept). Certainly, there are better long-distance executive cruisers.

As you’d hope, you can fling the 1-Series around with genuine confidence. Imagine blasting out of a traffic circle in a small car with fantastic feedback, without any torque-steer corruption. Nothing else in this category comes close; you'd need a Porsche or Lotus to better it. This Bimmer’s combination of agility, strength and compactness (and a small turning radius) make it a surprisingly useful urban runabout. Piloting the 1-Series, U-turns are a joy and rural roads paradise.

Upon returning the BMW, I felt a genuine pang of loss. Either I'm getting old or BMW has gotten better. It's probably both, but the latter is the stronger reason for giving this car a [close your eyes until you’re behind the wheel] thumbs-up. BMW may be destroying its exclusivity by making something for everyone, but what a way to go. 

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73 Comments on “BMW 118i Review...”

  • avatar

    Interesting little car. Wonder how much it’d cost if brought to the states.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer


    Net price in Germany for the basic 118i, five-door: under €20k net, which would be around 26k$ US. But you know how parsimonius BMW is with the toys and luxury stuff..

  • avatar

    I drove the 118d last year and it was an incredible machine. It was a precision instrument with which to carve through the mountainous roads of the Dolomites in Northern Italy.

    Rear legroom is pretty poor, but then again it is a small car. I see the 1er all the time, but even now, I have to agree, it is one of the most ugliest cars around. I took many many pictures, but have very few in which I could find a pleasing angle.

    Dynamically, as Martin describes, a delight to drive. Perfect sized steering wheel, and telepathic reflexes in taming meandering switchbacks and cliffhangers. The diesel engine was sublime. Great torque available at low revs, adept passing power and smooth and effortless autobahn cruising.

    Apart from the exterior looks, I loved this car. If only more North Americans could sample the dynamics of this car, and more vitally, the frugal, but powerful diesel.

    Great review.

  • avatar

    Martin Schwoerer:
    May 28th, 2007 at 9:52 am


    Net price in Germany for the basic 118i, five-door: under €20k net, which would be around 26k$ US. But you know how parsimonius BMW is with the toys and luxury stuff..

    True, just wondering how much of a mark up this thing would get here. This thing would have some very stiff competition at that price range.

  • avatar

    With how European cars are being priced these days, the U.S. price would be lower than that.

    I’m very interested in driving this car. I’ve been suggesting for years that someone should offer a RWD compact with a starting price in the low 20s, essentially a de-contented, de-massed, and de-priced 3-Series. I didn’t think BMW would be the company to offer such a car, but all the better if it is.

    GM keeps talking about doing something similar with its Alpha platform. The more the merrier.

  • avatar

    “…the States might get the next, easier-on-the-eyes version in 2008, with three-box, two-door styling.”
    Shame, I’d take ugly over impractical any day.

  • avatar

    Martin – why didn’t you say how you really felt about the 1-series “design”… I agree with you on the dreadful direction set by Chris Bangle, yet finally gave in and bought a 335 because it still *drives* better than its competition. Aesthetically, I prefer any of its competitors (IS350, G35 or even the C-class), but none of them have really put the package together in a great car.

    On the other hand, if given the choice between driving dynamics and great looks, I’ll always go for the driving side of the equation. The Boxster and Mazda MX5 are relatively homely sitting next to a Saturn Sky, but we know which one is the sports car and which is the poseur.

  • avatar

    143hp, RWD, and 40+ MPG (maybe)?
    Was this a diesel, or are these just very efficient gasoline engines? My 180hp (probably 130hp without the turbo) GTI is FWD and gets just 33mpg on the highway. I’ll bet the Bimmer even weighs more.

    I love hatchbacks–some days I swear I’ll never buy anything else. But this bimmer is so ugly that I think I’d buy the coupe and just pick up a beater or keep my old SUV for schlepping bikes.

    For some reason all I can see when I look at the front is a handlebar moustache.

  • avatar

    If the price is Euro 20K, then with current currency conversions that should be about $13-16K in US dollars – or less. The weak US dollar should give BMW an advantage selling here.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    I think the numbers in your calculation are reversed. €20.000 would be $26,000 (weak dollar means more US currency for fewer Euros).

    Even still, direct exchange rates never price cars in the U.S. Odds are good that if and when the 1 or 2 series comes to the U.S., it will start around $28,000 and top out in the high $30,000s.

  • avatar

    1. This IS NOT the FL version (= better interior, more power, more torque, less fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions).
    [ Chose the FL 120d or upcoming 123/125d with 204hp&400Nm for something interesting. ]

    BTW, did you mentioned purchase and/or ownership taxes across Europe ?!

    2.a. This car is NOT cheap. German prices DO NOT reflect the rest of Europe due to differences in taxation, were it will be at least 25k to 30k euros, with prices probably surpassing these levels in Denmark, Norway, Belgium.
    2.b. This is not coming to USA, only the 1er Coupe and Cabrio are.

    3. What a way to go were ?!
    Remember the 1802 Touring, the 2002 Touring or the
    old 3er Touring …

  • avatar

    Whatever its merits, the 1-Series is seriously esthetically challenged. On a recent trip overseas, the first time that I saw a 1-Series I reacted with horror.

  • avatar

    it is ugly. the upcoming Ford Flex is bloody brilliant, in comparison.

  • avatar

    OOPS! Can I claim it was too early in the morning. Of course I’ve got it backwards – Euro 20K is $26K plus in dollars. Sorry – I usually don’t make these stupid mistakes..

  • avatar

    I don’t know… I mean the 2002 strikes me as spectacularly ugly, but at the same time, alluringly beautiful… hasn’t happened with the 1-series, yet… but if nostalgia starts to kick in, maybe ten years down the line, maybe it will… :D

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Aww, it’s not that ugly. Just the fact that the hatch can’t have a two-tier tush gives it points in my book. Of course, I drive a Subaru, so my opinion probably doesn’t count.

    If BMW doesn’t bring the hatch version of this to the US, I’ll have to cry… the aforementioned Subaru will need replacing in about a year and a half and the 5-door hatch version of this would probably be perfect. How hard is it to import one of these?

  • avatar

    I rented one of these for a week, while abroad. I’m tall, 6’4″, but had no trouble feeling comfortable behind the wheel. The car seemed to fit nice and tight around me – felt connected as I had fun driving it. Have to agree with the review: handing it back seemed wrong.

    3-door, 120i version. There’s a 265bhp 6-cylinder version that must be a hedonistic drive given the weight-to-power ratio combined with absence of torque-steer.

  • avatar

    We should know soon enough. The 1 series coupe and cabrio are due here in early 2008. I’m really looking forward to see if they make a 135 with the TT 6. It would be nice to be able to buy a new BMW instead of looking at ones 2+ years old.

    There is also rumor of an M1 with the e46’s M3 powerplant massaged to about 360hp. Now that would be something.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I “drove” the turbo diesel version on GT4 a few months back. The torque to weight ratio and driving dynamics must make that version a practical rocketship in the real world too. RWD, torque, small dimensions, balanced chassis…who cares if its ugly?

    Great review. I want it here in the states.

  • avatar

    Are they really bringing the 1-series Stateside in 2008? I know they have been saying they were going to bring it here for the last 5 years. I hope this isn’t just another tease for us that really want to drive the car.

  • avatar

    As a former BMW owner (325is and two M3’s), this car, even with the current styling, could have me looking to trade in our Mazda3 5-door.

    However, since when is 0-60 in under 9 seconds from a garden variety four-banger considered under par? Are we getting THAT jaded on acceleration?

    I can see where some reviewers need to be forcably put behind the wheel of some late 70’s/early 80’s four cylinder cars, just for a reality check.

  • avatar

    Chris Bangle really revolutionized the design process when he told his crew to switch off the lights in the studio, droodle some sketches, and send it away to production. I mean, the sagging belly couldn’t have been drawn with the lights on, or with a low alcohol level, no way! So, I’ll stick with my pre-Bangle E39 until they have face-lifted the current models back to normality.

    I’d like to follow up another thing you mention; cruising with the arm resting on the window sill. Now, I haven’t been in a car that has been suitable for this once cherished pastime in decades. Either the window sill is too high, or you’re sitting too far away from the door, or there is something else wrong. The best car to perform this sport in, was the original Volvo 144/142. The seat was positioned ideally in relation to the door, and the window sill was a flat expanse, great for resting your arm! Of course Volvo ruined this great feature in the early seventies when they introduced a lower window molding, thereby cutting blood flow to the “tan” arm. And, with side windows the size of mail slots these days, I don’t see this activity returning any time soon!

  • avatar


    I believe the 6-cylinder engine delivers 0-60 in 6 seconds. Jade on. Jade off. :-)

  • avatar

    My car is a black Mazda 3 hatchback, if this BMW was available in the states when I bought the Mazda, I would not think twice, I don’t care if it looks ugly to some people, but how can you say no to a RWD car for this price?
    I suspect that when and if it will be available here, it would be so expensive that the competition will be the A4.
    For some reason, we get only expensive BMW and Mercedes here, 3 series start with the 325i, E class start with the 320, no wonder many people can’t afford them.
    Imagine if Toyota would sell only V6 Camry’s, XLE with leather, how many people would buy it over the Accord?

  • avatar

    I have faith in BMW that this little car’s drawbacks will be squamished in the next refresh.

    It’s got potential to be a hit: for buyers looking for a small, affordable RWD car, there’s a handful of cheap and cheerful 2 seater roadsters, and this. Everyone else has vacated the market.

    I’m looking forward to taking “1” out for a spin.

    As a side note to all this Banglized flame surfacing, I used to prefer the sublty-styled 3 over the mascara-eyed 5-series, but after a few months, the 5 is growing on me while the 3 is starting to look…I dunno…a little too Japanese?

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger 3-door, 120i version. There’s a 265bhp 6-cylinder version that must be a hedonistic drive given the weight-to-power ratio combined with absence of torque-steer.

    *insert picture of dog with “Do Want” Caption on it here* No, seriously. The idea of this sounds awesome. And it’s the type of car I’m looking at getting next time. (Mazda3 Hatch/Rabbit) Course that’d bump the price a little higher than I’d like…

    Seriously, BMW, bring this over here already!

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Stein: I can’t drive the 256HP 130i — I would probably be unable to talk about anything else for a few weeks and would turn into a complete bore.

    Tsofting: glad you agree with the cruising bit. It really makes you wonder: why do they make cars that are supposed to make you feel good, if they don’t allow you to look cool?

    Sykerocker: I agree 100%. My next (intended) review will be the Toyota Aygo, a 0-60 in 13 sec vehicle that is still plenty fun.

    Thanks, everybody else, for the kind comments!

  • avatar

    I wonder if a 2.0L turbo is coming sometime? 2 liter efficiency, 4-cylinder weight and cost, with lots of power and torque. The only downside I see of that configuration is smoothness. I guess the 2 liter turbo-diesel sort of fits that bill.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I believe the rise of the Euro is going to seriously hurt the 1-series in the States.

    $26,000 for a BASE model. That means you’re pushing 30k loaded up with the base engine. Even with the snob value of owning a BMW, they’re going to be hitting the 350z, GTI, Mini, A3, S2000 (in the upper reaches), next gen Accord Coupe, and the next gen Mazda 3 high-end models head-on.

    You can also throw in the Evo, the WRX, whatever Toyota does with their TC, and the potential resurrection of the CRX.

    If this were Y2K when the 90 cents could buy a Euro (vs. $1.37 today), this would be a shoe-in for a frontrunner. However, I don’t see BMW bringing this vehicle to the states in anything but very limited numbers. The currency exchange rates leave them with little choice.

    It’s a shame really. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, BMW competed quite well with their 318’s. Today it’s a different world.

  • avatar

    It’s a nice looking car.

  • avatar

    What an odd coincidence: the Bimmer does 0-60 in 8.4 and it’s fun, but a family hauler posts the same figures and it’s slow.

    Anyhow, great review — the pot belly pig comment is dead on.

  • avatar

    >>Whether you’re grimacing at the three or five-door, the BMW 1-Series is one seriously ugly ultimate driving machine. From its goofy proportions, to its misjudged details, to convex flame surfacing (that makes the car look like a pot belly pig from the side), this Bimmer is a bummer.

    While the 1 pictured about is no beauty, the proportions and general appearance are far superior to those damned BMW SUVs.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    If it drives that well – who gives a damn if it’s ugly?

  • avatar

    Can anyone explain why a company like BMW wouldn’t make a small (2-2.5 liter) inline six cylinder engine for cars like this? Is the four about shortening the hood, and/or more interior space? Or is there some other reason why we don’t see 2 liter inline sixes for cars like this?

  • avatar

    Chris Bangle really revolutionized the design process when he told his crew to switch off the lights in the studio, droodle some sketches, and send it away to production.

    This still has me laughing. I’m doing the same – I’m keeping my e46 until BMW remembers how to style a car, both exterior ad interior.

    And the iDrive!! I know it’s been covered, but damn itsucks. I drove my aunt’s 7 series for the first time a few weeks ago adn trying to change the radio station to something that wasn’t a preset was agonizing. Hell, even picking a preset was bad. This was sitting in the driveway, too. I can’t imagine trying to do that while actually piloting 5500 lbs (!) of death and destruction.

    I wish that more focus was given to reducing bloat and weight these days. The current 3 series is within about 3 inches of being as large as an e34 5 series, and actually does weigh as much. I give Audi BIG credit for making the new TT weigh less than the old one. I hope that becomes a trend.

    I own a 1793 2002tii. I love it with all my heart. 130HP and 2100 lbs is a recipe for fun. I’m in the process of restoring it and I’ll be keeping it for a long time. I don’t see any current BMW evoking the same reaction.

    I love the 2002 styling, second only to the 3.0 coupes of the time. But the 118i in this review is horrible. It’s competing with the 5 series for the worst looking BMW out there.

    I can’t believe that they aren’t going to bring the (restyled) hatch to the US. Terrible. BMW, where have you gone (wrong)?!

    Finally, BMW did make a 2.2 I6 for the european market – we never got it in the US. I don’t know what advantage it would have over a similar sized 4 banger. Other than probably being really rev happy – that 2.2 must be a hoot to wind out. Didn’t Mazda make a 1.8 liter V6 at some point?

    (This rambling post brought to you by the last of a long weekend and delicious Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon)

  • avatar

    Looks like a fun car. Could be seriously good if kept around USD$20k.

    Should it be USD$26k as some have suggest, then it’s just another overpriced German crap. You see, at $26k, you can have WRX, Legacy wagon or TSX. Should it hit $30k with more options, it’s base IS250/CTS territory.

  • avatar

    It’s interesting to see enthusiasts’ priorities. There are a lot of “don’t-give-a-damn-about-the-styling” folks. I’m not one of them. I once owned an ugly reliable car that I loved and hated because not only was it not fun to look at, it was embarrassingly ugly. Even if this BMW didn’t have the iDrive and stupid pop-up navigation crap, it wouldn’t make my list because it is just too ugly. Yes, there are worse out there, but when I go out to my garage, I want to admire the design of the car I own. Of course it has to be a satisfying driver’s car (automatics are and, barring a crippling injury, never will be on my list) which I can hoon the hell out of, or gently cruise around in as I please. Maybe it was rolling all those Matchboxes and Hot Wheels around on the floor when I was a tike, but I’ve learned that when it comes to cars, I gotta like what I look at.

  • avatar

    Was in Europe earlier this year and finally saw the 1-series “in-the-metal”…

    … Goddamn! It’s ugly. I can’t imagine owning one.

    The Audi A2 on the other hand….

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Drew: to be honest with you, I had few problems with the 1-Series’ toned-down iDrive. Graphics were good-looking and clear and several often-used functions such as radio controls were duplicated on dash switches. I was able to walk myself through just about everything in fifteen minutes (and I am a guy who refuses to use a Windows computer because I find Macs friendlier).

    However, some functions were annoyingly counter-intuitive. Why is there no obvious “escape” function in the Sat-Nav, for instance? I had to interrupt a drive just to find out how to turn the darn thing off. BMW’s Germanic arrogance…

  • avatar


    Armrest cruising facility is most important! :-) Actually helped me decide on my most recent car (which I’ve already plugges so shamelessly that I will refrain from doing so now).
    But compared to most cars out there this one has my elbow comfortably in place:

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Mazda offered a 1.8L V6 in their MX-3 2 seater sport hatch thingy in the early-mid 90’s.

  • avatar

    I still don’t see the ugliness… though I think it would be hideous as a 3-box coupe.

    When I first read about the 120d, I felt like I’d found the car I’ve always been looking for… and for many of the same reasons, its the car no one will ever bring to the US. Why is it that manual transmissions, rear wheel drive, diesel engines and hatchbacks are always said to be “unappealing” to the ‘Merican public? I’d go against everything I’ve ever stood for and buy a new car if I had to, just to get that combination.

  • avatar


    Drove past several on my way into town today, 3 and 5 door. The car looks good – I agree, I don’t see the ugly.

  • avatar

    For some reason, we get only expensive BMW and Mercedes here, 3 series start with the 325i, E class start with the 320, no wonder many people can’t afford them.

    I doubt BMW and M-B want every Tom, Dick, & Harry driving their cars here in the ‘States as you lose the exclusivity, never mind having to increase your parts pipeline, service bays, etc.

  • avatar

    @ David Holzman; like someone already mentioned they do make smaller i6 engines, like the 2.2 and 2.5 that are still offered in the Euro Z4. At one point they even made (lots of) 2.0s for the 320(e36/e46) and 520(e39). The reason they stepped of this is even Europeans were complaining about lack of low end torque.

    Most of these weren’t and aren’t offered in the USA. Untill recently the European 325 and 525 were 2.5s as well, but they changed that to a detuned version of the 3.0 like they have offered for a long time in the US.

    On the other hand however, we Europeans don’t get the 535i (yet). Instead we get the, also 306 HP, 4.0 V8 540i. Not bad either…

    On the 1-Series; I believe they’re going to offer a 135i in the near future. Quite possibly “the ultimate driving machine”.

  • avatar

    @JJ: You’re absolutely right. I own a 1990 320i convertible (E30) with the M20 2-litre inline-6 (129hp). No acceleration whatsoever below 4000rpm in 3rd-5th gear… Nice sound though.

  • avatar

    Looks like a really expensive Mazda3 hatch.

  • avatar

    I had a 120d as a rental in Germany and I loved it. The Diesel engine makes it a very entertaining drive and the mileage was 45+MPH despite my best attempts at hoonage. I don’t have a problem with the styling and would go as far as saying that a 120d could replace my current 330ci if BMW every decides to sell it here in the US.

  • avatar

    As a current E46 owner, I too wish they would sell a simpler, lighter, 4 seater in the US. This 1-series may be the ticket. Give me the great BMW motor and driving dynamics and hold all the electronic gadgetry. Must be loaded for 30K! I have not been that impressed with the E90 3 series so far. Seems like its getting too soft to me.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I agree. I just can’t seem to warm up to the latest 3 series. Meanwhile, at 20-25K, the 1 Series would be great. Upper 20’s and well into the 30’s? There’s just no way. And remember, in addition to the problem with the dollar-euro exchange rate, BMW guards its reputation as a maker of premium vehicles even more cautiously in North America than it does in Europe. Just like Mercedes and Audi. While I want to like the 1 Series, I think it’s a non-starter for me and many others.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I just thought of something: What if they build the 1 Series coupe that we’re supposed to get right here in the USA? I have no idea if this is the plan. But if it is, we might just see it for 25K or under (at least a base version). That would be an whole ‘nuther smoke.

  • avatar

    @JJ: You’re absolutely right. I own a 1990 320i convertible (E30) with the M20 2-litre inline-6 (129hp). No acceleration whatsoever below 4000rpm in 3rd-5th gear… Nice sound though.

    but how does it compare to a 2-liter 4? I don’t see why it wouldn’t be just as peppy as the 4, and a lot smoother.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    David Holzman: I didn’t write about BMW’s newest generation of fours because I wanted to focus on other aspects of the 1-series that may appeal to enthusiasts. However, the fours are pretty impressive from an engineering point of view and offer about 20% lower fuel consumption and considerably lower CO2 emissons than the previous generation. BMW employs what they call “soft-hybrid” technology — for example, the engine shuts itself off at traffic lights and the alternator only charges the battery when the car is decelerating. I can testify that this stuff is pretty unobtrusive but more to the point, the torque and power band is pretty wide. A six might sound more musical, but would probably consume and weigh more and be less torquey (unless they really perfected their Vanos act).

  • avatar

    Chalk me up as one who actually likes the looks of the 1-series hatch. It would complement our Mazda3 5dr quite nicely.

    When I heard that the 1-series hatch was not coming to NA (yet?), I was upset. I mean, a car that’s so low on interior room to begin with NEEDS to be a hatchback for a semblance of practicality, otherwise I think up to 50% of potential sales will be lost. Most of the 2-door notchback sales will be to poseurs who couldn’t afford a new 3-series Bimmer otherwise. Those who already can afford the 3-series AND are looking for a smaller car in general will reluctantly turn away, as the level of practicality won’t be there. These people are cross-shopping the A3, the C30, the GTI, the WRX wagon, etc.

    I really hope BMW wisens up and brings us the hatchback soon.

    PS, the 3.0L Diesel 6 would be the BOMB in this application.

  • avatar

    The diesel six would make it too nose heavy – what’s coming instead is a sequential twin turbo four. (123d)

  • avatar

    @David Holzman: Basic rule of thumb: The bigger the cylinder, the more low end torque you get. Just compare a 500cc 4 cylinder bike engine with a one-banger.

  • avatar

    Vega, does that mean that, say, a 2 liter 4cyl will have more low end torque than a 2 liter (or even, perhaps, a 2.5 liter) 6 cyl, all else being equal? And if so, why are Hondas so notable for lacking oomph at the low end, yet being torquey at high revs?

  • avatar

    MR42HH: The diesel six would make it too nose heavy – what’s coming instead is a sequential twin turbo four. (123d)

    Fair enough, if the 123d offers at least 200 hp, I’m sold (ahem…if it’s a hatchback, of course).

  • avatar

    I’d love this car. I wish BMW would sell the 4 cylinder 1 and 3 series here. I don’t need a 0-60 in 5 seconds car, 9 seconds is OK.

  • avatar

    At the risk of repeating myself

    This is not coming to USA, only the 1er Coupe and Cabrio are.

    > There is to be an M1 with 3.2 inline 6 revised
    > There is to be a 2.0 vtt diesel, 204 hp/400 Nm

  • avatar
    Jan Andersson

    Funny – my son 28, an architect, loves the shape of this Gremlin face. It’s the only car that really makes him happy. What does he know that I don’t?

  • avatar

    German car design has always been distinctive and consistent with their psyche not necessarily passionate ala the Italian or French designs.
    Recall the German designs of the 50’s, especially the Audi and Borgward. Very different from what we Americans were used to at the time.
    Over time I think the Germans and others began to design their cars more like American Cars but now are reverting back to their own distinctive style.
    Buy it to be different.

  • avatar

    Was that actually a nicely designed, understated interior in a BMW? What a concept! While the new 3-series interior minus iDrive looks a little too generic, especially for the insane money they want for it after a couple of non-iDrive options, this actually has a bit of useful style.
    Couldn’t they build this for the American/Canadian/Mexican market in South Carolina? I thought that’s what’s keeping the Z4 and X3/5 prices from causing trembling when writing the check to the dealer.
    In the latest round of automobile rags, some design drawings (not sure how true to form they actually are) are being circulated that shows a major toning down of the Bangle-ish destruction of styling cues. I’m hoping that by the time the next 3-series is done, the flame experiment is a long lost memory. I do have to admit that in darker colors, the 3-series couple doesn’t look too overdone with the odd shapes and design cues.
    There’s a very real chance that I am going to be working in Australia by the end of the year – I need to see if these 1-series cars are available there since I am interested.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Jan Andersson,

    Your comments ring a bell. In writing this piece I originally planned to construct a connection between Brutalist architecture (of the 1970s) and BMW’s styling regime.

    Both, I think, are connected to a superiority complex: engineers/artists who think they can do no wrong, and don’t have to worry about conventions. Both got it wonderfully right some times and terribly wrong most of the time.

    Anyway, the 1-Series does grow on some people. (No, I don’t mean like mold). The new two-door hatchback, happily, does not have a saggy belly any more. And ugliness is only skin deep…

  • avatar

    I think it will sell here. I see the public turning to smaller cars because of the gas prices. Despite the whining the day of the SUV is over. I just picked up my Audi A3 which competes directly with this car. Granted I custom ordered (ocean blue) but the little beast is a star wherever I go. The day I brought it home people went crazy over it – what is it, how much was, I love the car, blah, blah. I have had people follow me in parking lots and walk up to me. The car is an instant star.

    This nonsense about Americans not like hatchbacks is just Detroit talking crap. My A3 is a hatchback and not a single person has commented about the hatchback and it being “cheap”. So much for that.

    BTW, my A3 is a 2.0T with the DSG and I have to say its a lot fun to drive. As fun as a lot of cars costing a lot more.

    I think BMW should bring it here, they will be suprised.

  • avatar

    I have always liked the 1-series hatchback style, I seem the regulary come up from Mexico (I live in San Diego). I currently have a 318ti M-tech with a coilover suspension, 245/40/17’s all around and a lot of other goodies. It’s a blast to drive! Hopefully an M3 engine swap will be done in the near future.

    I would love to own a 130i M-tech in Le Mans Blue. That engine is fantastic and pulls quite well to its 7k redline. Put that in a small and agile car and you have driving nirivana. BMW has been racing the 1-series in some leagues, I believe it has been doing quite well.

    I also like the A3 a lot inside and out…but having driven the 2.0T DSG and 6-spd and 3.2 Quattro…that heavy nose and FWD origin just doesn’t cut it for me.

  • avatar

    Interesting that Clarkson liked the VW R32 pretty soundly better than the 130, IIRC, both from a handling as well as a build quality standpoint. Bonus points to VW for no badge snobbery, negative points for horrible dealerships (in the US)

  • avatar

    I also do not see the ugly here.

  • avatar

    As people start getting rid of their SUVs, they’ll still need to put bulky stuff somewhere. A 5 dr hatch that is well-executed could do double duty as a small hooning car (hooner?) daily plus be capable to do that Costco run.

  • avatar

    A rear wheel drive hatchback?

    I’m interested. I’ll have to test drive one of these if it comes State-side.

  • avatar

    I simply CANNOT wait for the 1 series in the U.S. The BMW 135i will be my next car. a lower price tag, great engine, smaller body, and BMW engineering. sold. can anyone make a compelling argument for a 350z after this?

  • avatar

    I have been driving this car in the Philippines since May 2005. All I can say is I LOVE THIS CAR! It fits my city lifestyle and it is fuel-efficient. Everyone who sees it say it’s handsome. That’s my only problem…hahaha. Because it’s not a handsome man who is behind the wheel but a beautiful woman.

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