BMW 1-Series (F20)


Debut: 2011
Maker: BMW
Predecessor: 1-Series E81/87



 Published on 2 Nov 2011 All rights reserved. 

7 years on, BMW 1-Series has yet to establish a reputation that its badge deserved. The baby Bimmer had whatever it needed to succeed, such as the only rear-drive chassis in family hatch segment, a 50/50 weight distribution, sophisticated suspensions and some excellent straight-six engines. It also got adequate investment, as shown by its availability in four body styles (3-door, 5-door, coupe and cabriolet) and a number of facelifts and engine upgrades during its lifespan. Somehow, its market success was modest. Last year, just under 200,000 units were sold, no better than Audi A3. Most telling, few people really saw it as a classier opponent to the mainstream Volkswagen Golf.

The original 1-Series had a number of problems. The biggest was the lack of interior space, something due to its unique FR layout. The second was its ugly design, the first example of Chris Bangle's flame surface nightmare. Its interior quality, boot space, ride comfort and the ability of throttle steer also fell short of expectation. This mean, while it had the best handling in family hatch segment, it was neither practical, desirable nor entertaining enough to win the hearts of motorists, sadly.

So, the engineers responsible for the second generation 1-Series, codenamed F20, had a long to-do list. Not only to correct the faults of the original car, they had to push the envelope of "EfficientDynamics" further, turning it into the green leader of the class.


Yes, the F20 is remarkably green. Headline model 116d EfficientDynamics emits only 99 grams of carbon-dioxide per kilometer and delivers a whopping 74 mpg fuel economy. Regular diesel models (116d, 118d and 120d) are also good for 63 mpg and under 120 g/km. Even a 118i petrol, which tops 140 mph and accelerates from rest to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, can achieve 49 mpg and 134 g/km. Such a bland of solid performance and environmental friendliness is impressive.

How to do that? As before, the car has automatic engine stop-start, on-demand oil/water pump and regenerative braking alternator equipped as standard. New improvements include a smaller petrol motor (1.6-liter turbo instead of 2-liter NA), electromechanical power steering, a slightly sleeker body, an 8-speed automatic transmission by ZF and a 4-mode control system defaulted to softer throttle response and, in case of automatic gearbox, lazier gearshift patterns. Moreover, an Eco mode tunes down air-con and heaters while displaying real-time fuel economy on the instrument panel to encourage you to drive greener, very much like many hybrid cars.

Unfortunately, the rest of the car is not so remarkable. In fact, compare with the brilliant VW Golf and Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the new 1-Series is still underwhelming in most aspects. Take the styling for example, Adrian van Hooydonk’s softer, rounder approach might be less controversial than Chris Bangle's, but it is still far from beautiful. While it retains the old car's flawed profile – with a too-long bonnet, rearward cabin and near-vertical tailgate, its surface twist has been tuned down to the extent of boring. The fuzzy shapes of its headlights, taillights, double-kidney grille and air intakes also fail to speak of style. The result is a design showing neither charms nor character of its own. Frankly, I would rather have the old design back.


A similar story can be told about the interior styling. Here, it follows the recent 6-Series to take back a driver-oriented center console, but the overall design is old-fashioned, looks like coming from yesteryears. I think it will get outdated in short term when new generation rivals emerge. Fortunately, the lack of style is compensated with higher quality plastics. They look and feel generally expensive. Not quite Audi-matching, but close. As you would expect for a BMW, driving position is faultless and the front seats are supportive.

To improve interior space, BMW enlarges the car, but we found its 85 mm more length, 17 mm more width and 30 mm more wheelbase translate to only 21 mm more legroom to the rear passengers, which means it is still the least accommodative in its class. 6 footers will find the rear seat cramped and hopeless to take on long journeys. To back the viewpoint, Autocar magazine took a measurement and found its rear legroom trails Alfa Giulietta by 40 mm – and mind you, no one has called the Alfa Romeo a space king.

Luggage space is much better. A longer overhang enables 30 liters of extra space, taking the boot to 360 liters. That matches Ford Focus and actually betters slightly VW and Alfa. Moreover, the rear seat is now 40/20/40-split, making loading large or long items more convenient.


The new 1-Series continues to share platform with 3-Series. Up front, it keeps the aluminum-intensive MacPherson struts of the old car. Each of the rear suspensions remains a five-link setup, with less costly steel components instead of the bigger car's aluminum ones. Admittedly, this enables the 1-Series to claim a 50:50 weight distribution despite of its lack of tail. To improve handling, front and rear tracks have been increased by 51 mm and 72 mm respectively. On the other hand, adaptive dampers have been added as cost option for those seeking better ride comfort, even though I think most cars won't be sold with it.

BMW claims a reduction of 30 kg across the range and a boost of 30 percet in the front structure's torsional rigidity through the use of high-strength, hot-stamped steel in the monocoque chassis. Despite that, we found the car is actually a few dozens kilograms heavier than the equivalent models of the old car. Anyway, considering the upgraded quality, equipment, green features and added size, the new car is not overweight.

On the road, the first you notice about the new chassis is improved ride comfort, thanks to softer springs and better damping. It now copes pretty well with B-roads, something its predecessor struggled. The electromechanical power steering is one of the best on the market, offering good weighting, progression and precision, if not the ultimate feel of the outgoing hydraulic rack. Most motoring journalists found it more satisfying to use on day-to-day basis because of its lighter helm and free of kickbacks. Body control sees a slight improvement, too, as are braking and high-speed stability. Nevertheless, the new 1-Series is no more fun to drive than the old car. Its chassis tuning biases towards the safe side. If you push it too hard, it will run into mild understeer. No matter lift off or apply more throttle, you cannot induce oversteer to the car. This chassis is inert to your commands. It does not inspire its driver like Focus, Giulietta or even Golf. Undoubtedly, it is a huge disappointment to the fans of BMW. It is a waste of the rear-drive chassis.


Compare with the chassis, the powertrain is more satisfying. Basically, BMW offers it only one petrol and one diesel engine, but they are given different states of tune to take the roles of 116i, 118i, 116d, 118d and 120d. The 1.6-liter direct-injected turbo petrol is a development from the one used on Mini, but is converted to longitudinal installation, added with Double Vanos (instead of the intake-only Vanos), Valvetronic and a twin-scroll turbocharger. It produces 136hp on 116i or 170hp on 118i. Both engines delight with lag-free power delivery, strong bottom-end torque, good refinement and a surprisingly delicious exhaust note. Only some harshness at high rev reminds you it is not a six-cylinder engine. BMW is not going to include its classic straight-six on the car on the grounds of cutting emission. The range-topper, a spiritual successor to 130i, will be powered by the 245hp 2.0-liter DI turbocharged four pot engine recently introduced to Z4 sDrive28i. Probably only the 1-Series M would get the six-cylinder treatment. That is not a good reason to keep that long long engine compartment.

On the diesel side, the 2.0-liter turbo diesel produces either 116hp on 116d, 143hp on 118d or 184hp on 120d. The last one is particularly strong, offering a muscular torque of 280 lbft to achieve 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds. Needless to say, such a strong torque curve means its best companion should be the ZF 8-speed automatic. Its seamless gearchange suits the refined character of the car. The 6-speed manual is not bad either, with short-throw and crisped gearchange in typical BMW fashion. It is just not as slick as some Japanese gearboxes.

In the end, however, I'm afraid we cannot award the car more than average rating. Its lack of rear seat space is a big minus to many family car buyers. Its ugly appearance is still an eye sore to us. Its lack of driver engagement is especially disappointing for a BMW. You can be better served by a Golf or Giulietta at lower cost. Wake up, Munich, EfficientDynamics is not everything !
Verdict: 

 Published on 15 Aug 2012 All rights reserved. 
M135i


25 years ago, a hot hatch would be considered as a hit if it possessed 150 horsepower. A decade later, 200 hp became the norm. By the early 2000s, Alfa Romeo 147 GTA lifted the bar again to 250 hp with a large V6 engine, accompanied with 150-plus mph top speed. It raised a question: is there a limit for hot hatches? The answer was proved to be negative when Ford broke the 300-horsepower barrier with Focus RS (305 hp) and its limited edition RS500 (350 hp) in 2009 and 2010 respectively. So powerful that they entered the territory once reserved for the rally-bred Mitsubishi Lancer Evo and Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

Nevertheless, the Focus RS could not beat the mighty Japanese duo. Neither can all the mainstream front-wheel drive hot hatches nor the front-biased Audi RS3. Only the rear-wheel-drive BMW 1-Series has a chance. Admittedly, we had little faith on the regular 1-Series models because of their ugly styling and lack of driver engagement. However, the good basis is there for sure and it needs only adequate revision to unlock its potential. A trademark 3-liter turbocharged straight-six should bring unprecedented performance, smoothness and aural excitement to the hot hatch class, ditto rear-drive dynamics. Finally, the badge M135i should guarantee near M-car level of thrills without losing day-to-day usability, just like the recent M550d.

The N55 straight-six engine really makes the difference. It should not have appeared on a hot hatch, but somehow the 1-Series' engine compartment is large enough to fit it (as it shares platform with 3-Series). It is mounted longitudinally and most of it is located behind the front axle, so the car achieves near 50:50 weight distribution. The old generation 130i also featured a 3-liter straight-six, but this one is additionally boosted by a twin-scroll turbo and fed by direct fuel injection. No wonder it produces 320 horsepower and 332 pound-foot of torque. Compare with the N54 unit serving the old-style 1-Series M, it loses one turbo but is compensated with Valvetronic variable valve lift. The latter is now light enough to withstand 7000-rpm redline, so the N55 is every bit a good old BMW straight-six, being smooth, eager to rev and good to listen. Save a slower throttle response at low speed, it feels like a naturally aspirated six. This engine makes the M135i feel so much classier than all other hot hatches on the market!



Performance is also far superior than other hot hatches save Audi RS3. It takes only 4.9 seconds to go from rest to 60 mph. If you take the 8-speed ZF auto – yes, a paddle-shift torque converter automatic rather than a twin-clutch gearbox – it can even reduce that time to 4.7 seconds. That is a full second quicker than the fastest generation hot hatches like Renault Megane RS 265 and Opel Astra OPC! With more power and less weight, the M135i is also faster than Evo and STi in straight line, if not from A to B. In fact, its 0-60 mph figure matches exactly the old-style 1-Series M.

The automatic gearbox might sound strange to a driver's car, but it actually works brilliantly – smooth, responsive and offers a wide spread of ratios. It is probably a better companion than the 6-speed manual.

Handling and ride is also very good. The car feels agile, taut yet absorbent. Its Adaptive M Sport suspension and non-run-flat tires keep it planted without punishing its driver, so it is far more comfortable than 1-Series M for everyday driving. Its brakes might not be as gigantic as the latter's, but they are more than adequate for road use. Cornering prowess is equally impressive, thanks to the endless grip generated by the 245/35ZR18 rubbers. The beefed-up electric power steering with only 2.0 turns lock to lock makes the car feel very responsive to steer. This is also helped by the well balanced chassis and the lack of inertia at its nose. The M135i has a "light on its feet" feeling unfound on other hot hatches. Its cornering attitude is very close to neutral. You can induce oversteer precisely with throttle, something its rivals could only dream of. The absence of limited-slip differential means it is not able to hold big power slide like a 1-Series M or M3, but that does not hurt its credibility as a keen driver's car.

Flaws are few – the electrical power steering is not as communicative as the hydraulic rack on 1M; the styling is still far from attractive, although it is already an improvement from the regular 1-Series. These weaknesses are easily forgivable if you look at its strength – the premium engine, class-leading performance and entertaining chassis. Figure in the BMW badge and a surprising £30K price tag, this could be one of the best bargains to keen drivers in recent years.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
118i
2011
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4324 / 1765 / 1421 mm
2690 mm
Inline-4
1598 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
170 hp
184 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
195/55VR16
1295 kg
140 mph (c)
7.0 (c)
-
120d
2011 (2016)
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4324 / 1765 / 1421 mm
2690 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1995 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
184 hp (190 hp)
280 lbft (295 lbft)
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/55VR16
1345 kg
142 mph (c)
6.8 (c) (6.7 (c))
-
125d
2012 (2016)
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4324 / 1765 / 1421 mm
2690 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1995 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Sequential twin-turbo
CDI
218 hp (224 hp)
332 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/50WR17
1405 kg (1425 kg)
149 mph (c)
6.2 (c) (6.0 (c))
-




Performance tested by: -





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
125i
2012 (2016)
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4324 / 1765 / 1421 mm
2690 mm
Inline-4
1997 cc (1998 cc)
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
218 hp (224 hp)
228 lbft
6-spd manual (8-spd auto)
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/50WR17

1345 kg (1400 kg)
152 mph (c) (151 mph (c))
6.1 (c) (5.8 (c))
-
M135i
2012
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4340 / 1765 / 1411 mm
2690 mm
Inline-6
2979 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
320 hp / 5800-6000 rpm
332 lbft / 1300-4500 rpm
6-spd manual (8-spd auto)
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 225/40ZR18
R: 245/35ZR18
1430 kg (1455 kg)
155 mph (limited)
4.9 (c) (4.7 (c) / 4.6*)
(11.4*)
118i
2016
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4324 / 1765 / 1421 mm
2690 mm
Inline-3
1499 cc
DOHC 12 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
136 hp
162 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
195/55R16

1300 kg
130 mph (c)
8.0 (c)
-




Performance tested by: *Autocar





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
M140i
2016
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4340 / 1765 / 1411 mm
2690 mm
Inline-6
2998 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
340 hp / 5500 rpm
369 lbft / 1520-4500 rpm
6-spd manual (8-spd auto)
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 225/40ZR18
R: 245/35ZR18
1445 kg (1470 kg)
155 mph (limited)
4.6 (c) (4.4 (c))
-




















































Performance tested by: -




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M140i

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