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2012 BMW 1 Series: First Drive Review - VIDEO ENHANCED

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2012 BMW 1 Series

BMW 1 Series Grows up

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

BERLIN - July 17, 2011: Nowadays, motorists are downsizing, but that doesn’t mean that they do not want premium cars. Therefore, it looks like the second generation BMW 1 Series is arriving right in time. In 2004, BMW launched its first small model. Nearly 1.3 million units were sold since its introduction in 2004, even though the 1 Series was not applauded by everybody. Its major glitches were the disappointing comfort and cramped space for rear passengers. Therefore, the designers and engineers main goal was to address those issues when designing and developing the new ‘1’.

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2012 BMW 1 Series

First of all the new 1 Series gets an new architecture with a longer wheelbase (now 2.690 mm /105.9 inches). Length and width increase too but the height remains the same. It is obvious that extra length and width are benefitting the rear passengers. When I climbed in through the rear door, my shoe (sz 11) did not get stuck between the B-pillar and the lower part of the rear seat. Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s vice president of design, nodded approvingly: “You see, that is where the extra 30 mm/1.18 inches of the wheelbase show the improvement.”

BMW claims that my legs have 21 mm (0,82 in.) more room and that the luggage compartment has expanded by 30 l (1.06 cu.ft.) to 360 l (12.7 cu. Ft.)

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2012 BMW 1 Series

It is time to hit the road behind the steering wheel of a red 118i Sport Line model. The cabin looks nice with red details matching the body color. The use of luxury materials, in addition to the ‘floating’ dashboard, make the new 1 Series true to its roots. The cabin now looks on par with its bigger brothers.

I had one remark though: there is an 0.1 inch wide ‘gap’ around the display. Later, I asked Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s vice president of design, why and he explained that it is the only option: “It is a fact that soft material, such as that of the dashboard cannot ‘end’ in a sharp edge for a ‘seamless’ connection with the hard material of the display.”

Watch TACH's exclusive 1 Series promo video

It is easy to find the ideal driving position, but to my surprise BMW still uses the non-adjustable seatbelts. I had hoped that the new generation would have adjustable ones. Especially in the upcoming 3-door, with the B-pillar placed further backwards, the seatbelt will be annoyingly close to my neck.

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2012 BMW 1 Series diesel version

On the way to the photo location, you cannot go around the fact the new Bimmer’s comfort is increased without giving up the excellent handling qualities. The combination is more mature and comes closer to that of the ‘Einzer’s big brothers.

The test cars all had variable sport steering. It is an option, but I would recommend it to every 1 Series-buyer. It costs 450 euro extra, but reduces the steering input when making sharp turns and gives an excellent, direct feel.

   • SEE ALSO: Henny's original preview of the new 1 Series

Just like its bigger brothers, the 1 Series gets all the three-letter control features, including DTC, dynamic traction control, CBC, cornering brake control and DBC dynamic braking control. The new 1 Series also features hill assist and an electronically locking rear axle differential (in DSC Off-mode).

Standard, the new ‘1’ gets a switch on the center console for three modes of vehicle set-up, Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. It influences the motor management system, de DSC and optional Servotronic (speed dependent power steering).

In EcoPro, for an economical driving style, you feel more resistance when pushing the throttle, while several components, such as shift program and cooling capacity of the air conditioning are set up for maximum efficiency and extra miles to be driven. In the instrument panel you can see the how many.

Time to change into Comfort and Sport
But wait, there is also Sport +. This influences the transmission and/or steering input and traction. This is only available on the Sport Line models, fitted with the optional eight-speed (mine has a 6 stick shift), or variable sport steering as in my red 118i.

Or Sport + is available when the car is equipped with the optional 10 mm/0.4 inches lower Adaptive Suspension, that has electronically regulated dampers which are automatically adjusted to the current driving style and road conditions and will have a stiffer ride in Sport+. The same is the case when you have an M adaptive suspension(also 10 mm/0.4 in. lower). For customers looking at the different options, it will be worth while to spend some time with the dealer and have the benefits and possibilities explained and showed during an extended test drive.

Overall, I can conclude that the new 1 Series moves confidently at high speed and very precise through bends. It is not too hard anymore, but offers increased comfort. Both the 118i and 120d that I drove had an excellent behavior and were fun to drive.

The first part of the route, I covered with the 118i with its 125 kW /170 hp turbocharged 4-cilinder. It reaches a speed well above 220 km/h (140 mph) with great ease. In the cabin it remains quiet, so that you can still have a conversation with your passenger. The second part of the test route was reserved for the 120d with the 35 kW/184 hp also turbocharged diesel. They are both lovely engines and offer excellent performance and pulling power. And, that is the beauty of the new 1 Series, in my country they are labeled in a class where you do not have to add 25 percent of the value of the car to you income (and be taxed accordingly), but 20 percent because of the low fuel consumption and low CO2-emission. This applies to all engine variants of the new 1 Series.

Full details about the engines, transmission and equipment can be found here 2012 BMW 1 Series: Unique Driving Pleasure in a Premium Compact Car

The 5-door hatchback is the first body style to hit the European and Asian markets on September 17, right after its world premiere at the Frankfurt auto show. Americans will have to wait for the 3-door models that is expected several months later. They may have to wait in vain for the 5-door because hatchbacks are not popular in North America. Sometimes there is an advantage to living in Europe…