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BMW 1 series


Audi A5

Summary

BMW 1 series

If you think it’s a Mercedes-Benz A-Class you want or maybe an Audi A3 Sportback or even a Volkswagen Golf, then stop and read this first before making a purchase.

The BMW 1 Series alternative isn’t just another prestige little car, because there are some fundamental differences between this 1 and those others, and they could cause you to totally rethink your decision.

If you’re already keen on getting a 1 Series then you need to read this, too, not only to help you find the right one, but also to alert you to what might be a couple of uncomfortable truths.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Audi A5

Beauty is one of those things that’s near impossible to get across-the-board agreement on. What I think is cutting-edge and cool, you might think is the definition of trying too hard, and vice versa.

Or, to put it another way, we’ve been assured Ssangyong has sold more than zero cars, so their design has got to be working for someone, somewhere.

Of the 2017 Audi A5 Coupe, however, there can be no debate. It is beautiful. It’s indisputable. A perfectly placed collection of sleek lines, bulging guards and powerful stance. 

But with a new platform, new suspension and an overhauled suite of engines, the question is whether this sleek coupe is more than just a pretty face.

The second-generation version of the A5 Sportback is set to appear in May, while the new A5 Cabriolet will follow later this year. For now, the two-door Coupe will lead the charge. 

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency4.6L/100km
Seating4 seats

Verdict

BMW 1 series7.5/10

I’m the first to say the 1 Series is kind of the ugly duckling of the BMW family, but those looks grow on you, especially when you consider that this is exactly what a BMW hatch should look like. That this is one of the only rear-wheel-drive hatches left on the planet makes it even more special – and of course engaging to pilot. The downside is the price and the lack of value from a features perspective, plus safety could be bolstered with more technology. Still, anybody who likes to drive will commend you on your choice of a BMW.  

Is the BMW 1 Series better at doing the small prestige hatch thing than the A-Class or A3 Sportback? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Audi A57.8/10

Stunning to behold, quiet to sit in and swimming in technology, the A5 Coupe ticks a lot of boxes. We’ll wait ’til we’ve driven it in the city before we make a final verdict, but at glance, there’s a lot to love about this sexy, slinky two-door.

Would the Audi A5 be your pick of the premium mid-size coupes? Tell us what you think in the comments below. 

Design

BMW 1 series8/10

The 1 Series looks exactly how a BMW hatchback should. I know that sounds silly but what I mean is BMW could easily have designed something that was proportioned more like other hatches; that popular sort of bubble on wheels.

Instead, what you have is a hatch that retains BMW’s traditional attributes – there’s the long nose, the cabin set back, the high sides and the wheels placed almost at the very corners.

Seriously, look at the image of the orange 1 Series side on, now hold your out your hand and use it to cover just the windows – see, it looks just like a BMW 2 Series convertible. Does it look good? To me it does, right up until you get to the hatchback, and then it looks a bit awkward. But I do admire BMW’s designers for creating something unique looking.

That orange 120i ('Sunset Orange' is the official colour) is the most recent 1 Series I’ve tested. Those wheels aren’t standard, they’re 18-inch M ones and they are part of the optional 'M Sport Package', which also includes the body kit, complete with side skirts and the lower grille in gloss black.

The 1 Series is as affordable as BMWs get, but it’s still a real BMW. The cabin, for example, looks much like  every BMW, only smaller.

There’s the large, slab-like dash with the display sitting atop, below are the air vents and below that is the radio and then the climate-control dials. It’s a stack that’s kept its familiar order and shape on nearly all BMWs for what seems like forever.

The centre console has a similar layout as the one in a 3 Series or 5 Series or any Series, with the shifter and rotating media controller. Even the doors have the same design as those cars higher up in the BMW family, with the big moulded pockets and large pull handles.

That steering wheel is part of the M-Package too, but the leather upholstery is a separate option.

The signs that this isn’t a more expensive BMW are the manual handbrake, the compact instrument cluster with analogue dials, the small dash-top display and the fact that  there’s a lot less real estate to be covered by trim pieces and material, which doesn’t have the same high-quality feel as those fancier models.

The cabin isn’t as ‘blingy’ as the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but it’s not as plain as the cockpit of an Audi A3 – it’s somewhere in between; refined and well designed.

At 4.3m end to end, the 1 Series is 16mm shorter that the A3 Sportback and 20mm narrower, at just over 1.7m across.


Audi A59/10

The original A5 was penned by a gentleman by the name of Walter de Silva (he of Lamborghini Egoista and Audi R8 fame), who described his car as “the most beautiful I've ever created."

If it ain’t broke, and all that. Audi’s design team has tinkered around the edges of its A5 Coupe, reworking the grille and headlights, and adding bulges to the bonnet and creases to the bodywork, but the family resemblance is clear.

And it works: all wide and low front end, windswept roofline and muscular guards. Inside, too, is a perfectly executed space, at once premium and polished, and with an obvious attention to detail.

Practicality

BMW 1 series7/10

The 1 Series’ boot has a cargo capacity of 360 litres, which is more than the boot space of the Audi A3 Sportback (340 litres) but less than the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class’s 370 litres of luggage room.

What does that mean in real-world terms? It’s not a lot of space, and you might struggle to get a pram in, so check that  beforehand if you have small ones. That said, there was enough room for two carry-on sized bags, a computer bag and a scooter when my wife and I went on a weekend away with our four year old.

Space in the second row is also limited. Headroom isn’t too bad, but at 191cm tall I can’t sit behind my driving position without my knees digging into the seatback. I can just fit back there in the A3 and I have even more room for my knees in the A-Class.

Room up front is good with plenty of shoulder, head and elbow room for somebody my size.

Storage could be better: you’ll only find cup holders up front (two of them), the centre-console storage bin is small and so are the door pockets in the rear, but all is not lost because the door bottle holders in the front are massive, the glove box is a decent size and there are nets on the backs of the front seats.

It’s good to see directional air vents in the second row and a 12V power outlet, but there aren’t any USB ports back there – if you want to plug in a device there’s only one and it’s up front, along with another 12-volt outlet.

The rear doors appear large from the outside but the aperture to get in and out isn’t huge – again look at the images to see what I’m on about.


Audi A57/10

It’s a Coupe in the traditional sense of the word, so expect two doors, four seats and some slightly awkward acrobatics if anyone older than a teenager tries to get into the rear seats.

Front and back passengers get a cupholder each, while the rear-seat passengers also score their own air-con controls and a power outlet. Expect two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.

Boot space is listed at 465 litres (up 10 litres on the previous generation car) and the rear seat is split 40/20/40.

Price and features

BMW 1 series7/10

So, it’s a little BMW, does that mean the price is little? Nope. It’s like asking if a little Rolex is cheap. it might be cheap for a Rolex, but not for a watch in general, and it's the same for the 1 Series.

The 1 Series range starts at $39,990 for the petrol 118i, while its 118d diesel twin is $44,990. Both come with the standard Sport Line package, which adds 16-inch light alloy wheels and LED headlights, while in the cabin it brings cloth upholstery, sports seats and a leather sports steering wheel, high-gloss black trim and BMW scuff plates. Other standard features include a 6.5-inch display, with sat nav, reversing camera, six-speaker stereo, a digital radio and air-conditioning.

For another $7000 you can get into the 120i grade, which lists for $46,990 and comes standard with the Urban Line package, which fits 17-inch alloy wheels in the double-spoke style, adds front and rear bumpers with matt finish air intakes, plus dual chrome tail pipes, while the cockpit gets leather upholstery, and gloss-black and pearl-effect trim.

Along with the Urban Line gear, the 120i has all of the 118i’s standard features and adds more of its own, including front and rear parking sensors, LED fog lights, dual-zone climate control, the interior lights package, plus smart phone connectivity with voice control.

The 125i is only a tempting $3000 above the 120i at $49,990 and it comes standard with the M Sport Package, which is what our most recent test car was fitted with (see the images of the orange 120i). The M Sport pack adds 18-inch light-alloy wheels and the tough body kit, the M Sport steering wheel and aluminium trim to the interior.

Apart from the M Sport package, also standard is an 8.8-inch screen with a DVD player and, somewhat disappointingly, cloth and Alcantara seats. Sure, they look nice, but how did the 120i get real leather and the 125i didn’t?

Still the 125i comes with more impressive performance hardware than the grades below, such as sports suspension, variable steering, M Sport brakes (inner vented rear discs) and blue calipers.

At the top of the 1 Series range is the M140i and while it’s getting into pricey territory at $59,990 (don’t forget that’s not including the on-road costs), you are getting what I’m predicting will be a sought after car in years to come. And possibly even a collector's item.

The M140i isn’t a fully fledged M car – it’s a diet version from the M Performance section of BMW, which gives cars a bit of a taste of the hardcore world of beasties like the M2 and M3, without costing as much or being quite as brutal to drive.

I’ll talk about the high-performance parts more in the sections on driving and engines, but briefly, you might like to know the M140 gets adaptive suspension and a six-cylinder turbo petrol engine – yes in a tiny hatch. Powerful.

The M140i also has the standard features of the 125i and adds its own, such as the 18-inch alloy wheels, black chrome tail pipe, adaptive LED headlights, leather upholstery, keyless entry, power front seats and a Harmon/Kardon 12-speaker stereo.

So, is the 1 Series good value? The price is bang-on compared to rivals such as the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3 (click those to see my reviews of them, too), but the 1 Series gets less in standard features compared to the Benz (such as Apple CarPlay) and about the same level of equipment as the A3.

If you’re a fan of black and white, you might be relieved to know these are the only two colours you won’t have to pay for. The rest, including Sunset Orange (see the images), Seaside Blue, Melbourne Red, Glacial Silver and Mineral Grey cost $1190.


Audi A58/10

The A5 Coupe range arrives in a single, well-equipped trim level, with how much that will cost you is  dependent on what engine you want, and whether you want the power sent to the front wheels, or all four.

The story begins with the 2.0 TFSI S tronic ($69,900), while opting for the diesel-powered 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic will lift the asking price to $73,900. Top of the A5 tree is the 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic ($81,500), which also adds some extra kit.

Engine options aside, the S5 arrives with 18-inch alloys, LED headlights and tail-lights, a nav-equipped 8.3-inch centre screen and Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit, which replaces the old-school dials you used to find in your driver’s binnacle.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also make the standard features list, along with a 10-speaker stereo and a customisable ambient interior lighting set-up. Leather seats, tri-zone climate control and a boot that opens when you wave your foot under it round out the feature highlights.

Spring for the 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic (catchy name, no?) and your rims grow to 19 inches, your wheel is swapped for the very good flat-bottomed number from the S5, and your wing mirrors earn an auto-dimming function.

Audi has rolled most of its options into easy to understand packages for the A5 Coupe, too. The safety-focussed 'Assistance Package' adds things like AEB, active lane assist and active cruise control, and will add $2470 to the asking price. A 'Technik Package' adds a head-up display, Audi’s Matrix headlights and upgrades the stereo to a Bang and Olufsen unit, and will cost you an extra $5600.

Finally, the  S Line Sport or 'Style Pack' will give you a sportier interior and a better-looking exterior, but will cost you $2500 or $3900 for the Style version, and $5900 or $7400 for the Sport version, depending on which model you bought in the first place.

Engine & trans

BMW 1 series8/10

As you step up through the grades the engines become more powerful. The entry-grade 118i has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol making 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque, while its diesel twin has a 2.0-litre turbo-four making 110kW and much more torque at 320Nm.

The 120i has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder and an output of 135kW and 270Nm. Then above that is the 125i, which is getting into performance territory with its 2.0-litre turbo four petrol making 165kW and 310Nm.

But all hail the M140i and its beautiful 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-petrol, with 250kW and 500Nm that it wants to share with you.

All cars are rear-wheel drive and all have an eight – hang on, that’s important: all cars are rear-wheel drive. Do you know how many other hatchbacks are rear-wheel drive? Try next to none – not the A-Class, not the A3, not the Golf. Rear-wheel drive is favoured for performance cars because it offers better balance and better acceleration thanks to the weight shift to the rear of the car. BMW has long claimed that RWD is one of the keys to its "sheer driving pleasure".

Now let me finish the sentence... all have an eight-speed automatic, and it’s a beauty – a little slow, but smoother for driving than a dual clutch, and way more fun than a CVT.

But wait, because there’s a manual gearbox, too. It’s a no-cost option and you can get it on any variant apart from the 125i.


Audi A57/10

There are three engines on offer in the A5 Coupe, which begins with the entry level 2.0 TFSI S tronic, delivering 140kW/320Nm to the front wheels via the only gearbox in the A5 Coupe family, a seven-speed 'DSG' dual-clutch automatic. That’s enough to see the A5 flash from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 240km/h.

The sole diesel in the line-up arrives with the 2.0 TDI S tronic, which also produces 140kW but sees torque increase to 400Nm and sends its power to all four wheels via the same seven-speed gearbox. The 100km/h sprint is an identical 7.2 seconds, while your top speed drops slightly to 235km.

The baddest of the non S-stamped models is the 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic, which lifts outputs to a healthy 185kW/370Nm, lopping more than a second off the sprint to 100km/h (now 5.8secs), and increasing the top speed to (an electronically limited 250km/h).

Fuel consumption

BMW 1 series8/10

BMW says its most efficient petrol engine in the 1 Series range is the three-cylinder in the 118i, which uses just 5.2L/100km after a combination of urban and open roads.

The diesel unit in the 118d will use 4.2L/100km. Let that sink in for a moment – petrol engines are becoming so fuel efficient that they’re rivalling diesels, which have long been lauded for their frugality.

So don't just buy the diesel just because it’s more efficient, because you may never recoup the extra money you paid over the 118i.

Thirstier but still super-efficient is the 2.0-litre in the 120i. BMW’s claim is 5.9L/100km. During my week with the 120i I put 413km on the clock and used 15.57 litres doing so (measured at the pump), which comes to 7.7L/100km. The car’s computer said 7.8L/100km.

That’s great fuel economy, even if it is higher than the claimed figures. The 125i’s official fuel consumption is also 5.9L/100km.

It’s not surprising that the M140i, with its 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, is the least fuel efficient but its official figure of 7.1L/100km is still low.


Audi A58/10

The entry level petrol engine sips a claimed 5.5L/100km for the combined (urban/extra urban) cycle, with C02 emissions pegged at 125g/km. Audi claims the 2.0 TDI engine uses just 4.7L/100km on the same cycle, while emitting 121g/km.

The biggest petrol engine trades its performance for increased fuel use, needing a claimed/combined 6.5L/100km, and emitting 149g/km.

Driving

BMW 1 series8/10

If I could run into a showroom and take whichever 1 Series I wanted it’d be the M140i – and not just because it would give me the best chance of outrunning the police after they discovered the break-in, but because the thing is so much fun to drive.

It’s also the most expensive, of course, but it’s worth it for that screaming straight six and for its agility.

You’ll have fun, though, in every grade of the line-up – they’re all engaging to pilot with great driving positions, good pedal feel and that eight-speed auto is smooth in traffic yet will shift hard when you have your race face on.

You might find the 118i, with its three-cylinder, a little under powered, especially with five people and their bags on board. If you’re keen on this grade, then consider the diesel, which will give you more torque. Our 120i test car proved to have enough oomph for overtaking and moving quickly when needed.

The 125i is less tame, with its throatier exhaust note, firmer ride and better handling thanks to the M suspension.

If you plan on choosing the M Sport Package for, say, the 120i keep in mind that you’ll lose the comfortable ride these cars have on their standard tyres.

Our 120i had the pack and while the body kit looks tough, the 18-inch alloy wheels shod in low-profile rubber (225/40 R18 Bridgestone Potenza 5001s front and 245/35 R18 at the rear) meant the ride was overly jarring on bad roads.

Given that Sydney was my test bed for the 120i and its roads are shocking, the ride was less than comfy. The M-sport suspension will only make the ride less comfortable, but in return you’ll have a 120i with better handling.

Run-flat tyres are common on BMWs and you may have heard of a few issues surrounding noise and a harsher ride. While that can be true, it's the price you pay for having a tyre you won’t immediately have to change if you get a puncture. Only the 120i and the M140i don’t have run-flats as standard.


Audi A58/10

The news is broadly positive right across the range, but we focussed our attention on the top-spec petrol (TFSI S tronic Quattro) which is not just expected to be the biggest seller in the revised A5 Coupe range, but is also by far the closest thing to a happy compromise between the harder S5 and the more sedate and softer entry level models. 

With no adaptive suspension anywhere in the A5 family, the standard tune can sail perilously close to uncomfortable on dodgy road surfaces, and it does allow the occasional imperfection to enter the cabin. But it pays off in spades when you find yourself on a twisty road, with the all-wheel drive A5 TFSI S tronic sitting reassuringly flat as you tackle all but the tightest of corners (where it can rock a little as you enter a particularly tight turn). Whether the firm-ish ride becomes a pain on the pockmarked surfaces of the CBD, however, remains to be seen.

The steering in the Quattro isn’t as sharp or direct as it is in the S5 (but it is better than in the front-wheel drive model) and there’s more play on-centre and less precision turning into corners, but away from the back roads and back in the city (where this car will surely spend almost all of its time) that should be a positive, and result in a smooth and composed commuter.

Audi deserves credit for the cabin noise (or lack of it), which is very good, and the razor-thin A-pillar makes forward vision terrific, though the view is predictably less good out the back. It might not be as sharp as the S5, which gets its own unique steering tune and an adaptive damper setup, but the combination of supermodel looks and on-board technology will make it a tempting proposition in the luxe-Coupe market.

Safety

BMW 1 series8/10

The BMW 1 Series has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but this was awarded in 2011 and a lot has changed since then – particularly expected levels of safety.

BMW has updated the advanced technology to keep up with AEB (city) with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning standard on all grades. It would be good to see more safety tech in the form of blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane-keeping assistance.

For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the rear row.

A spare tyre is not something you will find – all apart from the 120i and the M140i have run flats, while those two have puncture-repair kits.


Audi A58/10

Expect six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), a reversing camera and parking sensors as standard fare, but Audi then ups the ante with a suite of high-tech standard safety gear, including  forward collision warning with AEB cross-path assist and a driver fatigue detection system.

The entire A5 range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Ownership

BMW 1 series6/10

The 1 Series is covered by BMW’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is condition-based – the car will let you know when it needs a check-up.

BMW offers two service packages, which cover the car for five years/80,000km: the Basic is $1340 and the Plus costs $3550.


Audi A57/10

The Audi A5 range is covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000kms. Audi offers the ability to pre-pay your maintenance costs for the first three years at $1,850.