BMW 1 series VS Audi A5
BMW 1 series
- Rear-wheel drive
- Great engines
- Fun to drive
- Low on standard features
- Run-flat tyres
- Limited rear legroom
- Sharp looks
- Sophisticated cabin
- No shortage of equipment
- Drive experience can lack excitement
- Tight backseat in Coupe body style
- Three-year warranties are too short
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.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Yes, yes, beauty is in the eye of beholder. But I challenge any eye to behold the refreshed Audi A5 and find it anything but beautiful.
In a world in which car design seems to be getting fussier and busier with every new model, the A5 remains a monument to simple lines and sophisticated shapes, both inside and out.
Looks are only part of the story, of course. So the big question is, does the rest of the package stand up? Or is the beauty only skin deep here?
Let's find out, shall we?
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.
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.
It's gorgeous, the A5. There's simply no disputing it. It's elegant, sophisticated, and above all, restrained. There's no look-at-me chintz here, just clean lines, sharp creases and a shapely figure.
Like its A4 sibling, the A5 has been tickled at the front, with a new-look grille, along with a new headlight cluster with redesigned DRLs, and Matrix LED headlights.
The four sharp bonnet creases that fan out from the grille lend the A5 a sense of speed, even when stationary, and we love the way the 19-inch alloys fill the wheel arches. It looks polished, premium and athletic.
Inside, Audi's interior treatment is on-point, from the figure-hugging leather seats to the material choices that span the dash. The big news in the cabin is the inclusion of Audi's new 10.1-inch touchscreen perched above the dash, which isn't just easier to use (in my opinion, at least), but also removes the traditional controls from the centre console.
It means Audi's already fuss-free cabin is even less cluttered, and it's definitely a change for the better.
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.
It very much depends on the model you've opted for, with the Coupe compromising backseat space for exterior style.
The Sportback is easily the most practical of the trio, what with its four doors, comfortable backseat and dimensions that stretch 4757mm in length, 1843mm in width and 1386mm in height, and its 480 litres of boot space.
The Coupe, then, is a two-door design, stretching 4697mm x 1846mm x 1371mm, with 450 litres of luggage space at the rear. It's long, the Coupe, but most of that space is absorbed by the front half of the cabin, wth the backseat reserved for kids.
Finally, the Cabriolet (which we're yet to test) stretches 4697mm x 1846mm x 1384mm, and will deliver the lowest luggage capacity of the lot, at 375 litres.
Elsewhere, though, the A5 range delivers two cupholders up front, with another two in the centre armrest that can deploy to divide the rear seat. Rear-seat riders also get air vents with their own temp controls, USB charge points (joining the two up front) and bottle holders in the doors.
For parents, you'll find a pair of ISOFIX attachment points in the backseat, too.
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.
The cheapest way into an A5 remains the Sportback or Coupe body styles, which will set you back $71,900 with the 40 TFSI engine choice. You can upgrade to the 45 TFSI quattro engine, but doing so will also up the entry point to $79,900. The Audi A5 Cabriolet sits atop the pile, costing $85,400 for the 40 TFSI, and $93,400 for the 45 TFSI quattro.
Happily, all A5s get the S line style treatment, gifting each a sportier look, with a new-look grille and venting adding to the performance-spec style up front.
You also get 19-inch alloys, Audi drive select with five drive modes, three-zone climate (and neck-level heating in the Cabriolet), leather trim, matrix LED headlights, as well as tech-heavy interior highlighted by a new 10.1-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash that controls the cars key audio, navigation and driving settings.
Speaking of the Cabriolet, the three-layer acoustic roof opens in just 15 seconds at speeds of up to 50km/h, with a wind deflector also deployed to help with cabin ambience.
Audi's very cool Virtual Cockpit (a 12.3-inch digital display that replaces the traditional driver's binnacle) is also standard, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Audi says the new model offers 10x the computing power of the outgoing model, owing mostly to connected car features including live traffic, weather reports and fuel pricing, as well as the ability to remote unlock or lock you car from your phone, or pre-plan destinations and send them to the vehicle's nav.
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.
Two choices here, the slightly tongue-twisting 40 TFSI and and 45 TFSI quattro, both of which make use of a 2.0-litre turbo engine tuned for different outputs.
The 45, on the other hand, will give you 183kW and 370Nm, pairing with the same auto gearbox, but this time sending power to all four wheels thanks to the quattro system. The 100km/h sprint drops to 5.8 seconds at its fastest.
BMW 1 series8/10
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 reckons the 40 TFSI engine will return 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle, and emit 148g/km of C02. The bigger engine increases fuel use to 7.1L/100km, but lowers the C02 output to 163g/km. Both those fuel numbers are taken from the Sportback.
Both engines also get a new 12V mild-hybrid system said to drop fuel use by up to 0.3L/100km.
Fun tank capacity is either 54 litres or 58 litres, depending on the model.
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.
You'd describe the A5's drive experience as evolved, rather than revolutionary, but to be honest, in a vehicle this competent, that's no small thing.
The hybrid tech is unnoticeable, and so the A5 delivers an on-the-road feel that isn't far away at all from the car it replaces. None are truly fire-breathing, but it feels comfortable and sophisticated, the outside world largely banished from the interior (though the firm-ish ride can send road imperfections into the cabin).
Audi has done a stellar job of making the A5 feel connected to the road below it, and the world around it, without dialling down the comfort factor. The steering, light in its normal setting but firming up as you cycle through the drive modes, is direct, but not twitchy, the ride is firm, but not uncomfortable, the engine (at least, the 45 TFSI we drove on launch) is capable without being ridiculous.
The end result is a predictably competent drive experience, with the A5 delivering in the areas it should, largely before you even notice.
The only downside to all of that, though, is that the experience is so predictable, that there are few surprises, positive or negative, thrown in. It can leave you feeling slightly disconnected from the experience, rather than truly engaged.
Now, a disclaimer, we spent limited time in the A5 on launch, so we'll wait until we get it in the CarsGuide garage before making a final verdict. But I'd be surprised if we liked it any less over a longer period.
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.
Standard safety kit includes eight airbags, parking sensors front and rear, a 360-degree parking camera, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, rear cross-traffic alert, exit warning, and lane keep assist and lane change assist, along with a bevy of airbags, with the A5 range still wearing a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
BMW 1 series6/10
BMW offers two service packages, which cover the car for five years/80,000km: the Basic is $1340 and the Plus costs $3550.