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BMW 1 series


Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Summary

BMW 1 series

It wasn’t that long ago the notion of a front-wheel drive (FWD) BMW was unheard of, but along came the third-generation 1 Series five-door hatchback in September 2019.

The 'F40' 1 Series' predecessors were based on rear-wheel drive (RWD) platforms, as was every other model in BMW's long history – to that point.

Ironically, though, the F40 1 Series' performance flagship remains the all-wheel drive (AWD) M135i xDrive, but now it has a FWD counterpart, the Volkswagen Golf GTI-baiting 128ti.

Critically, this represents the first time since the late 1990s range of 3 Series Compact three-door hatchbacks that the ti, Turismo Internazionale, badge has been affixed to a BMW.

So, does the 128ti hot hatch live up to the ti lineage of sporty BMW small cars? And perhaps more importantly, does it prove a FWD BMW can be truly desirable? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.

Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.

The A-Class sedan is substantially longer and fractionally taller than its hatchback sibling, but does that mean it’s better, or simply different?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.3L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW 1 series7.9/10

It might not be rear-wheel drive, but the 128ti is a thoroughly enjoyable BMW to steer, proving the 'f' in front-wheel drive can stand for fun. It’s a very good hot hatch.

And given how expensive mainstream hot hatches have become, the 128ti is a bargain, giving would-be Golf GTI, Focus ST and i30 N buyers a thing or two to think about.

After all, the 128ti is a premium hot hatch by virtue of the BMW badges it wears and the higher quality of its parts, but not its price. And for that reason, it cannot be ignored.


Mercedes-Benz A-Class8.1/10

Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.

But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.

Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Design

BMW 1 series8/10

You can count me among those who aren't fans of the 1 Series' version of BMW’s 'kidney' grille. It’s not just out of proportion, but arguably, misplaced.

In fact, it just spoils the front end, although I'm also not a fan of the bumper's 'smiling' centre air intake.

But, thankfully, that’s where my unfavourable opinion ends, as the angular headlights and hexagonal DRLs look the part, while the 128ti's red-trimmed side air intakes bring a sense of occasion.

And you better be a big fan of red trim, as the 128ti liberally applies it around the side, where the brake calipers have some presence behind the attractive 18-inch Y-spoke alloy wheels. And don’t forget the side skirt insert and 'ti' decal!

At the rear, aside from the obligatory '128ti' badge and the relatively subtle red-trimmed side air intakes, there isn’t much to separate the 128ti from a garden variety 1 Series, but that’s no bad thing as it's its best angle.

The sporty rear spoiler, sleek tail-lights, stupendous diffuser insert and scintillating dual exhaust tailpipes are gorgeous. And the 128ti is attractive in profile, thanks to its appealing silhouette and smoothly sculpted lines.

Inside, the 128ti stands out from the 1 Series crowd with the red stitching applied to the steering wheel, seats, armrests and dashboard, while the floor mats have – you guessed it – red piping.

The most interesting design flourish, though, is the red-stitched ti logo on the centre armrest. That's one way to make a statement, and it all combines to make the 128ti feel special.

And being a 1 Series is a leg-up in the first place, as high-quality materials are used throughout, in concert with a simple but effective design.

Mercifully, the centre stack features physical climate and audio controls, while the centre console has an appropriately sized gear selector and a rotary dial to control the multimedia system.

That's right, the 128ti has multiple input methods aside from the 10.25-inch central touchscreen and voice control, making it a relative breeze to operate, especially with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support of the wireless variety.

That said, there's plenty of room for improvement for the 128ti's 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, which lacks the breadth of functionality of its competitors.


Mercedes-Benz A-Class9/10

A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.

The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.

A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.

Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.

The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.

Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.

Practicality

BMW 1 series9/10

Measuring 4319mm long (with a 2670mm wheelbase), 1799mm wide and 1434mm tall, the 128ti is a small hatchback in every sense of the term, but it makes the most of its size.

The boot's cargo capacity is competitive, at 380L, although it can be increased to a more accommodating 1200L by stowing the 60/40 split-fold rear bench.

Either way, there's a decent load lip to contend with, but four tie-down points, two bag hooks and a side storage net are on hand for securing loose items.

In the second row, there's a welcome four centimetres of legroom behind my 184cm driving position as well as a centimetre or two of headroom, even with our test car’s optional panoramic sunroof.

Three adults can sit on the rear seats on short journeys, but they will have next-to-no shoulder-room, plus a large central tunnel (necessary for AWD 1 Series variants) to deal with.

Young children are accommodated, though, with two ISOFIX and three top-tether anchorage points available for fitting child seats.

Amenities-wise, those in the back have access to the storage nets on the front seat backrests, clothes hooks, the centre console's directional air vents and two USB-C ports.

The door bins can take a regular bottle each, but there isn't a fold-down armrest with cupholders.

Up front, the glove box is surprisingly large, while the driver-side cubby is not only decently sized, but two-tiered. The central storage bin is also solid, and has a USB-C port hidden inside.

Ahead of that are a 12V power outlet, a pair of cupholders, a USB-A port and a narrow, open cubby that should house a wireless smartphone charger (but doesn't). And yes, the door bins are ready to swallow a regular bottle apiece. So, pretty damn good overall.


Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.

The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.

In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.

In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.

There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.

One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.

But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).

Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.

That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).

At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.

Price and features

BMW 1 series8/10

Priced from a tempting $55,031, plus on-road costs, the 128ti finds itself right in the thick of the hot-hatch action, with its M135i xDrive big brother at least $10,539 dearer, while its most direct rival, the Golf GTI, is just $541 cheaper.

Of course, more affordable FWD hot hatches are available, and they're more potent than the 128ti and GTI, including the Ford Focus ST X ($51,990) and automatic Hyundai i30 N Premium ($52,000).

Either way, the 128ti stands out from the 1 Series crowd with its bespoke steering tune, lowered sports suspension (-10mm), black grille, unique two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, upgraded brakes with red calipers, and black side-mirror caps.

There's also red trim on the front and rear air intakes, and side skirts, with 'ti' decals positioned above the latter. The steering wheel, seats, armrests, dashboard and floor mats have similarly coloured accents.

Other standard equipment includes a body kit, dusk-sensing adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a tyre repair kit, power-folding side mirrors with heating and puddle lights, keyless entry and start, a 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system, satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio and a six-speaker sound system.

And then there’s a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a 9.2-inch head-up display, dual-zone climate control, a sports steering wheel, power-adjustable front sports seats with memory functionality, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, black/red cloth and synthetic leather upholstery, 'Illuminated Boston' trim, ambient lighting and M seat belts.

Options include a $3000 'Enhancement Package' (metallic paintwork, panoramic sunroof and adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality), which was fitted to our test vehicle for an 'as tested' price of $58,031.

Other key options include a $1077 'Convenience Package' (power tailgate, boot storage net and ski port), a $2000 'Executive Package' (alarm, rear privacy glass, 10-speaker hi-fi sound, gesture control and tyre pressure monitoring) and a $1023 'Comfort Package' (heated steering wheel, and front seats with lumbar support).


Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.

We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.

Engine & trans

BMW 1 series8/10

The 128ti is motivated by a familiar 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, with its version producing a promising 180kW of power at 6500rpm and 380Nm of torque from 1500-4400rpm.

Disappointingly, Australian examples are detuned relative to their European counterparts, which are 15kW/20Nm more potent due to their market-specific set-up.

Either way, drive is sent to the front wheels via a dependable ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) and a determined Torsen limited-slip differential.

This combination helps the 128ti sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a brisk 6.3 seconds while on the way to a not-in-Australia top speed of 243km/h.

For reference, competitor outputs are: M135i xDrive (225kW/450Nm), Golf GTI (180kW/370Nm), i30 N Premium (206kW/392Nm), and Focus ST X (206kW/420Nm).


Mercedes-Benz A-Class7/10

Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).

Drive goes to the front wheels only via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Fuel consumption

BMW 1 series7/10

The 128ti's fuel consumption on the combined cycle test (ADR 81/02) is a promising 6.8L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 156g/km.

However, in real-world testing, I averaged a reasonable 8.4L/100km over an even combination of urban and highway driving. Without my heavy right foot, an even better return could be had.

For reference, the 128ti's 50L fuel tank takes more expensive 98 RON premium petrol at minimum. Its claimed driving range is 735km, but in my experience, I got 595km.

 


Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.

Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.

Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.

Driving

BMW 1 series8/10

So, can a FWD BMW be fun to drive? As far as the 128ti is concerned, the answer is a resounding yes.

Yes, you get the feeling you’re being pulled rather than pushed, but the 128ti attacks corners with entertaining vigour.

Of course, the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine’s 180kW/380Nm outputs can easily overwhelm the front wheels off the line, and torque steer is a threat, particularly when pushing hard around bends, but they’re welcome characteristics.

After all, corner exits are improved by the 128ti’s Torsen limited-slip differential, which works hard to optimise grip when you need it most.

When going for the jugular, understeer still rears its ugly head, but wrestling the 128ti into shape is half the fun.

That said, body control isn't quite as strong as hoped. Turn in sharply and the 1445kg 128ti generates a surprising amount of roll.

It’s worth noting the lowered sports suspension goes without adaptive dampers, its fixed-rate set-up attempting to find the delicate balance between comfort and dynamic response.

All in all, the 128ti's ride is firm but well judged, with short, sharp imperfections the only real bother. Needless to say, it’s capable of being a daily driver, and so it should be.

As mentioned, the electric power steering has a unique calibration, and it's nice and direct, with a good amount of feel. But if you prefer more heft, simply engage 'Sport' mode.

Speaking of which, the Sport drive mode also releases the full potential of the engine and the eight-speed auto, sharpening up the throttle and raising the shift points.

The 128ti engine is a gem, offering up plenty of punch, especially throughout the mid-range, where torque is at its fattest and power is about to peak. The accompanying soundtrack also has some presence, even if it is artificially 'enhanced.'

But the smooth yet relatively quick shifting automatic transmission can take plenty of credit for the brisk performance on offer.

That said, the 128ti's first and second ratios are surprisingly short, so pay attention if you take matters into your own hands via the steering wheel’s paddle shifters.


Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.

The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.

Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.

Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.

Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.

With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.

Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.

Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.

Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).

Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.

Safety

BMW 1 series8/10

The 128ti and the wider 1 Series range received a maximum five-star rating from independent Australian vehicle safety authority ANCAP in 2019.

Advanced driver-assist systems in the 128ti extend to autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, cruise control, speed sign recognition, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, blind-spot monitoring, active rear cross-traffic alert, park assist, rear AEB, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and 'Reversing Assistant.'

That said, annoyingly, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality is part of the 128ti’s optional Enhancement Package fitted to our test vehicle, or as an individual option.

And tyre pressure monitoring is tied to its extra-cost Executive Package. Both should be standard.

Also included are six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), anti-skid brakes (ABS) and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems.


Mercedes-Benz A-Class10/10

Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.

If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.

The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.

Ownership

BMW 1 series7/10

Like all BMW models, the 128ti comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years off the five years/unlimited km premium benchmark set by Audi, Genesis, Jaguar/Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.

The 128ti also comes with three years of roadside assistance, while its service intervals are average, at every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.

Capped-price servicing packages are available, with three years/40,000km starting from $1350, while five years/80,000km kicks off at $1700. The latter, in particular, offers great value.


Mercedes-Benz A-Class7/10

Mercedes-Benz covers its passenger car range with a three year/unlimited km warranty, like the other two members of the German ‘Big Three’ (Audi and BMW) .

That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.

On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.

Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.

Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.