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BMW 1 series

Volkswagen ARTEON


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

Volkswagen ARTEON

Never judge a car by its name, unless, say, it’s the Ford Probe or the Suzuki Mighty Boy - in which case, go for it.

But when it comes to Volkswagen’s Arteon with a name that’s derived from ‘Art’ meaning, well, ‘Art’ and ‘Eon’ meaning ‘the highest class’, don’t be put off because this is new King of Volkswagens. 

Yes, the Arteon is a new model and it sits at the top of Volkswagen’s entire car line-up (but keep in mind, an Amarok V6 Ultimate is more expensive!)... so it must be good, right? Is this a car worthy of that crown? The expectations were high. Is this just a pretender to the throne? We found out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating5 seats


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.

Volkswagen ARTEON8.3/10

The Arteon deserves its rank as the flagship of Volkswagen cars – it’s luxurious, modern and excellent to drive, but retains Volkswagen's utilitarian feel of being hardy and practical and easy to use. A king for the people. 

Is the Volkswagen Arteon worthy of being the King of Volkswagen cars? Tell us what you think in the comments section 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.

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.

Volkswagen ARTEON9/10

The Volkswagen Arteon may look like an Audi A5, and it absolutely uses the same MQB platform, but the dimensions are quite different. At 4862mm end to end the Arteon is 189mm longer than the Audi, 25mm wider at 1871mm and at 1435 high is 64mm taller. It's a pretty big car.

A low, broad bonnet, that super sharp character line joining the front guard to the rear haunches and that fastback roofline cut a sleek almost muscle car profile. The look is made even tougher with the R-Line body kit made up of beefy air-intakes, the side sills and boot lid spoiler. Those 20-inch optional wheels fill the guards to the brim, and give the car great stance.

Somebody once said the headlights and tail-lights are the windows of the soul of a car. No, they didn’t, but I think they determine a certain attitude, and the Arteon’s segmented LED headlights are stunning, so too are the tail-lights and the strip indicators which flow to the side the car is moving.

The Arteon’s cabin is much like the top of the line Passat’s with its long slab-like dash. It’s a refined super modern cockpit with its giant touch screen, ‘virtual’ instruments and a choice of three different ambient lighting colours. The fit and finish is superb and that aluminium trim running through the door and onto the dash looks beautiful. It’s a luxurious place, but not overly so, more Business Class than First.

Pure White is the only non-optional colour for the Arteon, the other hues include Pyrite Silver, Manganese Grey, Turmeric Yellow, Chilli Red, Atlantic Blue and Deep Black.


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.

Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

The Arteon’s cabin is spacious up front with good head, leg and shoulder room. Legroom in the back is excellent. I’m 191cm and I can sit behind my driving position with about a 10cm gap between my knees and the seatback. It been a long time since I’ve could say that about a car – and the Arteon’s legroom is verging into limo territory.

That swooping roofline looks amazing but it does reduce headroom in the back row. I could only just slide my hand into the space between my head and the roof-lining – I wouldn’t want it to be any closer than that. I’d advise anybody thinking of optioning the sun roof to make sure they can sit under it first as it’ll surely reduce the ceiling height further.

The Arteon’s boot capacity is 563 litres, that’s more than 100 litres bigger than the A5’s cargo capacity and even more than a BMW 5 Series wagon.

The gesture-control liftback hatch is a massive help if your hands are full, and even a klutz like me can get it to open with a foot-kick first time.

You’ll find five cupholders all up in the Arteon and bottle holders in all doors. There’s a deep centre console storage area under the armrest and a smaller pull out bin under the dash on the driver’s side.   

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.

Volkswagen ARTEON9/10

Okay, $65,490 seems like a lot to pay for a Volkswagen, but don’t forget the Arteon is the King of Volkswagen cars and the Passat on the next rung down costs up to $59,990. Remember too that while other countries have several variants of Arteon from the base spec to the priciest and fanciest in their ranges, Australia only gets this model in one, grade but it’s the fully decked out one – the 206 TSI R-Line – which is also why it’s costs so much.

Standard features include: leather upholstery; a 9.2-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; an eight-speaker stereo; a 12.3-inch virtual instrument display for the speedo, tacho and sat nav; a reversing camera with 360-degree view; a head-up display; auto parking; the two outside back seats in the back are heated and so are the 14-way power adjustable front seats; there’s adaptive LED headlights; kick-open auto tailgate; 19-inch alloy wheels; and some damned impressive advanced safety equipment.

The options list is tiny. This tiny. You can option a sunroof, different 19-inch alloys and a higher-end stereo system with more speakers. For some reason the wheels and stereo are packaged together. Oh, word of warning: if you’re thinking about a sunroof sit in an Arteon with one first – headroom is already tight and the sunroof may make it tighter for you.

So, is the Arteon good value? Yes. The features list is huge, and it and the Audi A5 Sportback are cousins being built on the same platform and using much of the same technology - but the equivalent Audi 2.0 TFSI quattro costs $81,500.

As for the real rivals to the Arteon, there’s the top-of-the-range Kia Stinger GT-Line for $59,990, Infiniti’s Q50 Sport Premium 2.0t is $62,400 and Jaguar’s XE 25t R-Sport costs $66,500. 

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.

Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

A four-cylinder engine is probably not what you’d expect the King of Volkswagens to be packing, but the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line’s 2.0-litre turbo four makes an impressive 206kW and 350Nm. That’s enough grunt to shift this 1.6 tonne sedan from 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds, and that’s quick. Combine this with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed wet clutch DSG and you have a formidably capable driveline – the same one that’s in the Golf R.

I’d like to have seen a V6-powered Arteon in the line-up in the same way the Kia Stinger is available with both four and six-cylinder engines. For a car that’s supposed to sit at the head of the Volkswagen dinner table there should be a variant that offers more shove.

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.

Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

Volkswagen says the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line will use 7.5L/100km of premium unleaded over a combination of highways, country roads and urban streets. Our test route started in Hobart, Tasmania, and headed north along the coast, and while those were great driving roads, it was hardly going to use as much fuel as a city commute which was reflected in the 8.0L/100km average our trip meter recorded. 

It’s a fuel-efficient engine, obviously, but it’ll be good to see what mileage we’ll get after a week of bumper-to-bumper traffic and a weekend fully loaded up with gear.


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.

Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

The Arteon 206 TSI R-Line is as good as the King of Volkswagen cars should be to drive – it feels beautifully balanced and light, it’s quick off the mark and the traction from the all-wheel drive feels unshakeable. 

As I said earlier, a six-cylinder variant would have been even better - the blow a V6 turbo diesel such as the 180kW/550Nm unit in the Touareg delivers would have made the Arteon a beast. Better yet, why not the 4.2-litre V8 diesel with 250kW/800Nm?

But, that said, the driving experience is still rewarding, with excellent handling and a comfortable ride courtesy of the adaptive chassis control system. It allows you to firm or soften the suspension in increments, which is nice.

I did notice more than expected tyre noise filtering into the cabin, but my drive was on coarse-chip roads. 


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.

Volkswagen ARTEON9/10

You’ll be hard pressed to find a car in this price bracket with such an impressive armoury of advanced safety equipment as the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line. It doesn’t just have AEB, it has AEB which works from 5km/h to 250km/h. For speeds under that there’s a low speed AEB system called Manoeuvre Braking (forward and reverse), which is especially for car-parks. And the Arteon knows the difference between a pedestrian and another vehicle.

There’s also rear cross-traffic and blind-spot warning. A combination of adaptive cruise control and Lane Assist which will keep you in your lane and a safe distance behind the car in front, although if your hands leave the steering wheel for too long the Arteon will alert you. If you don’t take hold of the wheel most impressive safety feature springs into action: in a situation where you have passed out and your hands have fallen off the wheel the Arteon will brake sharply several times in an attempt to get your attention. If you don’t respond it will check its surrounding for cars and then change lanes all the way across to the emergency lane where it will bring itself to a halt. Amazing.

The Arteon has not yet been given a safety rating by ANCAP, but it did score the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP equivalent.

Oh, and it has a full sized spare alloy wheel – which I reckon is a must-have safety item in Australia.


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.

Volkswagen ARTEON7/10

The Arteon 206 TSI R-Line is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended annually or every 15,000km and is capped at $433 for the first, $570 for the second, $637 for the third, $740 for the fourth and then back to $433 for the fifth year of ownership.