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Baby Beemer

That will be tested when the German company
launches its new, small 1-Series five-door hatch in

The starting point for BMW cars was $43,869 for the
Compact 3-Series three door which had limited appeal
in this country.

But at under 40 grand (for 118i), the Corolla-size
1-Series has much better prospects, particularly as it is built on the 3-Series production line in Regensburg, Germany, using the 3-series platform as a base and the same engines.

The model kicks off in Australia with the 120i – using a 2.0-litre, 110kW, four cylinder petrol engine. A lower-priced 118i – with a 1.8-litre petrol four arrives early next year.

The 2.0-litre engine features variable valve timing
and balancer shafts to improve performance. It is
mounted longitudinally in the 1-Series engine compart-

The 1-Series has a number of appealing features not
the least being its rear wheel drive layout – all other cars in this segment are either front wheel drive or in high range models, all wheel drive.

As well as a strong point of difference, rear drive
gives the 1-Series a superior feel to other small cars
with a total absence of torque steer (unexpected
steering effect under power).

Two six speed transmissions will be offered on the
120i in manual and steptronic (sequential) auto. The
118i will have a five speed manual and six speed auto.

As expected, the 1-Series passes the Euro NCAP
crash test with a five star rating.

Various chassis components are aluminium includ-
ing the front suspension. Like all other BMWs sold
here, the 1-Series boasts an arsenal of electronic
control systems to improve dynamics and boost safety.

Numbered among these are ABS, Dynamic Stability
Control, Cornering Brake Control and plenty more.

The car has a 50/50 weight bias to optimise handling
and ride.

Styling has clear links to other cars in the BMW
range – 3-Series headlights, concave side panels from the Z4.

It has a chiselled look to the body with style lines to accentuate its shape and make it stand out. Of
particular note is the so-called "banana line" along the bottom edge of the doors – something not seen before.

The interior is typical BMW sharing general layout
and controls with other models in the range. It is neat, functional and aesthetic.

No "space miracle" inside, the 1-Series will
accommodate five at a pinch or four in relative
comfort. Rear seat legroom is tight with medium size
front passengers and the boot is a good size.

We were able to drive the new 120i at the
international launch in Munich last week and liked
what we saw. The car has excellent dynamics and a
sporty feel coupled with an engine not afraid to rev.

The six speed manual transmission has short throws
between gears and all the controls have a firm,
typically BMW feel.

No autos were available for test.

Engine performance is acceptable from the 2.0-litre
petrol but the diesel 2.0-litre, not coming here, is the real goer in the range.

A rash of new high tech diesels is flooding Europe
offering superior performance, economy and lower
emissions than petrol engines.European carmakers are
investing heavily in new diesel technology.

Also prevailing in Europe are either run-flat tyres or
space saver spares. The new 1-Series has the latter and no spare.

Ignition is by push button after key insertion and a
service indicator does away with under bonnet checks
such as the oil dipstick.

An extensive range of options is available with the
1-Series including items like i-drive and satellite

Standard equipment is extensive and of high
quality.The 1-Series will compete in the premium
small car segment with Audi A3, Alfa 147 and VW
Bora. Mercedes-Benz has no direct competitor.

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