Cars - BMW

Road tests and reviews of the latest BMW models available in South Africa

2016 BMW 1 Series

2016 BMW 1 Series

By Franky Johnson

Unveiled back in 2011, the second generation of the 1 Series is now part of a growing family of BMW compact models, having been accompanied by the 2 Series Coupe, Cabriolet model and Active Tourer variant back in 2014. Available in either three-door or five-door guises, the smallest BMW model is rivaled by the likes of the Audi A3, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and the Lexus CT, but unlike any of the aforementioned models it is the only car in its segment to be based on a rear-wheel drive architecture. Its engine lineup consists of a host of turbocharged four and six-cylinder engines, paired with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission sourced from ZF, while all-wheel drive xDrive traction is available on selected models.

With the model now a little older, the Bavarian carmaker has recently facelifted its five and three-door range, restyling much of its controversial exterior design and refreshing the entire engine lineup. Bringing a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 12 percent, new 1.5-liter three-cylinder diesel and gasoline engines now constitute the base models, having been borrowed from the latest MINI. The model with the lowest fuel consumption in the entire range will now be the 116d EfficientDynamics Edition, whose 116 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque are paired with a combined fuel economy of just 69.2 mpg.

The biggest surprise comes on the outside though, as the new BMW 1 Series Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) shows an completely different look. Gone are the "Angry Birds" headlights, having been replaced by restyled ones that are more in line with the current BMW design theme. Small improvements to the front and rear bumpers have also been made, while the square-ish taillights are now L-shaped, just like on pretty much every other BMW model.

BMW unveiled the official details on the facelifted 1 Series hatchback family early last year.

No matter how good the non-facelift 1 Series performed in relationship with its rivals, the rather controversial headlights still made it looks like a distant cousin of an "Angry Bird" character. The mid-cycle refresh seems to have completely resolved the situation up front, with the new headlights being nicely integrated in the overall design of both the model and the entire BMW BMW range. Despite still being mildly large for such a small BMW model, they offer a more confident look without being contentious. For the first time, they now comes with standard LED "Angel Eyes" and with optional full-LED headlamps.

A slightly-redesigned "kidney" grille and larger air intakes complete the new front-end, while the side view is quasi-identical with the previous versions whether in three-door or five-door guise. On the other hand, the rear end has also been thoroughly redesigned, with the somewhat square taillights now displaying the traditional BMW L-shape and featuring LED technology.

There aren’t many design novelties on the inside, apart from quite a lot of previously-optional features now becoming standard. Automatic climate control, rain sensor and the Bmw Radio Professional now complete the iDrive operating system, which comes complete with a 6.5-inch free-standing display. If customers opt for the optional Professional Navigation system, the display is replaced by a larger one, measuring 8.8 inches. Other thant that, the only major difference in terms of interior design are some chrome surrounds for the air vents and the radio/climate controls, with high-gloss black paneling completing the exact same center console.

Apart from the entirely different exterior and mildly-refreshed interior, it is under the hood where the facelifted BMW 1 Series offers the biggest surprises. Taken straight out of the new latest MINI and switched from a transverse to a longitudinal positioning, a pair of three-cylinder powerplants (one diesel and the other one running on gasoline) will now be part of the 1 Series engine lineup. Both have a 1.5-liter displacement and are part of the same engine family as the three-cylinder from the i8.

On the diesel front, by far the most interesting feature is the outstanding fuel economy achieved by the new three-cylinder 116d EfficientDynamics Edition, which offers a combined range of 69.2 mpg. The M135i top of the range model now benefits from 326 horsepower and the same 332 pound-feet of torque, while the optional eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF now offers an electronic management supported by navigation data, like in the Rolls-Royce Ghost.

While some BMW purists may frown at the news that the 1 Series now features three-cylinder engine borrowed from MINI, the fact that the model now has a version that uses less fuel than a purpose-built hybrid does say a lot. Also, things like navigation-controlled shifts for the models with automatic transmission were until recently only found on cars like the Rolls-Royce Rolls-Royce Ghost and Wraith. With that being said, people who probably avoided the non-facelift 1 Series for its styling can now rest assured that the new front end will no longer scare children and small animals with its peculiar headlights. Plus, you should keep in mind that this is the last ever 1 Series based on a rear-wheel drive platform, with the future generations of the car switching to a variant of the FWD-based UKL platform. In other words, it may even become a collector’s model in the future.

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