My day with the 1-series
Had the E90 booked in for an early oil service today, so I took the opportunity to drive an automatic TiAg 120i service loan car for the day as I had never driven a 1-series.
Can't really say that I'm a huge fan of the 1-series styling, especially from front on. This car reminds me too much of the E36 era M-coupe "Bread Van". Whilst the Chris Bangle styling effort on the 3-series is one of his more "conservative" designs (which is more me), I think the 1-series is somewhat more "funky" and "radical" and is probably aimed at a younger buyer than the usual 3-series owner. When you look at one up close you do notice alot more curves on the body than a 3-series and they seem out of proportion from some angles (especially at the front). The car did look good in Titanium Silver though with the colour coded door handles and bumpers.
Everything inside is very familiar to a 3-series driver and I did get comfortable and was able to adjust the mirrors, steering wheel and seat very quickly.
One thing I did notice is that you do lose the traditional BMW fuel consumption gauge underneath the speedometer. I found out later that this is replaced by an additional display function found in the on-board computer (why they bothered to do this I don't know). The other thing a 3-series driver will notice is that the centre armrest is lower than usual and you do get a proper driver's door handle in a 1-series (which is a good thing).
In my opinion, the quality of the interior trim used in the 1-series is not as good as found in the 3-series. The feel of the plastic used in the door trims and dashboard is particularly "cheap" when compared with an E90.
The larger rear pillars do make reversing a little more difficult than in a 3 but it's no problem. The interior feels like it's a "shrunken" version of a 3-series which I found makes it feel "cosy" but not small (like my original E30). The rear leg room will cause problems for taller passengers when compared with a 3-series but that's to be expected I guess. One thing I didn't like in the back of the 1-series is the lack of a rear centre armrest and rear vents.
The rear boot space is smaller than what you get in an E90 but I think it's a little more practical as you have greater opening space because it's a hatchback.
I guess with a slightly lighter kerb weight when compared to my car I shouldn't have been surprised that the 120i felt a bit quicker to drive. (Mind you after the oil service my 3-series did feel quicker again than the 120i which goes to show the benefits of changing your oil a little bit more regularly).
This particular 1-series I drove wasn't fitted with the m sport package like my own car but it did have 17" Pirelli RFT's and the BMW sport seats and it rode particularly well in my opinion. The handling of the 120i felt more responsive than my 3 (probably because of the lighter weight) and it felt more like a little go kart which made it very fun to drive. In fact, I was very surprised how "polished" it felt to drive when you consider that the 1-series is the bottom of the BMW range and is designed to compete with more pedestrian cars like VW Golfs and Opels etc in Europe.
I was impressed with the 120i and it's practicality but felt it could use a little more power. To my surprise I found I could forgive the "cheapness" of the interior because of the way it drove and I think it's a true BMW in every sense. It wasn't the disappointment or compromise I thought it would be.
In fact, when I returned the 120i to the dealership I had a quick drive around the block of their 130i m sport demonstrator. Now if you want a small, fun and powerful BMW in the mould of the original E30 323i/M325i then this is the right car for you.
and now I'm seriously thinking of a manual 130i m sport to join the E90 in the garage......