The new BMW 1 Series says goodbye to rear-wheel drive – Review

The third generation of the new BMW 1 Series no longer drives with traditional rear-wheel drive.

Oh my godness. As if the upheaval in the automotive industry weren’t big enough, BMW went overboard: the third generation of the 1 Series no longer drives with traditional rear-wheel drive. This relic from the “good” old days was popular with some fans in Munich. But times are changing. And so the compact version is driven by the front wheels – like its competitors in the competitive compact class, including the new VW Golf and Audi A3. Only in connection with the more powerful engines there is the 1 Series with all-wheel drive, called “xDrive” in BMW jargon.

More space in the interior

As difficult as it may be, there are good reasons for the decision. The engine no longer has to be installed lengthways at the front, the three- and four-cylinder units are now located transversely under the bonnet. This has a positive effect in some areas.

In the interior there is more space, the width increases compared to its predecessor by 34 millimeters to about 1.80 meters. The trunk volume increases by 20 to 380 liters (still a maximum of 1,200 liters). On the back seat there is now really enough space for the knees (plus 33 millimeters). Only in the headroom can taller people in the rear reach their limits from 1.85 meters. There you have to duck when you get in the five-door car so that you don’t hit your head against the sloping roof line. In the front, on the other hand, there is plenty of room for tall people up and to the side – the feeling of space there is very good. The trail has also changed significantly.

The width of the front axle track increases by three centimeters to almost 1.57 meters. And on top of that, BMW can now also install its latest connectivity and driver assistance systems from the larger series in the 1 Series. The displays in the cockpit (10.25 inches) and the touch monitor (standard are 8.8 inches) are now completely digital and can also be operated using the classic rotary pushbutton in the center console. Another positive side effect: In winter, when the streets should be covered with snow, driving with front-wheel drive is now better and safer.

How it drives

With the new front-wheel drive platform UKL 2, the Munich company is entering uncharted territory. The other BMW models X1 and 2 Series Active Tourer or the Mini family already have front-wheel drive. And in fact, even with “normal” everyday driving in the new 1 Series, there is no striking difference to the rear-wheel drive.

The compact, built since 2004 and also optically revised, continues to drive very sporty. The direct steering with the powerful steering wheel puts you in a good mood, the car is extremely agile when cornering. The tight suspension tuning also sends bumps through the road to the occupants. On the country road or highway, however, it is relaxed and comfortable – the 1 Series is quiet and full on the road even at high speeds. The tests for the new (construction code: F40) in the all new top version 120d Drive with all-wheel drive and came up with a consumption of 6.5 liters per 100 kilometers with the 190 PS diesel. With a full 50 liter tank you can travel almost 800 kilometers.

Another look at the numbers: Although the new 1 Series offers more space inside, at 4.32 meters it is half a centimeter shorter than its predecessor. The wheelbase (2.67 meters) is also two centimeters shorter. In height, however, it grows by around one centimeter to 1.43 meters.


The 1 Series is no longer offered as a three-door or with a six-cylinder engine – both due to insufficient demand. The three-cylinder units can be recognized by a simple tail pipe at the rear. The four-cylinder models contain a dual-flow exhaust system.

The price range starts at 28,300 euros. There is the entry-level petrol BMW 118i with 140 hp. At the other end of the price range is the sportiest version M135i xDrive with 306 hp, for which at least 49,100 euros are due.

Four diesels are available. The smallest 116d has 116 hp and costs from 30,100 euros. The top model is the 190-hp all-wheel drive variant xDrive with automatic transmission (Steptronic) for at least 38,600 euros.


Emotionally, the lack of rear-wheel drive is a damper. One wonders: Couldn’t the 1 Series continue to be a car for singles or couples? Finally, the new front-wheel drive also increases the turning circle by around half a meter to 11.4 meters. But: Now the compact Munich has grown into a full-fledged car for the small family due to the larger space in the rear. On top of that, the 1 Series is quicker and more agile than ever and, thanks to the wider track, has even better road holding – even for long trips. All good arguments, of course.

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