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It is rear-wheel drive

by Guilherme Marques [email protected]

The 1 Series BMW is the only rear-wheel drive hatchback on the market. Not that its drivers are aware of it.

First of all, the shocking number: 80%. That is right, E-I-G-H-T-Y percent of BMW customers who bought a first generation 1 Series thought their car was front-wheel drive.

One would never say we live in the information age. So, let’s make things very clear: BMW has never made a front-wheel drive car (the new Mini doesn’t count). From Munich we can expect rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, and that is probably why BMWs are the best driving cars in the world.

Actually, that statement is about to be challenged in two or three years, when the Bavarian maker launches its first front wheel-drive city car. And although we have the utmost respect and admiration for the German engineers who have given us the 507, 2002 Turbo, the 3 Series and lots of other superb automobiles, something will be lost with that first front-wheel drive Beemer. But those 80% say more about the market than those who see driving as an absolute joy.

Improvements all-round

For now though, the second generation 1 Series still holds true to the BMW tradition and Algarve Resident has just tried the 118d, a rear-wheel drive 2.0 litre diesel packing 143 horse power. It may be the entrance to BMW world, but the 1 Series is an impressive engineering project, with independent suspension all round, and numerous aluminium components.

The weight is kept down at under 1400kg and you can feel the lightness in the performance of the car, which always seems to have a bit more than just 143hp.

The electrical steering has the right weight and a good amount of feedback, but the best part of the driving experience is the fantastic six-speed manual gearbox. Apart from the likes of Porsche, no one makes manual gearboxes like BMW. Acceleration to 100km/h takes 8.9 seconds and maximum speed is well beyond 210km/h.

Inside, the new 1-Series shows its bigger dimensions, although space isn’t its biggest attribute. The quality of the materials has improved dramatically, as well as the building quality, with levels now much closer to the 3-Series.

Ride comfort has also been addressed and this second generation is much kinder to its occupants, offering a refined experience that doesn’t lose its sporty side.

By now you will have noticed the absence of a line or two on the design. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so look carefully. Then look a little longer please, because although this is not BMW’s most beautiful car, it is the best driving hatchback in the market and even with a 143 horse power diesel it feels fast and responsive and will indulge its driver in a twisty mountain road as much as when cruising on the highway or crossing a city roundabout.

Why? Simple, because it is a BMW and because it is rear-wheel drive. Prices start at €33,860.