The sporty silhouette of the new front-wheel drive 118i.
A front-wheel-drive BMW! Heresy, was the first thought when I got wind of BMW’s plan to ditch rear-wheel-drive (RWD) in the new 1 Series.
BMW has historically eschewed front-wheel-drive (FWD) in its predominantly performance-orientated cars for the better weight balance, precise handling and somewhat faster acceleration off the line that comes with a rear-wheel-drive setup.
Predictably, the announcement raised many an eyebrow.
So why the change? BMW says customer requirements for more interior room and luggage space meant moving to a different platform, hence the change to a front-wheel-drive system. Another compelling reason for the move was the ability to share a production platform, giving the 1 Series access to Mini architecture and engines, which would reduce production costs.
But moving to FWD means the new BMW 1 Series is quite a bit different to its RWD predecessor.
So what will BMW enthusiasts make of this about-face on RWD? And could this new FWD pip the RWD 1 Series in terms of appeal? There was only one way to find out: drive it.
Finweek got behind the wheel of the BMW 118i, one of only two models available in South Africa; the other being the flagship BMW M135i xDrive.
I like the look of the new 1 Series. Its athletic proportions are pleasing to the eye and it has an appealing sporty silhouette, with distinctive shoulders and windows that rise towards the rear. The M Sport package on the test vehicle merely serves to enhance an already handsome hatchback.
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10 September 2020