Is This Really ‘The One?'
Finweek English|10 September 2020
Is This Really ‘The One?'
In a bid to free up interior and boot space, BMW makes the big shift to front-wheel-drive for its new BMW 1 Series. But can this new front-wheel-drive model pip its rear-wheel-drive predecessor?
Glenda Williams

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.

Exterior character

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