Munich - BMW has unveiled its third-generation 1 Series and it marks the end of an era as the hatchback shifts over to BMW’s ULK front-wheel-drive platform, meaning that the world no longer has a rear-driven compact hatchback.

Although no longer pandering to the most discerning of drivers, the shift does make sense on many levels, with the new 1 Series said to offer significantly more interior space than its predecessor, with rear seat passengers being the main beneficiaries. The three-door version also falls away with this generation, leaving the five-door as the only body style option.

At 4319mm in length, the new 1 Series is 5mm shorter than its predecessor, but 34mm wider and 13mm taller, and the exterior design draws many cues from its X2 crossover cousin.

Shifting to the new architecture does not necessarily mean soggy handling however, with BMW promising a dynamic sharpness “unprecedented in front-wheel-drive cars”.

Furthermore, the new 1 is available with adaptive damping and the two top models in the range (M135i and 120d) are fitted with xDrive all-wheel-drive.

The M135i flagship also gets a mechanical Torsen limited-slip differential, and it is powered by the most potent version of BMW’s 2-litre turbopetrol, rivalling the Golf R with outputs of 225kW and 450Nm. According to BMW, the M135i will sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds, or 4.7s if the M Performance Package is fitted.

The other petrol-fuelled option is the 118i, which is powered by BMW’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol, in this case tuned to 103kW and 220Nm. 

These two petrol variants will be the only engines available in South Africa from launch.

European buyers also get three diesel options in the form of a 1.5-litre 116d (85kW, 270Nm) and two 2-litre units, these being a 118d with 110kW and 350Nm and a 120d with 140kW/400Nm.

The M135i and 120d xDrive models are fitted with BMW’s eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is an option on the 118d. The 118i, 116d and 118d all come standard with a six-speed manual, while the former two can be specified with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Inside, the 1 Series looks very much like a scaled down 3 Series, with abundant alloy trim elements and the new 7.0 BMW Operating System. There’s a wide array of infotainment options, including a digital instrument cluster and full-colour 23.3cm Head-Up Display.

Available driver assistance gadgets include Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function and BMW’s Driving Assistant with Lane Change Warning, Rear Collision Warning and Crossing Traffic Warning.

Other gizmos available on the 1 Series for the first time are the BMW Digital Key and BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant with smart voice control.

South African specifications and pricing will be announced closer to launch, which is currently scheduled for the third quarter of 2019.

IOL Motoring