How low should luxury automakers go? While Mercedes introduces two relatively affordable sedans and as Acura cuts the ILX’s price by a staggering $2,200, BMW lacks a four-door entry-level car in the U.S. A fix to that will arrive in the form of the 2 Series Gran Coupe, a car we drove in prototype form in Germany—stay tuned for our review on July 23 at 3:01 p.m. PT. But when we attended BMW’s #NextGen show in Munich to showcase the automaker’s many promising future-tech endeavors, the 1 Series hatch stopped us in our tracks.
So should the BMW 1 Series hatchback come to the U.S. as a price-leading model below the upcoming 2 Series Gran Coupe? Here are our impressions based on time spent exploring the car in Germany.
So M Sporty
The 118d hatch I examined was powered by a small diesel engine that will never see the U.S. market, but you’d never know it by looking at the car’s M Sport package. Although M Sport models also add a revised suspension and extra equipment, the most meaningful upgrade is the way it enhances the new 1’s already improved exterior design with just the right amount of sporty aesthetic details. For hot hatch fans who appreciate the status of a luxury brand, the styling of this 1—in M Sport form—is a winner, especially from the rear view.
Not What I Expected
BMW’s U.K. consumer site credits the new 1 Series’ front-wheel-drive architecture for adding more headroom and legroom than the previous model. Although I can’t speak to the last-gen hatch’s interior, I was surprised by the new 1 Series’ back seat. As long as tall passengers keep their knees in the carved-out portion in the back of the M Sport’s front seats, there’s actually a decent amount of legroom for outboard passengers (non-M-Sport models have softer seatbacks). Plus, the 118d M Sport car we sat in had two rear USBs.
Where’d YOU Come From?
Some 1 Series models in Europe will offer a power-opening liftgate, but that’s not what impressed me about the 1 Series’ cargo area. Actually, it’s a hidden underfloor storage compartment that extends nearly the entire length of the cargo floor. Plus, it’s quite deep; it nearly fit my overstuffed backpack.
Nicely Done Interior (Mostly)
Look closely inside, and you’ll see a number of premium touches, from the knurled silver HVAC sliders to the available 10.3-inch infotainment display smartly tilted a tad toward the driver, the stylish gear stalk, and the fully digital instrument cluster display.
Oh, and that silver trim across the dash and doors? It may not wow at first glance, but the bottom of it glows at night, adding mood lighting to the interior.
On the other side of the equation, we could do without the blank buttons on the center console, not to mention the poor rear visibility.
Fun fact: BMW tells us that its new infotainment system, which involves treating the car as iPhone users communicate with Siri, is customizable. So if you’d rather say “Hey You” instead of “Hey BMW,” the car will probably oblige.
So Should BMW Bring the 1 Series Hatch to the U.S.?
If BMW ever wanted to seriously undercut the Mercedes-Benz A 220 in price, a 118i hatch would do the trick. Hatch fans may like the sporty looks of the new 1 Series, and folks with small parking spots will value that the 1 Series hatch is about 4 inches shorter than the already tiny 2 Series coupe. But let’s be honest, as much as we may salivate over 118d M Sport photos in the gallery (go look!), more American buyers would rather pick the non-hatch look of a car like the upcoming 2 Series Gran Coupe. So we’ll continue admiring the 1 Series’ styling from afar as we wait for the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s U.S. arrival.
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