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Full text of Clarkson's article on BMW 1-series. I amazed that I agree with so much of what he says - that doesn't happen often. The only thing that surprises me is that he says that he "...has been accused of having it for BMW." By whom? :naughty:

BMW 1-series
This car is taking BMW into dangerous territory

One of the things I used to admire about BMW was the focus shown by its designers and engineers. They were the snipers of the car industry, lying in wait while the enemy blundered about with smoking tanks and faulty machineguns, and then, boomf, delivering a killer shot that never missed.
Once the company had stopped fiddling about with three-wheelers and converted post office vans, it developed a recipe that served it well for nigh on 30 years. All its cars had double headlamps at the front, a straight-six engine in the middle, and rear-wheel drive at the back.
There were, in essence, three body styles, five engines and a range of options, so the customer could indulge in a spot of pick’n’mix.

You could have a small car with a big engine and no equipment. Or you could have a large car with a small engine and electric everything. But whatever you chose there was a rightness to the feel of the thing. A sense that the company had put driving pleasure above everything else.
Then it did a Coca-Cola. The sniper decided he didn’t want to be a sniper any more and changed the damn recipe. So we ended up with four-wheel-drive cars that were made in America, and two-seater convertibles, and a wide range of diesel engines. And then it put a chap called Chris Bangle in charge of design.
Before Bangle, most BMWs adhered to the same set of rules. They had a lean-forward shark’s nose, they had the double-kidney grille, they had grey paint and then there was that little kink on the rear pillar. It’s called the Hofmeister kink, after the man who invented it, and it gives the car an aggressive, lean-forward stance.
Now, though, all of these design cues have been lost in a sea of planes and creases that probably play well in design circles. But in the real world they don’t look modern or sharp. They look daft.
Still, at least the BMW badge continued to count for something. Apart from dipping their toe into the mass market with the truly awful 3-series Compact, Beemers were always a cut above norm. They were what you bought to demonstrate that life was treating you well.
Only now, with the launch of the 1-series, this last bastion of BMWishness has gone. Because the 1-series, like a Focus or an Astra or a Golf, is a five-door family hatchback.
For now, of course, this is great. It means a large number of people who could never afford a BMW in the past can put that blue and white badge on their drive. The neighbours will be impressed. The curtains will twitch. Men will offer their daughters to your sons.
But how long will it be, I wonder, before the 1-series does for BMW what Freddie Laker did for air travel? Turns something glamorous and exciting into a “win free save!” orgy of packaged mass transportation.
In the early Seventies, if you went to Florida for your holidays you were seen as pretty cool. But now you’re seen as a rather stupid oik.
The 1-series will be the ruination of the BMW brand. Of that I have no doubt. But at the moment, despite the lost vision and the appointment of Bangle, that ruination has not yet got into its stride. For now you can still buy a Beemer and survive the experience with your dignity intact. The question is, should you? And to answer that, we have to work out if the 1-series is any good.
The advertisements tell us, endlessly, that unlike any other family hatchback on the market it has rear-wheel drive. And that’s great. Rear-wheel drive is a significant part of BMW’s DNA.
In a front-wheel-drive car the front wheels have to deal with the steering and the delivery of the engine’s power to the road. It’s a tough job and in most cases, for the purist at least, the end result is deeply unsatisfying. With rear-wheel drive the back wheels do the power delivery, leaving those at the front to get on with steering. It’s a much more expensive option but the result is balance. And balance is a building block on which something spectacular can be created.
You can feel the benefits, immediately, in the 1-series. Even at normal, trundling-about speeds it feels more together than even the Focus, king of the front-drivers.
There’s more, too. In the Beemer you have a thick steering wheel, a short-throw gearchange, and an antilock braking system that cuts in when you’re in real trouble and not because it can’t be bothered to work out when that moment might be. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that as a driving machine this is a significant cut above the hatchback norm.
And now, here comes the but, galloping over the hills with news of many, many problems that will leave you wishing, with all your heart, that you’d bought something else.
First of all there’s the styling. Now I know that when it comes to hatchbacks familiarity breeds indifference. The new Astra is a truly stunning piece of design, but like pylons you see so many you simply don’t notice the grace and cleverness. The BMW, however, is just plain ugly. It may have the double headlamps and the kidney grille and the Hofmeister kink, but viewed as a whole it looks like a van.
So what about the engine? Well, the petrol version will get you from 0 to 60 in about two hours, so if you want any poke at all, and surely that’s the reason why you’re buying a BMW, you have to go for the diesel. It’s not a bad diesel by any standards, but come on. Where’s the fun in a car that sounds like a canal boat? So it’s slow and ugly and now things really go downhill because thanks to the prop shaft and all the other rear-wheel-drive gubbins, there is no space in the back. And I don’t mean that legroom is limited. I mean there is absolutely none at all.
Even BMW says this car will sell to young people with no children, but this is silly. If you have no children, why buy a family hatchback? Because you want a big boot? Well forget that as well, because in the 1-series it’s tiny.
And then there’s the ride, which thanks to the fitment of run-flat tyres is intolerable on anything but a kitchen work surface, and the quality of some trim pieces, which will disappoint those who may have expected granite rather than Plasticine.
But the worst thing about the 1-series is the prices. In the past BMWs were expensive because they were demonstrably better, and more exciting, than all of their rivals. But the 1-series, as we’ve seen, is demonstrably worse.
And yet for the top-of-the-range diesel you are asked to pay £20,700, and anything up to £32,000 if you go berserk with the options list. Even if you show some self restraint you’d be lucky to put a car like this on the road for less than £23,000, and I’m sorry, but you can have two hatchbacks for that.
Park one of these on your drive and the neighbours will not think, “Hmm, that’s an expensive car. He must be doing well.” They’ll think, “Hmm, that’s an expensive car. He must be off his rocker.” You can have a Golf GTI for less, and that, in almost every single way, is a better car.
So if you want a hatchback, buy a Focus. If you want a hatchback with some go, buy the VW. If you just want some action and you don’t care about space in the back, or a hard ride, or the price, buy a sports car. A Honda S2000 would be fine.
I have been accused, in recent years, of having it in for BMW. There was even some talk, after my recent review of the dreadful X3, that I would not be allowed any more press demonstrators. And this is why I’ve devoted the entire column this week to a test of the 1-series rather than tagging it on to the end of a rant about cheese.
And it’s why I’m choosing the words for my conclusion with even more care than usual. So here goes. The 1-series is crap.

1,089 Posts
Interesting....JC normally really gets on my t1t5, but this review is spot on.

The 1 Series is evident of a successful company thinking it is invincible. The X3 is another example. I have never driven one, but I have been in one, and some of the materials used are of the cheapness that Ford would be proud of!!!

The 1 Series IS ugly, and if I were paying £23,000, I'd want a whole lot more car for the money. If I wanted a 5 door hatch, there are plenty to choose from at half the price.

In fact if I were paying over £20,000 I'd want a decent large saloon or estate. Or maybe a sports car. A hatchback would not even be on the list!!

Fingers crossed, BMWs foray into markets it doesn't understand together with Bangles crap styling, may put BMW into serious's hoping. Couldn't happen to a nicer company!!! :bgrin: I'm sure they are probably currently looking at entering the market currently dominated by Qualcast and Flymo with a rear wheel drive hover....... :naughty: :=p:

2,103 Posts
Mr. Clarkson is pretty spot on in this review. I really dislike his typical 'I loathe this car because it doesn't have a 1000 hp V16' rant... But I think his point that why would one buy a 1 series when one could buy a Focus at about half the price is well hammered in. And though I do actually like the 1 series styling... it's not worth that much to me. Nor is the BMW name.

588 Posts
I have to agree on what has been said before. The car is to expensive (because of RWD), has not enough space (because of RWD). The engines are not what you would expect of a BMW (read about this in several magazines).

But at the moment it seems that the car is selling very well. It may be the point, that you just can't compare the car to a Golf, Focus etc. The car is positioned to be the second or third car for someone who drives one of the big BMW's and wants a small car for his wife and doesn't want to buy a Mini.

We all here know that the car is not faster than a normal Golf and doesn't handle better too. But there are a lot of people out there that don't read car magazines. The will go to their dealers ... in this case they would perhaps only go to Mercedes, Audi and BMW dealers, and then you would have to compare the BMW 1 to the Mercedes A-Class and the Audi A2.

And if I compare these three cars the BMW would win anytime!
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