New Year, New Car?
Hey BMW! Shiny, new and it does what it's told. Who needs SIRI when you’ve got the new Series 1 MSport?
First off, I better declare I’m totally biased about BMWs as I once had a 5 Series Touring and still miss its speed, size and solidity – and to me that badge will always be alluring, even when you’ve got three kids and a Sainsbury’s shop in the back. So, being handed the keys to the properly sexy and newly launched MSport – a five seater, five-door sports hatch with sleek styling and oodles of tech as standard – was never going to be a hardship.
I was expecting it to be fast out of the lights and feel like a quality drive, the surprise was all the new technology including the touch screen satnav, the voice-activated controls and the car’s ability to be synched with your mobile. If your life is on your phone, like mine is, you will totally ADORE the new BMW 1 Series.
And you can always superglue your bum to the passenger door in the hope you won’t have to give it back (I did).
The sport hatch is the babycakes of the BMW family and this is their first update since 2011. There are four models, available in a range of colours with fancy-pants names but basically it’s your reliable white, blue, red and a couple of shades of uber-chic grey.
SE is the basic model, with some top-notch extras sold as standard including satnav, parking sensors, cruise control and air con. Upgrade to the Sport model and the main difference is you get sportier seats and some aesthetic tweaks to make it look mean and moody. The MSport takes it up a notch with a leather interior, heated front seats, and a more dynamic body styling but it’s still more about looks than extra power to your elbow. If you want that, the M135i is your go-to: only available as an automatic drive, with two rear exhausts that scream ‘I’m powerful!’ and a 0-62 of 4.8 seconds (compared to 8.5 for the other models).
The big change across all the models is the engine. It’s been rotated to a transverse (no, me neither) but in essence it means there’s more legroom for the mini-moaners in the back and the boot is bigger.
It’s also changed to a front wheel drive – more grippy at the front, though die-hard drivers tend to prefer rear wheel as it’s more fun apparently – and the grill at the front which has been the BMW signature since the 1930’s has been modified to look more edgy and assertive. To be honest, I preferred the old friendlier looking grill (can a bit of metal be friendly??), but maybe that’s just because I’m more of a change-averse luddite than I realised.
If you turn up to a car showroom and ask (like I do): ‘does it have electric windows, good speakers and a satnav please?’, it’s time to get with the programme. All the 1 Series models go the extra tech mile with BMW Live Cockpit Plus which comprises an 8.8inch touch-screen on the dash for your satnav, spotify, digital radio, and car settings.
Touch screen makes so much more sense when you’re driving than fiddly dials, but BMW have gone one better with Intelligent Voice Control where you can speak to it and it does your bidding.
I didn’t get to try it out as it needs to be set up but I love the notion of telling my car what to do and it doing it! Turn up the heating, call mum, bring the washing in (sadly it can’t do that yet) though you can remotely change the ambient temperature on a hot day, to cool it down (or heat it up) in time before you get in.
You can also install a BMW app on your iPhone which will hook up with Microsoft Office and your google calendar so if you have back to back meetings all over the place you can just send it to car and it will pre-load your satnav ready for you. How fabulous and time-saving is that!? You can also use it to turn your phone into a digital key – handy when the other half has hidden the keys under a cushion with the sweet wrappers.
Powerful, nippy, able to accelerate up hills even in fifth or sixth gear. I was slightly alarmed by the safety function which pulls you back into lane if you veer out of it which it did when I was overtaking a bike a dual carriageway – apparently if I’d indicated it wouldn’t have felt the need to correct my driving. Which is brilliant and totally safe, obviously.
I’m used to driving automatic beamers – as apparently so do 80% of the BMW database probably because their automatic is so responsive and powerful and you can switch between automatic to manual when you want a bit of extra oomph – good for hilly old Devon. And there are the easy-access paddles on the steering wheel when you want to override. The one I road-tested was a manual which was just as good, no complaints there.
Lovely and luxe for a hatch! The MSport comes with leather interior as standard and other sporty touches, including black alloy wheels, and slimmer steering wheel. Mine had the M Sport package which added a spoiler over the rear window, tasteful go-faster stripes on the rear seat belts, dark-tinted glass to protect the littlies in the back, sport braking and steering.
There are also various Comfort packs with options on heated steering wheel, compatibility with your phone for locking, a tailgate button for when no-one comes to help you carry the food shopping up from the drive (yup always).
Just dropped off your eldest at uni for the first time *sobs* or having a bad day? Press a button on the side of your seat and it pumps up the sides of the seat to give you a cuddle. Oh yes, it also gives more support for long drives and fast Lewis Hamilton corners.
The transverse engine has created an extra 20 litres of space in the boot, so you could easily fit five flight bags in the back, though not the big check-in bags. There’s also a lift up flap on the bottom of the boot for hiding computer cases away from prying eyes.
There’s soooo much to like – the frameless rearview mirror – so sleek – anti-dazzle wing mirrors that fold away neatly when you lock up, the fast-heating seats on those short school runs to the station at silly o’clock on cold mornings. The purple flash on the interior front doors at night – not necessary but just well, thoughtful.
THE TECHY BITS
Stop yawning at the back! Let’s start with the bit we can all understand – the sounds. Apple Car Play gives you access to your Spotify playlists and it comes with six months free of music-streaming from Napster. And worry not, if you’re hopelessly untechnical and hate reading manuals, the lovely people in the showroom will help you sort it all out and explain it to you.
Also standard, should you ever – gawd forbid – be in an accident, say like you rolled your car – is an SOS system which senses there is a problem, phones you and if you don’t pick up within a certain number of rings, alert the emergency services and guides them to you. So clever.
Extras I’d recommend include the parking assistant, which shows the rear view on your dash – brilliant for driveways like mine with zero view of passing traffic and the Technology Pack which gives you brilliant surround sound from a whopping 16 speakers.
Emissions-wise it’s petrol only, so the emissions might make a die-hard eco warrior wince but at 121g/km, it’s on a par with the Audi A1 and Mercedes A-class.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Love it, love it, LOVE it. Imposing looks but it fits sleekly on the drive, through town traffic and clogged up narrow country lanes like a dream. It was gorgeous on the motorway, and with that power and acceleration even in fifth, you’re never going to get stuck behind a slow-coach in the slow lane again.
Good for: unmumsy mums and undoddery dads; great for couples, singletons and tech-lovers; remote workers who rely on the satnav; anyone with their life on their phone.
Not for: basket-ballers; your sole family car if you’ve got three big ‘uns in the back: long-haul family travellers – the boot will nee take it, captain.
The damage: The MSport I drove with the M sport package, Technology pack, parking assistant and enhanced bluetooth with wireless charging is £31,805. The entry level SE petrol manual costs £24,430 (automatic £25,500); Sport manual £24,430 (automatic £26500); MSport manual £27,230 (automatic £28,500); M135i automatic only £36430.
Fancy a test drive? Go and see if you agree with my verdict! Pop in and see the lovely peeps at Ocean in Plymouth who can arrange a 24-hour test drive and help you find the perfect car to suit your lifestyle and budget. They are so helpful and knowledgable and can explain everything in layman’s terms (phew).
Word: Lisa Buckland, Muddy Devon editor