F40 BMW 1 Series makes its debut – third-gen is now front-wheel drive, gets range-topping M135i xDrive

This is the third-generation F40 BMW 1 Series, which has undergone a significant five-year redesign to take over from the second-generation F20, as well as challenge the latest Mercedes-Benz A-Class. In this iteration, the model is only available as a five-door hatchback, BMW states.

Unlike its predecessors, the new 1 Series marks the first time a front-wheel drive platform is used, specifically the FAAR (Frontantriebsarchitektur). While it may be a shocker to purists, BMW says there are practical benefits to be gained from this move, and promises “dynamic sharpness unprecedented in front-wheel-drive cars.”

With the new platform, there are some changes to the dimensions, as the new 1 Series is now five mm shorter compared to the F20 at 4,319 mm. Additionally, the width is now 1,799 mm (+34 mm), the height now measures 1,434 mm (+13 mm), while the wheelbase has shrunk by 20 mm to 2,670 mm.

Thanks to an aluminium bonnet and tailgate, along with the use of high-strength steels, the new 1 Series is now 30 kg lighter compared to its predecessor. This comes with an increase in bending and torsional rigidity, helped along by the standard boomerang-shaped strut in the vehicle’s rear section.

The switch to a transverse engine layout results in a shorter bonnet, which gives the car less of a “bread van” look than before. Viewed from the side, BMW points out a pronounced shark nose at the front, while the rising window line culminates at the C-pillar in the in the Hofmeister kink.

There’s also a distinctive character line now located just below the door handles, which originates from the top of the front wheel arch leading to the rear wings. A secondary line starts in the lower part of the front door and sweeps upward, and from this angle, you can also spot the less rakish rear window.

Like recent BMW models, there’s also a larger, conjoined kidney grille at the front, with the M135i xDrive variant having its own distinct mesh pattern. The new 1 Series also sports restyled headlamps, which are now much more angular in their design. Base versions of the car will come with halogen units with LED daytime running lights, while adaptive full-LED lights are available as an option.

As for the rear lighting setup, the clusters are now slimmer than before and boast L-shaped graphics within them. Once again, lesser variants receive bulb-type taillights, while LED setups are reserved for those higher up the range.

Four equipment lines are available here, beginning with the Advantage that is identified by a chrome kidney grille surround with gloss black slats, matte black front air intake and window graphic surrounds, as well as body-coloured mirror caps and rear apron.

The Sport Line features adds black elements on the air intakes, kidney grille bars, mirror caps and rear apron, while the window surrounds receive BMW Individual high-gloss Shadow Line trim. Next up, the Luxury Line uses an aluminium satin finish on numerous parts like the grille, window surround, with the front intakes and mirror caps painted in body colour.

The sportiest of the bunch are M Sport models that come with a more aggressive front and rear bumpers, with plenty of gloss black accents, including the window surround from BMW Individual. The M Sport also gets the aluminium satin finish from the Luxury Line for its grille slats. Wheel sizes range from 16 to 19 inches, depending on the selected option and/or equipment level chosen.

Moving inside, the F40’s revamped dashboard carries the BMW Live Cockpit Professional (with BMW Operating System 7.0), which consists of two 10.25-inch displays – one acting as the instrument cluster, while the other is a touchscreen for infotainment functions. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, first seen in the G20 3 Series, is also ready to serve here, as is the BMW Digital Key.

F40 BMW 1 Series makes its debut – third-gen is now front-wheel drive, gets range-topping M135i xDrive

Lesser setups in the form of the BMW Live Cockpit and BMW Live Cockpit Plus are also available, both with analogue dials and a 5.1-inch, 4:3 portrait-format display, and these systems are offered with navigation plus Apple CarPlay support.

Below the infotainment screen are the reshaped air vents, which are slimmer than previously, while those in the corners have been made more angular. Beyond that, the climate quick access/media controls have swapped their positions on the dash, with a more minimalistic approach when it comes to the number of buttons.

On the centre console is the familiar placement of the gear lever, start/stop button, drive modes, iDrive Touch Controller and buttons for other vehicle functions, which should be familiar to anyone who has been in newer BMW models.

A new steering wheel design is also part of the overhaul, and there’s a wide selection of upholstery options available. Also available is a panoramic roof, three speaker setups, connected servies for the infotainment system, a 9.2-inch head-up display and backlit trim strips. The last item is reminiscent of the MINI Yours Illuminated interior, and offers six switchable colours.

It’s clear the interior of the new 1er marks a significant step forward, but there’s also improvements in terms of spaciousness too. The new architecture allows for 33 mm more kneeroom and 19 mm more headroom in the rear. Better elbowroom is available to both front (+42 mm) and rear (+13 mm) passengers.

Luggage compartment capacity is now up by 20 litres to 380 litres, or 1,200 litres when the rear seat bench is folded down. The minimum width of the luggage aperture has also increased by 67 mm, and an electrically operated tailgate is now available for added convenience.

Saving the best for last, let’s talk about the available engines for the new 1 Series. On the diesel side of things, there’s the 116d with a 1.5 litre three-cylinder turbodiesel with 116 PS (114 hp) and 270 Nm of torque. In this guise, available transmission include a six-speed manual or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch Steptronic.

Further up, the 118d packs a 2.0 litre four-cylinder oil burner that develops 150 PS (147 hp) and 350 Nm, while the 120d xDrive (also with a 2.0 litre engine) brings with it 190 PS (188 hp) and 400 Nm. A six-speed manual comes with the 118d, with an eight-speed torque converter Steptronic available as an option, although the auto box is the only option for the 120d.

F40 BMW 1 Series makes its debut – third-gen is now front-wheel drive, gets range-topping M135i xDrive

Meanwhile, there are two petrol engines available, starting with the 118i that packs a 1.5 litre turbocharged three-cylinder with 140 PS (138 hp) and 220 Nm of torque. The 118i’s transmission offerings are identical to the 116d mentioned above.

A more exciting prospect is the M135i xDrive, which gets the same powertrain used in the F39 X2 M35i. This is BMW Group’s most powerful four-cylinder engine, a 2.0 litre turbocharged unit that develops 306 PS (302 hp) and 450 Nm, paired with an eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system.

Performance-wise, the variant will take just 4.8 seconds to complete the zero to 100 km/h, with an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h. The obvious rival here is the Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic, which by comparison, takes 4.7 seconds to complete the same century sprint. The A 35 uses a 2.0 litre turbo four-pot with 306 PS (302 hp) and 400 Nm, as well as a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

F40 BMW 1 Series makes its debut – third-gen is now front-wheel drive, gets range-topping M135i xDrive

Beyond the engines, the 1 Series can be had with one of three suspension options, including the M Sport suspension that drops the ride height by 10 mm. An Adaptive suspension setup with Variable Damper Control (VDC) is also offered, allowing drivers to switch between Comfort and Sport Modes. All 1 Series models, come with a multi-link rear axle setup, while it’s a single-joint spring strut axle arrangement for the front.

Similarly, all variants are equipped with actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation (ARB) technology adapted from the i3s. The system works with the DSC system to significantly reduce power understeer without any form of stabilising intervention.

BMW says it positioned the system’s slip controller in the engine control unit rather than in the control unit for the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system, allowing for shorter signal paths so information is relayed three times quicker. It adds that this allows the driver to perceive wheel slip being brought under control up to ten times faster.

F40 BMW 1 Series makes its debut – third-gen is now front-wheel drive, gets range-topping M135i xDrive

Complementing the ARB is BMW Performance Control – a form of torque vectoring by braking – to grant the front-wheel drive machine better agility. Of course, drivers can deactivate the DSC system or engage the Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) setting if they wish to sample the car with less safety nets.

Lastly, the 1 Series comes as standard (in Europe) with collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function, as well as Lane Departure Warning system with active lane return (works between 70 to 210 km/h)

Options include Active Cruise Control system with Stop & Go function, plus the Driving Assistant suite that comprises Lane Change Warning and Proactive Driving Assistant rear collision warning and crossing traffic warning.

F40 BMW 118i Sport Line

F40 BMW M135i xDrive

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