For the longest time, the Indian car buyer’s entry point to a luxury badge like Audi, BMW, Volvo or Mercedes was a saloon that cost upwards of R30 lakh. But then, BMW took the risk of introducing the X1 compact luxury SUV as its most affordable offering, and it paid off—allowing the company to rise to the top of the luxury sales charts. However, since then, a new, even more affordable segment of luxury hatchbacks has emerged, and the attractive Mercedes A-class and Volvo V40 Cross Country were the first to tap it.
Not one to sit around, BMW has wasted little time in bringing its 1-series hatchback here. As with any BMW, it is totally driver focused and is the only luxury hatchback to come with a thoroughbred rear-wheel-drive layout. So, is it as much fun to drive as a 3-series, is it sufficiently well equipped and does it have enough legroom in the back? These and other questions answered in our exclusive drive of BMW’s baby.
The way a car looks is your first impression of it, and the new 1-series is a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, the details and headlights are well executed and some bits on the car look stunning, but the long bonnet and a very upright cabin give it odd proportions, and the rear looks a little plain. So, overall, on the styling front, the A-class and V40 Cross Country do a bit better than the 1-series.
The material quality and fit and finish on the inside are, save for a few bits here and there, top-notch. The layout of the dashboard looks a lot like that of its elder sibling, the 3-series, and it is very logical and functional. In fact, climb inside and you soon forget what you are driving, it feels so much like a 3-series in here. The large windows, low dashboard and slim pillars mean it’s very easy to see out of, and the driver’s seating position is just perfect.
The top trims of the 1-series get sports seats that are electrically adjustable. They are very comfortable, with thick bolstering that is very supportive; you can even extend the seat squab for added thigh support. The cushioning is a tad firm, but all the extra support helps when this car is driven hard.
The rear seat is best for two people only. This is because there is a large hump (called the