The BMW 1 Series is coming to India

August 20, 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

When BMW sold Rover in 2000, the British car brand was working on Project R30. There were rumours that BMW would use badge engineering to introduce the R30 as its 1 Series but that wasn’t to be.

The R30 may have been an inspiration but the BMW 1 Series was designed from the ground up. When American Chris Chapman worked on the 1 Series, he was led by Chris Bangle – a designer known for his peculiar styling – which explains the eccentricities of its design.

The surface treatment was accentuated by conclave and convex flows but the 1-Series remained true to typical BMW proportions with its short front overhang and a long bonnet. Complex construction methods were used to achieve perfect weight distribution, to the extent of making the front suspension out of an alloy while the rear units are of steel.

The decision to go with run-flat tyres was crucial as it helped in locating the battery where the spare wheel would’ve been stored under the floor. I have a thing against run-flats but that’s because of driving conditions in India. The BMW 1-Series was praised for its sublime handling and taut chassis.

It is now in its second generation and the F20 hatchback model is coming to India in September. Though the new 1-Series looks more grown-up compared with its predecessor, I don’t like the reworking of its front end. The F20 model has five doors while the F21 has three.

Though I’d love to see a coupe version of the F20, BMW doesn’t make one and it wouldn’t make sense for a market like India. BMW will offer two engines in the 1-Series for India – one each for the petrol and diesel variant. Both engines will come with an 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

The 2.0-litre (1997cc) diesel engine is not new to us but it’ll come in a detuned state to deliver 143bhp on tap in the 118d. Needless to say, it’s turbocharged and may suffer from an initial power lag but that’ll change once you get past 2200 revs. The petrol engine is a 1.6-litre, 136 horsepower affair that puts it ahead of the Mercedes A-Class, its main rival in the numbers game. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is standard fitment in both variants and having sampled this ZF-built unit in several cars now, I can assure you of its capabilities and snappy performance.

The BMW 1-Series will be priced similar to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class in the 2 million to 2.5 million rupee bracket. It will attract driving enthusiasts – its longitudinally mounted engine that sends power to the rear wheels and the 50:50 weight distribution makes it exciting to drive. But you must consider that India doesn’t have the concept of fun motoring and the roads are terrible.

The car’s plain looks may also be a turn-off for some.

The three German carmakers – Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz – have big plans for the India market. Mercedes-Benz will be bringing the GLA, a premium compact SUV, to compete with the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1. As for entry-level sedans, the Audi A3 looks solid and elegant with its uncomplicated design unlike the Mercedes-Benz CLA with its many curves.

It’s raining cars in India and I hope the rupee pulls back from record lows so that these great products are priced competitively.

For now, hatchbacks are setting the tone. Going by the initial market response to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, I expect the BMW 1-Series to find many takers too.

(You can follow Ashish on Twitter @jha_ashish)

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