Thursday, March 1, 2007

LISBON, Portugal — When BMW presented its refreshed 5 Series for their first driving impressions, auto writers also had the opportunity to drive the brand-new 1 Series three-door model.

The hatchback model of the 1 Series has been available since mid-2004 and no fewer than 250,000 have been sold. This not withstanding the fact that the compact five-door car does not offer much passenger space on the rear bench seat. But the small BMW is especially impressive with fun-to-drive qualities for a lower price than the 3 Series. However, we will not see the hatchback or the three-door version in the United States.

The Bavarian car manufacturer says it is not bringing the existing models of the 1 Series to North America because “of a lack of interest for hatchbacks.”

With the new three-door model, BMW introduces new technology in the 1 Series that will also be available for the upcoming models, a coupe and a convertible. And those two we may expect to arrive in the United States.

It is most likely that the 1 Series Coupe will be introduced in September at the Frankfurt auto show, although BMW officials keep mum about anything concerning new models and launch dates.

The topless version will follow the coupe, but when it will be introduced is more speculative. We think the Los Angeles Auto Show in November or the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January will get the North American premiere of the 1 Series Coupe. Then, in the course of 2008 the convertible may be introduced.

Compared with the five-door model, the new three-door version has a modified exterior design with new head lights, a different air intake and grille, fog lamps, front and rear air dams, rear lights and bumpers. It also has a complete redesign of the cockpit with higher quality materials and more luxurious trim.

The new 1 Series also gets the new-generation four-cylinder engines with direct fuel injection and BMW also equips the car with brake energy regeneration, an automatic start/stop function and a shift point indicator to optimize the fuel consumption by a decrease of up to 20 percent, depending on the engine version.

The brake energy regeneration is similar to what we know from the hybrid models of other manufacturers. But in this case the energy is stored in the battery. Also the new 5 Series will get this and later all BMW models will be equipped with this “hybrid” technology.

The 1 Series is a premium compact car and offers a choice of comfort and safety features, such as six air bags, run-flat tires, tire defect indication, bixenon headlights, adaptive headlights, active steering and a choice of audio, communication and navigation options.

The current gasoline four-cylinder engines available for the three-door model are the 121i (170 horsepower) and the 118i (143 horsepower). For the five-door model BMW offers the 130i, with a straight-six Bi-Vanos engine, which has a variable camshaft adjustment. With this 3.0-liter engine with 265 horsepower and maximum 232 foot-pounds of torque the 310i accelerates to 60 mph in less than six seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph, while the average fuel consumption to European standards is 34 mpg. The five-door BMW also offers a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 115 horsepower. BMW also offers two diesel variants in both models.

We will have to wait for a date closer to the launch of the 1 Series Coupe to get details about engines and transmissions, but we expect the Coupe to be available with the 2.0- and 3.0-liter power units and with a six-speed manual as well as with the six-speed automatic transmissions.

Look forward to its arrival next summer as a 2009 model. Prices may start around $30,000.

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