The New 2020 BMW 1 Series is a Good Modern Hatchback, nut There Is No Reason To Care About It Anymore

In a sad, but not a surprising turn of events, BMW revealed a completely reimagined 1 Series. It is a car that threw everything it was known for out the window and accepted plebian driving solutions like a front wheel drive chassis, three-cylinder and four-cylinder transversely mounted engines, and somewhat MPVish styling.

BMW knew that it had to justify its high price (it is more expensive than the A3, and the A-class) and, to do that, Bavarians imagined a lot of cool features to make it easier to drive, more accommodating to be in, and more efficient to travel. It also has the biggest kidney grille of any 1 Series. Probably to remind you that this is a BMW. It needs that sort of thing because you will probably forget about its origins after the drive in a cabin that has a lot of shoulder room, rear legroom, and enough headroom.

In short, you aren’t a hero or a villain if you drive the new 1 Series. You aren’t courageous or adventurous, zealous, or intense. You are... ah, whatever.

This does not mean that the new 1 Series isn’t a masterpiece of contemporary car design and a platform for the latest technologies. It is, and you will see here how!

The New 2020 BMW 1 Series F40 Is Shorter Than Before

left right

I could quickly run the dimension numbers for you here and got done with it, but I think that would miss the point.

Unlike many automakers that are making their cars lower, wider, and longer, BMW took a completely different approach.

The new 1 Series is 5 millimeters shorter than before, 13 millimeters higher, and has a 20 millimeters shorter wheelbase.

Ok, making it slightly smaller isn’t surprising. It is still among the largest in the hatchback class. What is surprising (from a styling standpoint) is the fact that the car now has a slight MPVish look to it. Compared to the old 1 Series, the new one has that rising beltline from the front to the back, short, sloped hood, larger windshield, and slightly higher front side windows! Only BMW could design a car like this after switching to the FWD platform. While we have nice looking cars with similar shape propositions (A-class, A3), such a radical styling departure made the BMW 1 series far less special and unique. Now, it is just a hatch, and that’s somewhat sad. However, it is not dumb.

left right

See, compared to the competition, the 1 Series’ height of 1,434 millimeters doesn’t seem that bad. Now, the old BMW 1 Series F20 measured 1,421 mm in height. Although higher, the new 1 series, actually isn’t that high. It is among the lowest hatchbacks today.

On, the other hand, with a width of 1,799 mm, the BMW 1 Series is just average.

Nevertheless, it fits perfectly within the hatchback stardom.

The 2020 BMW 1 Series Has More Interior Space Than Any Of Its Predecessors

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841394
The BMW 1 Series is probably the best representation of what overall car layout can do for the space inside the cabin.

BMW shortened the wheelbase by 20 millimeters to 2,670 millimeters.

By installing smaller engines (2.0-liter is the biggest one), and turning it transversely instead of longitudinally like in the old 1 series cars, the new 1 series simply does not have any need for a long bonnet. Thus, the cabin moved forward a bit. Additionally, the transmission moved forward too, and there’s now nothing linking the engine with the rear wheels. All of this lead to increasing spaciousness in the 1 series by quite a lot. Not only is it easier to get inside (front and back), but people back there have 33 millimeters more legroom, 19 millimeters more headroom, and 13 millimeters more elbow room.

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841388

Other benefits of the new layout attribute to lower central tunnel between the seats, wider luggage compartment (by almost 7 centimeters which is a lot), and more cargo room (380 liters). Heck, there’s more light inside too. It is all possible thanks to the FWD layout.

The 2020 BMW 1 Series Shares Suspension Parts With the Mini Countryman and The 2 Series MPV

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841379
See, BMW based the new 1 series on the front-wheel-drive platform that supports all the FWD vehicles Beemer produce.

This tech, apparently five years in continuous development, is tailored to give the 1 series the best driving characteristics of all front wheel drive cars. In its top form, it offers adjustable dampers. McPherson struts suspend the wheels up front and a multilink system resides in the back. You can choose between three different driving modes and if you happen to find yourself driving the most potent M135i, select Sport. It will set the antiroll bars in its stiffest position, sharpen up the steering and the dampers, and give you more ability to fight against the likes of the Golf R, AMG A35 and such.

After all, only weeks before the reveal, BMW officials noted:

"Our customers will directly feel the fast and precise responsiveness that provides for an optimized driving experience. The BMW 1 Series will be a genuine BMW with an individual character," says Peter Langen, head of Driving Dynamics at the BMW Group.

What Is The Contiguous Wheel Slip Limitation In The New 2020 BMW 1 Series?

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841352

BMW tried to mitigate the standard front-wheel drive understeer problems by adopting BMW i3 technology to the 1 series chassis. Called the Contiguous Wheel Slip Limitation, or the ARB, the new/old tech continuously monitors the wheel slip and activate the brakes, or redistribute the torque to limit the power and cancel the slip, and the understeer. The main difference compared to other similar systems is the position of the ARB. It sits just by the ECU and reacts up to 3 times quicker compared to other systems. In reality, when it activates, the driver will not feel the jerky power cut off, or the strange sounds from the suspension. In fact, the system reacts so quickly that it could be one of the most important novelties on the car.
Over the decades, Japanese and Europeans developed many technologies to mitigate the understeer issues on FWD cars. The Honda Civic Type R, and the latest Golf Clubsport achieved the most, but I am eager to see how this BMW technology - standard on all 1 series cars - fight with the FWD understeer.

The 2020 BMW 1 Series Can Autonomously Drive Backwards

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841406

Well, this is some next level stuff. BMW included the Reversing assistant in the 3 Series as well, but this is its debut in the compact car class. BMW developed the technology to help drivers exit parking spaces or car parks. I will let BMW explain how it works:

Reversing assistant "stores the steering movements for any section the car has just driven forward along at no more than 36 km/h (22 mph).

The system is then able to reverse the vehicle for distances of up to 50 meters by steering it along exactly the same line it took when moving forward. All the driver has to do is operate the accelerator and brake pedals and monitor the vehicle’s surroundings. The reversing assistant can back the car up at a maximum 9 km/h (5.5 mph)."

The 2020 BMW 1 Series is Offered as a Plug-In Hybrid

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841412

Just as I am writing this, BMW revealed the 2020 BMW X1 xDrive25e.

It is a plug-in hybrid that will, most likely, share its internals with the new BMW 1 series.

Slated to go into production later this year, or early next year, the BMW 1 Series hybrid will most likely have a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder, TwinPower Turbo engine with 128 horsepower powering front wheel, and a 94 horsepower electric motor for the back wheels. This combo should give 220ish horsepower and 280+ pound-feet of torque of combined output. 9.7 kWh battery will feed the electric motor. At least, it does so in the X1. As the new 1 Series shares much of its tech already, I believe that the hybrid propulsion system will become one of those "shared" features too.
Expect more than 30 miles of all-electric range from it.

The 2020 BMW 1 Series F40 Does Not Have A Straight Six

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841374

Apart from the proper layout - front longitudinal engine, and a rear-wheel drive - one of the most important and most valuable additions of the 1 series to the world of hatchbacks was the inclusion of the legendary straight-six engines.
The new 1 Series F40 does not have one and it never will. The space under the bonnet is limited, the platform does not support the I-6 integration, and the car as a whole sits on an entirely new FWD platform.
That is sad!

2020 BMW 1 Series - gasoline lineup
BMW 118i BMW M135i xDrive
Engine In-line/3/4 In-line/4/4
Effective capacity cc 1499 1998
Stroke/bore mm 94.6/82.0 94.6/82.0
Compression ratio :1 11.0 9.5
Horsepower 140 HP @ 4,200-6,500 RPM 306 HP @ 4,500–6,250 RPM
Torque 162 LB-FT @ 1,480–4,600 RPM 331 LB-FT @ 1,750–5,000 RPM
0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) 8.5 seconds 4.8 seconds
Top Speed 213 km/h (132 mph) 250 km/h (155 mph)

The New 2020 BMW M135i is Not as Powerful as the Old M135i

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841356

Previous BMW M135i had a three-liter, six-cylinder engine under the bonnet. N55 developed 315 horsepower from 2012 to 2015, and then BMW tuned it up a bit for the redesigned model for a total power output of 322 horsepower.

Today, the M135i plaque that landed on the F40 designate a hatchback with an xDrive all-wheel-drive system, and a two-liter, TwinPower Turbo, four-cylinder engine for 302 horsepower and 332 pounds-feet of torque.

With the acceleration of 4.7 seconds to 62 mph and a top speed of 155 mph, it is seriously quick. Somehow, as 1 Series lost everything it made it cool, I care less about that speed.

That is sad.

2020 BMW M135i vs 2019 BMW M135i
2020 BMW M135i xDrive 2019 BMW M135i
Engine In-line/4/4 turbocharged straight-six
Effective capacity cc 1998 2979
Horsepower 306 HP @ 4,500–6,250 RPM 322 HP @ 5,800-6,000 RPM
Torque 331 LB-FT @ 1,750–5,000 RPM 332 LB-FT @ 1,300-4,500 RPM
0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) 4.8 seconds 5.2 seconds
Top Speed 250 km/h (155 mph) 250 km/h (155 mph)

The 2020 BMW 1 Series is Only Sold as a Five-door Model

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841413
The BMW 1 Series three-door was one of the most eccentric vehicles on the market.

It gave that special meaning to the BMW ethos and a shockingly well driving balance matched only by the best cars. Yes, the 2 series is here, and I salute BMW for that, but wouldn’t it be quirky and strange as hell if BMW introduced the new F40 1 Series three-door. It won’t happen, of course. Peugeot, Renault, and Volkswagen stopped the three-door hatch production. BMW had to do it too.

While it is a sound decision that follows the market trends, axing the three-door 1 series does hurt BMW brand image - it makes the 1 series mediocre. That is sad!

The 2020 BMW 1 Series Is More Expensive Than the Competition

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841436

BMW priced the new 1 Series F40 at about 1,000 euros more than before. You can have one - the 118i with a three-cylinder - in Germany for 28,200 euros.
BMW blog provided us with a price list and compared the prices between the F20 and the F40:

BMW 1 Series 2019 vs. 2020 Pricing
2020 Model Year 2019 Model Year
BMW 118i € 28,200 € 27,150
BMW 116d € 29,900 € 29,250
BMW 118d € 32,400 € 31,250
BMW 120d € 38,400 € 38,600
BMW M135d € 48,900 € 50,550

Depending on the market, these prices put the 1 Series above its main competition from Mercedes and Audi. The one series is more than a grand more expensive than its closest premium competitors. Is it justified?

My take on the new 2020 BMW 1 Series F40

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841353

I think this new car is a fantastic modern hatchback. It is roomier than ever, definitely high-quality, and it has so much cool tech it probably needs something close to a supercomputer to work. It is a well-defined hatchback too, really quick, but in a safe, manageable way. You can control its M135i brutality even if you dine only at McDonald’s, sit on a couch all day, and drink soy milk. Just what we need!
I think that the F40 1 series is a hatch that wants to change BMW bad boy brand image. Something like the 5 Series GT, the 2 Series Active Tourer, or a 3 Series Compact wanted to do. The new 1er one does it so well, it is rather incredible. Let me explain...

This car will make you "vanilla" quicker than you can say "strawberries and chocolate". It will make you worry about Instagram instead of copulation when you see Kylie Jenner, and it will lower your testosterone levels quicker than a gallon of soy milk. If you ever saw the title on the news sites that read something like - "Men’s Sperm Counts Continue to Decline" or "Why Sperm Counts Are Dropping For Men Today", wonder no more. It is because the market wants cars like this - too convenient, too safe, always connected, and almost completely automated.
Of course, I am overreacting a bit, but you see my point.

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841449

Switching to FWD, worrying about centimeters in the boot, and slashing the might of a six-cylinder removed essential things that BMW 1 Series aced among its hatchback brethren - uniqueness, power, prestige, ego, straightforwardness, and courage. Now, it is just mediocre.

BMW took away the power and competence from those plebians who had it in themselves and left it only for the elite who can go for the 8 Series.

Let me get straight here - I do not hate the new BMW 1 Series. It is a great hatchback. Spot on! I hate the convenience-driven market that demanded it like this.

Further reading

2020 BMW 1 Series F40 - Quirks and Facts
- image 841367

Read our full review on the 2020 BMW 1 Series.

2016 - 2018 BMW 1 Series High Resolution Exterior
- image 611697

Read our full review on the 2019 BMW 1 Series.

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: