The new 2020 BMW 1 Series is entirely different compared to the model it replaces

The difference between the new 2020 BMW 1 Series and its predecessor, the2019 BMW 1 Series, is staggering. These two are like a Leo and Aquarius, chocolate and vanilla, like Apple iOS and Android. They are that different. With a paradigm shift in its architecture and layout, the new 1 Series exited the exciting and different and entered the standard and generic. Luckily, today, "generic" among hatchbacks is really good. So much so that the new 1 Series is probably better compared to the old one in every measurable way.

And worse in every immeasurable way.

I guess consumers today don’t care about that sort of thing - the context, the uniqueness, the distinctiveness. After all, universal laws are for lackeys. Context is for kings!

Just like Capt. Lorca has said! The new 2020 BMW 1 series, however fantastic it may be, is a child of universal laws. That is its principal weakness and one of its strengths at the same time.

Exterior

  • smaller glasshouse and a rising beltline
  • the shorter and more sloped hood compared to the F20
  • one piece kidney-grille compared to the two-piece grille on the old car
  • 19-inch wheels for the M135i instead of 18-inch wheels
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Starting from the outside, the 2020 BMW 1 Series F40 has some significant differences compared with the 2019 BMW 1 Series F20. It seems that many of the differences are attributed to the fundamental change in the BMW 1 Series’ architecture and layout. The new structure directly affected:

  • The shape and the size of the hood - the new hood is shorter, and more sloped compared to the one of before.
  • The length between the front wheels and the doors (there’s more of it on the older model as the longitudinal engine and FR layout needs more space to fit)
  • The size of the windshield (it’s a bit bigger on the new model)
  • The shape of the glasshouse (it looks completely different and somewhat cheezy on the new model)
  • Cringy rising beltline that now tries to provoke an attack stance of the 1 series (the previous one didn’t have to do that because it actually was a predator)
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I find that the root cause for all of these styling decisions is the switch from the FR to FF layout. BMW knew that many of us would snap when we learned about this sad switch, so the designers wanted to carry over as much character as possible to emphasize that link to the previous 1 Series car. In that regard, I can see that designers tried to keep that Hofmeister kink (looks kinda shabby here, and it is pointless on the FWD car). In the front, you can see side bumper intakes and fog lamp surrounds that have much the same look as on the redesigned F20.

The kidney-grille is bigger, of course. Not only that, it is a one piece kidney grille - like on the new 3 Series.

I don’t have any problems with that, but I do have a problem with the overall "pointy" look of the front end. With angled lights, all the hood creases, and the shapes on the bumpers pointing to the grille, it feels like designers want to convince us that this is a BMW.

I hate that kind of thing because the good ol’ BMWs didn’t have anything to prove.

This one looks like it does!

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It is the same story with the rear end!

The F40's rear end looks a lot busier compared to the back end of the F20. The new rear lights look damn good though!

As far as dimensions go, the new one is slightly shorter, higher, and considerably wider, although the old one looks broader at the front. All that for plebian reasons though - to give you more room inside for the head, shoulders, and elbows.

2020 BMW 1 Series Size Comparison (in mm)
2020 BMW 1 Series 2019 BMW 1 Series Difference
Length 4319 4324 -5
Width  1799 1765 34
Height 1434 1421 -13
Wheelbase 2670 2690 -20

Interior

  • More space for the passengers
  • A novel interpretation of the BMW interior concept
  • 9.2-inch head-up display
  • Digital instrument cluster shaped like a BMW kidney-grille
  • lower central tunnel
  • Digital Key integration
Comparison: 2020 BMW 1 Series vs 2019 BMW 1 Series
- image 841426
The 2020 BMW 1 Series F40's interior is a definition of modernity.

Not only does it look less cluttered compared with to interior in the F20, but it employs all the novel solutions to create a futuristic ambiance. A large screen behind the steering wheel complements the central display and the ambiance lighting (for the first time installed in a BMW car).

The central stalk with all the buttons and controls (not many of them, may I add), lean nicely toward the driver giving that BMWesque quality to the cabin. It is quite nice. Plus, you have a lot more room inside. Front passengers can stretch further, have enough place on the central stalk for things, and even the rear passengers get considerably more space for the legs, head, and shoulders. All of these gains are possible thanks to the switch to the FWD layout with the transversely positioned engine. The first mass production car to utilize this system was the Austin Mini. The Brits wanted to create an economy car and jumpstart the nation like Bettle or the Fiat 500 did in Germany and Italy. Changing the position of the engine from longitudinal to transverse, and integrating the transmission next to it freed so much space inside that Mini could sit four in relative comfort despite its diminutive size.

Comparison: 2020 BMW 1 Series vs 2019 BMW 1 Series
- image 841430

BMW did the same for the 1 series - installed a small-capacity engine, moved it forward, turned it transversely, installed a transmission by it, and created an economy car of the F40. Cool! Did it lower the price? Of course not! BMW did justify the price with a lot of cool gizmos, though.

Although the F20 was marvelous with all of its geeky stuff inside, the F40 adds to that with:

  • A BMW Digital Key that allows the car to be locked and unlocked from a smartphone using Near Field Communication (NFC)
  • You can start the car after placing the smartphone in the car
  • You can share the Digital Key with up to five other people
  • The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant can activate almost any comfort function after a voice input - for example, say "Hey BMW, I’m cold", and the system will warm up the cabin
  • Innovative reversing assistant able to reverse the vehicle for up to 50 meters by "steering it along exactly the same line it took when moving forward" - should help in the tight parking spaces
  • An impressive head-up display that present car’s speed, speed limits, overtaking restrictions, status indicators, warnings from the assistance systems, and route guidance
  • The Active Cruise Control system that maintains the cruising speed and automatically keeps a safe distance from vehicles in front
  • The automatic transmission adapts shift strategy following the planned route and even includes coasting function if the conditions allow.
Comparison: 2020 BMW 1 Series vs 2019 BMW 1 Series
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Obviously, all these features dramatically improve the safety and the comfort inside the 1 Series F40. Much more important than that is the fact that BMW significantly increased the room for the passengers. Not only is it easier to get in the car, but when you do, you have almost inch and a half more knee room available. Rear headroom grew by nearly an inch, and the rear passengers have about half of an inch more elbowroom.

Comparison: 2020 BMW 1 Series vs 2019 BMW 1 Series
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2020 BMW 1 Series vs. 2019 BMW 1 Series
Headroom (f/r) Legroom (r) (Cargo)
2020 BMW 1 Series F40 TBD/991mm* 870mm 380 l
2019 BMW 1 Series F20 1,018mm/972mm 837mm 360 l

* with rear panoramic sunroof fitted

Drivetrain

  • Transversely opposed engine instead of the longitudinally positioned engine of the last generation
  • The bulk of the weight over the front axle opposed to nearly perfect 50:50 weight distribution of the old model
  • Front wheel drive compared to the rear wheel drive
  • No six-cylinder engines anymore
  • New FWD tech that should mitigate understeer issues
Comparison: 2020 BMW 1 Series vs 2019 BMW 1 Series
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The latest generation of the 1 Series introduced us to a wholly changed nature of BMW hatchbacks.

In the simplest of terms, the FR layout of the 2019 1 Series F20 included a longitudinally positioned engine in the front, transmission in the middle, and the drive in the back.

Just as it should be, wouldn’t you say?

This gave some serious advantages to the 1 series over other hatchbacks. Thanks to such an arrangement, the bulk of the engine mass is placed behind the front axle.

Thus, the weight distribution between front and back and side to side was at an almost perfect 50:50, and the whole car seems better prepared for spirited performance driving.

This also meant that passenger space was somewhat limited.

Comparison: 2020 BMW 1 Series vs 2019 BMW 1 Series
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Compared to the 2019 BMW 1 Series, the 2020 BMW 1 Series has a transversely positioned engine and transmission set next to it under the hood. The engine and the transmission are moved forward and sit basically on top of the front axle.

The new car, thus, cannot achieve a perfect 50:50 balance between front and back.

It also means that the bulk of the mass of the engine and the transmission sits forward. Usually, this affects the driving capabilities and provoke understeer in certain conditions. BMW actually borrow tech from the i3 to mitigate that. Called actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation (ARB), the tech works in close tandem with the DSC system to significantly reduce understeer. It probably works well, but it is, in fact, one more improvisation made to make the new 1 Series handle as lively as the old model.

As far as the engine options and transmission option goes, the 2020 1 series and 2019 1 Series compare like this:

2019 BMW 118i 2020 BMW 118i
Engine 1.6-liter, turbocharged, 4 cylinder engine 1.5-liter, turbocharged, 3 cylinder engine
Horsepower 136 HP 140 HP
Torque 162 LB-FT 162 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph 8.5 seconds 8.5 seconds
Top Speed 130 mph 132 mph
Combined fuel consumption 50.05 - 54.7 mpg 49.6 - 56.5 mpg
Transmission Standard 6 speed manual Standard 6 speed manual
2017 BMW M135i xDrive vs 2020 BMW M135i xDrive
2017 BMW M135i xDrive 2020 BMW M135i xDrive
Engine 3.0-liter, turbocharged, in-line 6 cylinder 2.0-litre, turbocharged, 4 cylinder engine
Horsepower 322 HP 306 HP
Torque 332 LB-FT 332 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph 4.9 seconds 4.7 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph 155 mph
Combined fuel consumption: 37.7 mpg 39.8 - 41.5 mpg
Transmission Standard 6 speed manual/Eight-speed Steptronic Sport Standard 6 speed manual/Eight-speed Steptronic Sport
2019 BMW 116d vs. 2020 BMW 116d
2019 BMW 116d 2020 BMW 116d
Engine 1.5-litre, turbocharged, 3 cylinder engine 1.5-litre, turbocharged, 3 cylinder engine
Horsepower 116 HP 116 HP
Torque 199 LB-FT 199 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph 10.3 seconds 10.3 seconds
Top Speed 124 mph 124 mph
Combined fuel consumption: 57.3 - 65.3 mpg 67.3 - 74.3 mpg
Transmission Standard 6 speed manual Standard 6 speed manual/Optional: 7 speed Steptronic dual-clutch
2019 BMW 118d vs. 2020 BMW 118d
2019 BMW 118d (Steptronic) 2020 BMW 118d
Engine 2.0-litre, turbocharged, 4 cylinder 2.0-litre, turbocharged, 4 cylinder
Horsepower 150 HP 150 HP
Torque 236 LB-FT 258 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph 8.1 seconds 8.5 seconds
Top Speed 132 mph 135 mph
Combined fuel consumption: 56 - 61.9 mpg 64.2 - 68.9 mpg
Transmission Eight-speed Steptronic Standard 6 speed manual/Optional eight-speed Steptronic
2019 BMW 120d xDrive vs. 2020 BMW 120d xDrive
2019 BMW 120d xDrive 2020 BMW 120d xDrive
Engine 2.0-litre, turbocharged, 4 cylinder 2.0-litre, turbocharged, 4 cylinder
Horsepower 190 HP 190 HP
Torque 295 LB-FT 295 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph 6.8 seconds 7 seconds
Top Speed 138 mph 143 mph
Combined fuel consumption: 50.05 - 54.7 mpg 60.1 - 62.8 mpg
Transmission Standard eight-speed Steptronic automatic Standard eight-speed Steptronic automatic

Final Verdict

Comparison: 2020 BMW 1 Series vs 2019 BMW 1 Series
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So, the performance is much the same as before, the names of the cars have not changed, and the safety is on par with the best from the segment. It is an empirical truth that the new 1 Series is as quick and as fast as before. However, it is slightly more efficient, it gives us far more space inside, and some cool novel tech features, including over-the-air updates and all that infotainment jazz.

Regardless of it all, the BMW 1 series F20 was something like an iPhone. The new one - F40 - is just one more Android phone.

Further reading

Comparison: 2020 BMW 1 Series vs 2019 BMW 1 Series
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Read our full review on the 2020 BMW 1 Series.

2016 - 2018 BMW 1 Series High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 BMW 1 Series.

What do you think?
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