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Driven: BMW 1 Series performance push

Mmmm: BMW is targeting the VW Golf GTI and R with its updated M140i, which has received a light update and a $5000 price cut that takes it below $60,000 for the the first time.

BMW pushes performance side of updated 1 Series range with sub-$60K M140i

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BMW logo28 Sep 2017

BMW Australia is planning to tap into the performance credentials of its smallest car to improve its fortunes, as well as actively targeting upwardly mobile buyers from mainstream brands.

The 1 Series has received a mild makeover for the 2018 model year, and BMW Group Australia managing director Marc Werner told GoAuto that he saw an opportunity for the sales volume of performance variants – particularly the M140i – to improve markedly by wooing buyers away from the likes of Volkswagen and its expanding range of performance hatchbacks.

“When we were made aware that there was an LCI (life cycle impulse) coming on the M performance range, and in particular on the M140i, we made a complete reassessment of that top hatch segment,” Mr Werner told GoAuto at a 1 and 2 Series launch event in Tasmania this week.

“The intention is to offer the M140i in the $60,000 area, which we know is probably the sweet spot in particular for those customers that are currently not in a premium or luxury brand.

“We are specifically targeting (Volkswagen) Golf GTI customers or Golf R customers to get them into a six-cylinder sportscar with traditional BMW core values.”

As a result, BMW has reduced the price of the M140i by almost $5000, with the rear-wheel-drive six-cylinder turbo hatch coming below $60,000 – at $59,990 plus on-road costs – for the first time in its history.

“We want to shake it up a bit, and be one of the disrupters here,” Mr Werner said.

By way of comparison, Volkswagen has recently overhauled the Golf’s performance catalogue, with the return of a three-door GTI, the reintroduction of the Golf R Wolfsburg and the introduction of a lower-priced Golf R variant, known as the Grid Edition.

The Golf R Grid starts at $47,490 in manual guise, rising to $49,990 for a dual-clutch manual version. A DSG-equipped R costs $55,490 plus on-road costs.

Other rivals to the M140i included the Mercedes-AMG A45 from $78,900 and the Audi RS3 Sportback from $78,616.

While Mr Werner declined to discuss specific sales targets, he conceded that he expected “incremental increases” from the 1 Series range as a whole, but a significant uplift in M variant volumes.

“I would like to double sales of the M cars,” he said.

The M140i – which took over from the M135i in 2016 – receives only a new set of black split-spoke 18-inch rims and an updated touchscreen multimedia system, along with a new instrument binnacle surround panel.

Its headline act remains the 250kW/500Nm 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged engine that can sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds.

It returns 7.1 litres per 100km on the official combined-cycle fuel consumption index, and 163 grams per kilometre of CO2.

A new colour, unset orange, has been added to the catalogue.

The rest of the 1 Series range – comprising the $39,990 118i petrol (up $2000) and $43,990 118d diesel (up $1090), the $40,990 120i (up $2090) and the $49,990 125i (unchanged) – also receive the new multimedia system and instrument surround, while LED headlights are now standard across the entire range.

Both of the eight-speed automatic-equipped 118 models are otherwise unchanged, while the 120i is now fitted with BMW’s Urban Line accessory kit, Dakota leather trim, updated interior lighting and new 17-inch rims as standard equipment.

The Sport Line-equipped 125i, meanwhile, has jumped $1090 to start at $49,990 plus on-road costs.

It is unchanged apart from the addition of the iDrive6 media system and black instrument surround, and is equipped with larger brakes and sportier M Sport suspension as standard.

The variant makes up 50 per cent of all 1 Series sales, according to Mr Werner.

To the end of August this year, BMW has recorded 1522 sales across the range, down 15.8 per cent on the same period last year.

Mechanical specifications across the 1 Series range have not changed.

Mr Werner said he believed the 1 Series range was still market-relevant, despite the rampant success of the brand’s SUVs like the X1, and the threat from incoming SUVs like the X2.

“It’s (serving) an existing loyal customer base on the one side but we also want to conquest, and that’s why I said we definitely see demand or customers coming up from non-premium brands that want to exploit the BMW offer,” he said.

2017 BMW 1 Series pricing*
118i (a)$39,990
118d (a)$43,990
120i (a)$45,990
125i (a)$49,990
M140i (a)$59,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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