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BMW 1 Series

E87 1 Series

1 Oct 2004

BMW’S return to a proper compact car was spearheaded by the rear-wheel drive 1 Series.

Initially released as a five-door hatchback, the ‘1’ quickly earned a reputation as a true driver’s car, courtesy of its rear-wheel drive, ideal 50:50 weight distribution, sophisticated Z-axle rear suspension and quick-witted steering.

First car off the rank was the 120i, powered by a 110kW/200Nm 2.0-litre Valvetronic four-cylinder engine attached to either a six-speed manual or six-speed Steptronic sequential-shift automatic.

A five-speed manual or six-speed auto 118i followed from February ’05, retaining the 2.0-litre configuration but offering 95kW/180Nm due to a detuning of the twin-cam 16-valve engine.

A month later the base 116i five-speed manual arrived, using a 95kW, 150Nm version of the 2.0-litre Valvetronic motor.

In early ’06 the storming 130i arrived, bringing BMW six-cylinder power (195kW) and torque (315Nm) to the able 1 Series chassis.

At the other end of the spectrum the turbo-diesel 120d lobbed in soon after, with a 115kW/330Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit that is capable of returning 6.6L/100km fuel economy.

All E87s include dual front, front side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning and traction control.

More variants are following, including a three-door hatchback due by the end of 2006.

In June 2007, a mid-life upgrade saw the 120d get 17-inch wheels, rear parking distance sensors and automatic interior mirror as standard while the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel received 10kW more power (to 125kW) and 10Nm more torque (to 340Nm).

BMW also extracted an extra 5kW (along with small improvements in fuel economy) from the petrol 2.0-litre engines in the 118i and 120i models.

Eagle-eyed enthusiasts might pick the thicker chrome grille surrounds, clear-glass headlights and revised air dam at the front, while the rear features lightly revised bumper and tail-lights (with two-stage brake lights).

Inside, BMW addressed the 1 Series’ lack of storage by adding door pockets and a slightly bigger glovebox.

In May 2008 BMW belatedly added two new body styles to the E87 1 Series range.

The E82 Coupe and E88 Convertible employed the same basic architecture as the hatch, but featured all-new bodywork.

Two Coupe models were released initially – the petrol-powered 125i and 135i Sport, the latter’s ‘Sport’ designation denoting the mandatory fitment of BMW’s M Sport Package.

BMW claimed the E82 was a return to its affordable sports coupe heartland in the same way that the ‘02’ Series (1602/2002) models were from 1966 to 1975.

Dimensionally the 1 Series Coupe was close to the first (E21) and second (E30) generation 3 Series of the 1970s and ‘80s respectively – although these vehicles were more upright family sedans with five seats.

In the 125i, the engine was a derivative of the 2996cc Bi-VANOS and Valvetronic variable valve technology N52 aluminium and magnesium unit first seen in the BMW E90 330i of 2005. In the 1 Series it produced 160kW of power at 6100rpm and 270Nm of torque between 2500 and 4250rpm.

The other 3.0-litre was a twin-turbo-charged 2979cc N54 engine employing second-generation high-precision direct injection and Bi-VANOS variable valve technology as part of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics package.

Delivering 225kW at 5800rpm and 400Nm at 1300 to 5000rpm, the 135i Sport took 5.3 seconds to reach 100km/h (auto: 5.4), was electronically speed limited to 250km/h, consumed a combined 9.6L/100km of fuel and emitted 229g/km of CO2 (auto: 230).

The 135i Sport Coupe also came with an electronic differential lock that could slow the spinning inside rear wheel in a fast corner for better traction and power transfer.

The convertible was available with an additional engine over the Coupe on which it was based, in the shape of a 115kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder at base 120i level.

In mid 2009 BMW upgraded its 120d hatch with a slightly more powerful and economical turbo-diesel, courtesy of its EfficientDynamics drive.

Power and torque rose to 130kW and 350Nm respectively, while a six-speed manual gearbox, idle-stop and regenerative braking were added.

BMW launched its “2008 World Green Car of the Year” in 118d hatch and Convertible guise during late 2009, featuring more of the company’s EfficientDynamics technology.

Producing 105kW of power at 4000rpm and 300Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm, 0-100km/h came in 9.0 seconds (auto: 9.1s), while 4.5 litres per 100km was the official combined fuel consumption figure (auto: 5.4L/100km), with 119 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emitted (auto: 144g/km).

The 118d Convertible's 1475kg kerb weight (compared with the 1320kg hatch) meant the ragtop was more leisurely to 100km/h from standstill at 9.5s (auto: 9.6s), slightly thirstier at 4.9L/100km (auto: 5.6L/100km) and contributed more to climate change at 129g/km (auto: 148g/km).

A higher performance diesel designated 123d also became available on the hatch and coupe, boossting power through the pairing of small and large turbochargers with Piezo injectors delivering fuel into the combustion chamber at a pressure of 2000 bar.

The 123d delivered 150kW at 4400rpm, 400Nm from 2000 to 2250rpm, 0-100km/h in 7.0 seconds (auto: 7.1s), 5.2 litres per 100km in the combined fuel consumption cycle (auto: 5.6L/100km), and 138 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions (auto: 148g/km).

March 2011 saw BMW add the entry-level 120i engine from the 1 Series Convertible to its 1 Series Coupe before unleashing the high-performance 1M pocket rocket on Australian roads in August of the same year.

The 1M was available in limited quantities and powered by BMW’s most powerful production six-cylinder engine – the 250kW ‘TwinPower’ twin-turbo direct-injected 3.0-litre N54 that debuted in the Z4 sportscar range topper, the sDrive35is.

Resultant power to weight ratio figures meant the little 1495kg M Coupe could crunch the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.9 seconds – just one tenth of a second slower than the bigger and heavier (1580kg) M3 coupe with its 309kW 4.0-litre V8.

The engine was exclusively paired with a newly developed six-speed manual gearbox with dry sump lubrication, a sporty short-throw gearshift and low 43kg weight, helping to cut driveline mass for improved performance while still managing the hefty torque.

Combined fuel consumption was 9.6 litres per 100km – the same as the 135i – while CO2 output was 224 grams per kilometre.

A variable differential lock could vary the torque to either of the drive wheels in a fraction of a second, depending on wheel rotational speeds to benefit traction on slippery surfaces and also on winding roads that require maximum drive out of corners.

This differential lock came courtesy of the M Division, which wrought a raft of chassis changes that lifted the 1 Series Coupe to a new level, with much of the hardware borrowed from the M3.

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