They have taken away the banana

Now with straightened sillBMW’s press release plays heavily on the 1 Series occupying “a distinctive niche within its segment” – which is partly true if you take the rear drive layout and the resulting limited interior space of the current model.  Certainly, Audi’s now mature A3 is more practical and Volvo’s C30 funkier.

Telling is the reference to “improved aesthetics”, BMW clearly recognising the first generation struggled in a couple of areas.  Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder but the front of this second generation 1 Series has taken a little too much of the X1 cross-over and now looks heavy.  The X1 has many awkward curves for no apparent advantage; the 1 Series too has some challenging dead space between the too-tall grill and mean-looking headlights.  The rear end is little changed, perhaps slightly tidier if anything.

On the plus side, the inverse banana-shaped sill and lower panel lines of the first generation 1 Series have been hugely improved.  The rising sill toward the front wheel has been straightened, the sill now running parallel to the floor; the rising rear has been brought into an attractive sweep up the back door.  Sort of like a Vauxhall Insignia but in reverse.

Crucially, the new version will be 83mm longer, 14mm wider and 30mm longer in the wheelbase than its predecessor – which might counter some of those interior space issues.

The new BMW 1 Series goes on sale in the UK on 17 September 2011, with a choice of three diesel and two petrol engines. Prices start at £19,375 OTR for a BMW 116i ES.  BMW UK is aiming to sell 20,000 five-door units in the first full year.

We are also promised an EfficientDynamics model of the 116d at a later date with emissions likely to be 99g/km of CO2 to sneak into tax band A.

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