Three times one

    By Jack Yan

    1 month ago

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    Three times one

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    It was rumoured for years and it’s now finally here: a front-wheel-drive BMW 1-series. Sold as either a 118i or 125i in China, it’s the third generation of Einser. This time, there’s a boot, as Chinese buyers prefer, and classical BMW styling.
    Go back to 2003, and the BMW 1er was a bit ungainly. And with rear-wheel drive (like a real BMW, they say), the boot wasn’t particularly cavernous. But it handled beautifully, and the 2-door coupé, especially the twin-turbo ones, were potent.
    When the second-generation F20 débuted, we criticized it for an even odder appearance, though BMW improved on the original’s strengths. A 2015 facelift helped things, but if you wanted looks, a Mercedes A-Klasse was tempting.
    It was those lookers that compelled BMW to mount a challenge. The Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA saloons were getting decent market share. With 90 per cent of buyers not caring about the driving wheels, BMW made the switch with the F52 to front-drive.
    The platform’s the same as the BMW 2er Active Tourer and the new X1, another model that made the shift from rear- to front-drive. BMW recognizes the efficiencies, and it reckons only motorheads will notice.
    The F52’s interior’s familiar to anyone who has driven an F20. In China, the F52, being locally made, will be doing the legwork in the segment, and it makes sense to give buyers a sense of continuity between models.
    You can predict how the rear will turn out, right down to the Hofmeister-Knick. In a few years’ time, all 1ers, occidental or oriental, will be front-wheel drive, so we had better get used to the idea.

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