Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Beem Me Up to a New World

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Beem Me Up to a New World

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whinyates

There's one very good reason why car makers the world over have put their faith in front wheel drive ... space.

Put the engine and all the mechanical gubbins up front and you can get the proverbial quart into a pint pot of an interior.

Dispense with a prop shaft, a transmission tunnel, rear differential and drive shafts and your interior designers can have a field day with the space.

Front wheel drive has helped turn interior packaging into an art form and given small family hatchbacks a Tardis-like quality.

But space is not the final frontier as far as BMW is concerned.

Its first small hatchback is so tight on back seat leg room that it borders on a two-plus-two. Access through the narrow back doors isn't that brilliant either ( but BMW doesn't reckon that will detract from its appeal.

BMW refused point blank to abandon the traditional North-South mounted, front engine, rear wheel drive layout which has helped earn its cars' reputation as the ultimate driving machines.

Secondly, its marketing gurus don't believe typical customers for the new 1 Series will be too bothered by the lack of legroom in the rear.

They believe buyers will be more interested in their new car's dynamic qualities ... and it has those in plenty.

It drives beautifully with the sporting character and perfect balance you would expect.

Weight distribution is an almost perfect 50/50 split between front and rear wheels ( achieved at the expense of interior space and practicality by pushing the engine well back and mounting the battery under the boot floor.

The steering feels weighty at low speeds, but get the 1 Series singing on a country road and it comes into its own ( delightfully weighted, neutral, pin-point accurate and requiring the merest flick from the driver to make the most of the car's tremendous reserves of grip, agility and flat cornering attitude.

This smallest Beemer sits low and there's no obvious body roll through fast, open bends. …

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