All-New BMW 1 Series Drive - Singapore to Kuala Lumpur

BY Joel Tam

We test BMW's EfficientDynamics award-winning technology with a drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur with the all-new BMW 1 Series.

Photos: BMW Asia

When the offer came for us to drive BMW's latest 116i and 118i up to KL, we simply couldn't refuse. Equipped with the company's new twin-scroll turbocharged 1.6-litre engine and 8-speed automatic gearbox, the 1 Series looks ready to set new standards in the premium hatchback market.

Across more than 600km to and fro, through both highway and B-roads, we aim to find out if performance and fuel efficiency can really co-exist.

We'll be focusing on the new BMW 118i in this story as I had a great deal of time with it going and coming back. From the outside, the car looks bigger and wider than the model it replaces. That's because it is! 85mm longer and 17mm wider to be exact. The horizontal lines that surround the car also enhances the added size visually.

The car has not only grown in size, but in features as well. The new BMW 1 Series has a wide range of BMW EfficientDynamics goodies such as Brake Energy Re-generation, electromechanical servo-assisted steering, Automatic Start/Stop function and the ECO PRO mode - which we had the chance to test.

First impressions as we move off are pretty good. The steering is light at low speeds and the throttle response is sprightly. The 118i we're driving has a maximum output of 170 hp at 4,800 rpm, and a maximum torque of 250 Nm between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. Good enough to propel the car from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds and max out at 222 km/h. Overall efficiency is improved with a combined-cycle fuel consumption of 5.8 litres per 100 km and CO2 emissions of 134 grams per km.

The brakes are well equipped with a host of technology as well - DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), ABS (anti-lock braking system), DTC (Dynamic Traction Control), CBC (Cornering Brake Control) and DBC (Dynamic Braking Control) - makes you wonder if you need to do anything braking yourself at all! Truth is, all that technology helps to keep you out of trouble when you do 'silly' things at inappropriate speeds.

In the Sport Line 118i we're driving, four choices of driving modes are available, COMFORT, SPORT, SPORT+ and ECO PRO. We got to test the ECO PRO mode when we hit the highway. As the name suggests, this gives the car an economy persona. In this mode, the throttle response is less lively (although a quick stab at the throttle pedal will still see the car lurch forward with much gusto), and will indicate on the dash exactly how much mileage you will be garnering from driving it this way. Our 20 min drive in ECO PRO mode got us 9.7km more.

Enough of ECO PRO though, we're Burnpavement.com and we live to heat up the tarmac! Floor the throttle and all 170 horses will make themselves felt. We easily hit 200 km/h when the roads allowed us to, and the acceleration was punchy from across the rev range, thanks to the twin-scroll turbo. Steering feel at higher speeds could do with a bit more feel to inspire more confidence - making the sports steering option necessary to be ticked. The suspension is also a tad too soft for my liking, although I must admit, it rides very well for a hatchback.

Next, we turn off at Pedas, towards Port Dickson, where a string of B-roads await us. The 118i excelled here, attacking every corner and sweeper with verve and tenaciously gripping the lightly sandy ground. Once again, body roll could have been minimised with a slightly stiffer suspension setup. Also, we felt that the optional pedal shifters would be the perfect finisher in quick input driving situations like these.

We finally ended up at Thistle Hotel Port Dickson, where we broke for a scrumptious lunch. After which, we headed to KL city where we wound down after a hard day's driving at the G Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

The 118i Sports Line proved to be a capable partner in this drive-up. It possesses the right mix of performance and practicality without burning your pocket (we challenge you to drive up in ECO PRO mode to see how much you can actually save!). We'll update you on the 116i Urban Line in our next story, where we complete our second leg of the 1 Series Singapore - Kuala Lumpur drive!