Initially only the BMW 120i will be available at launch, but 116i, 118i and 120d versions will come later.
In addition to featuring rear-wheel-drive - the only car in its segment to offer that - the BMW 1 Series is equipped with other technical innovations not usually featured in this class.
These include, for example, runflat tyres, which are fitted as standard and come with a tyre defect indicator, two-stage brake lights, constant indication of when wear parts should be replaced, BMW iDrive, sports seats with pneumatic backrest width adjustment, keyless access, and Bluetooth mobile phone interface with hands-free kit and operation via a multi-function steering wheel.
There is also an illuminated entry system integrated into the door handles, each owner's car key can be supplied with personal preference memory functions for the audio system, and there's climate control as well as seat and mirror adjustment.
Of course, in typical BMW fashion many of these functions are only available as extra-cost options.
An innovative feature is the newly developed five-link lightweight steel rear suspension with straight, rod-shaped arms, short lever arms and a stiff structure.
The front suspension has a double-joint tension-rod spring-strut suspension featuring a stabiliser bar.
Made chiefly of aluminium, it possesses an unusually high degree of stiffness in spite of its low weight.
The BMW 1 Series' dynamic driving qualities are also enhanced by the ideal 50:50 weight distribution between the front and rear axles.
In South Africa the BMW 1 Series is initially available with one engine variant - the 120i. This free-revving, four-cylinder petrol engine has an output of 110 kW.
The BMW 120i power unit features VALVETRONIC fully variable valve control, as well as Double VANOS variable camshaft control.
Power is transmitted via a six-speed manual gearbox, optionally by means of a six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic.
Three-pivot automatic seatbelts, headrests on all seats, two-stage activating front airbags, side airbags at the front and curtain head airbags - protecting both front-seat passengers and those occupying the rear seats from injury - are the core of the BMW 1 Series' passive safety package.
Up to three child safety seats can be fitted in the BMW 1 Series using ISOFIX devices. In this case the front-seat passenger airbag can be deactivated by means of a key-operated switch.
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) helps to keep the vehicle on the desired course in tricky situations - for example when swerving to avoid unexpected obstacles.
Through the application of specific braking pressure on each wheel, the vehicle is prevented from swerving out of control when the driver exceeds the limits.
Automatic Stability Control (ASC) ensures optimum traction when starting the car on difficult road surfaces. It has the same effect as a conventional differential lock.
Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) and a control function to prevent the vehicle from spinning in bends if the brakes are applied lightly (CBC), as well as electronic, load-dependent Brake Force Distribution (EBD), are all further functions included in the DSC and ABS driving stability systems.
Two-stage brake lights
The BMW 1 Series also features two-stage brake lights. The objective of this innovation, which was successfully utilised on other models in other countries, is to prevent bumper-to-bumper collisions.
There are intensive extra-bright lights in particularly dangerous situations, whereas If the brakes are applied normally, the brake lights provide the usual level of light.
The BMW 1 Series is available with up to five seats, and has split folding rear seats giving a luggage compartment capacity of 330 to 1150 litres, depending on the rear seat position.
Loading is simple thanks to the rear door which opens 1.8 metres upwards and is unlocked either by remote control or by means of the grab handle sporting the BMW badge on its exterior.
Practicability is increased by a maximum load capacity of 500 kg and the extreme variability of the luggage compartment, as well as numerous storage spaces. The luggage compartment has a double floor and power socket (optional - part of storage package).
There's also an optional partition net (part of storage package), to prevent items sliding forward.
Seats provide both height and reach adjustment, as does the steering column. A four-way lumbar support is an optional extra.
There's pneumatic backrest adjustment of sports seats (also an option), by which a personally preferred side support is obtained with the push of a button.
Keyless access (optional) enables the driver to start his BMW 1 Series without taking the ignition key out of his pocket.
As soon as the driver approaches the car, the key transmits an identification signal. The doors are unlocked automatically when the door handle is moved. A push of the starter button is enough to start the engine.
The optional illuminated entry system (referred to in SA as the lights package is linked in the BMW 1 Series to the interior lighting system.
As soon as the doors are unlocked, the car's access area is illuminated by LED units integrated into the lower part of the door handles.
The sound systems available for the BMW 1 Series feature state-of-the-art audio equipment. Highlights include the high-performance woofers, which come as standard.
Inside door sills
They are located under the front seats, using the space inside the door sills, and also feature LOGIC 7 equaliser technology - depending on which system is chosen.
There's permanent monitoring of the battery to ensures its capacity does not drop below the level required for starting.
The remote-locking key also has the ability to memorise personal vehicle adjustments.
This feature allows the BMW 1 Series to "identify" up to four users by their personal key and to automatically call up important functions.
The most recent adjustments of the audio system (sound, volume and programme keys), air conditioning (temperature and air distribution), as well as the position of the electrically adjustable seats and mirrors, are automatically stored in the key.
A multitude of body paints, upholstery and interior equipment packages, as well as a range of equipment options unparalleled in the compact class, offer a great deal of room for individual requirements.
BMW 120i 6-spd manual - R215 000
BMW 120i 6-spd automatic - R228 000
BMW 116i 5-spd manual - R190 000
BMW 118i 5-spd manual - R200 000
BMW 118i 6-spd automatic - R213 000
BMW 120d 6-spd manual - R235 000
BMW 120d 6-spd automatic - R248 000
There is no automatic option for the 116i.