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The all new F20 BMW 1 Series - Ugly? Maybe, but much better than the old one

By Rigval on 18 Jun 2011

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By now photos of the 2012 BMW 1 series F20 have made their rounds through all the automotive websites and I have to say that this car is actually better looking than the model it replaced. Let me explain further why this new car is much better than the earlier version, the E81, in terms of styling.

Firstly, is not styled by Chris Bangle. Any BMW not styled by Chris Bangle is a good BMW (with the exception of the 1st generation BMW Z4 which is messy with all the lines here and there, but still proportionate). Chris Bangle who has now quit the automotive industry (for the moment) gets his inspiration from an architectural philosophy called Deconstructivism. Now while that is all fine and dandy with buildings like the Guggenheim, in America or the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, a car with such a design tends to be too messy. Too many cris-crossing lines. Like the designer basically took an axe and started slicing the prototype clay models to get the look (example – BMW Z4 again), or that very ugly BMW E65 7 series. That car was so 'impressive' that Time magazine named it as one of the 50 worst cars of all time (for its rear end styling and i(diotic)-Drive).

Anyway, let's move on. I could go on forever about Chris Bangle's design flaws. I have to end it with one thing. A car needs to be streamlined and aerodynamic looking. It needs to be fluid, and look fast to look classic. A car would look great if you based it on a fighter plane (Honda NSX) or flying saucer (check out Alfa Romeo's Disco Volante concept cars from the 1960s) or Speed Racer's car and not based a museum or the Sydney Opera House. I distinctly remember reading an article about Bangle in Sydney sketching that building as reference for future car design and it shocked me a little.

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Secondly, lets just take the design of the new car and not the fault of the previous designer. It looks tauter than the previous 1 series. This is a good thing. The earlier version was flabby looking. In quoting James May from Top Gear, the E81 1 series looked like a “fat man sat right in the middle of it”. I find this observation quite correct, as every time I see a 5 door 1 series, I always picture an imaginary fat man on the roof, causing that ridiculous character line that starts from the back of the front tires to the rear doors (picture above). Of course, this line looks the worst in the 5 door hatchback and somehow disappearing in the 1 series coupe.

But this new car basically gets rid of that bowl-like character line. That line is now straight and only curves up right at the end instead of that 'fat man line'. And without that concave character line it somehow looks lower and everything fits like a glove. It is not loose but muscular looking, unlike the previous model. And it is because of this (and the new press photos of the car which makes the new 1 series look fabulous), I think the new BMW 1 series is miles better than the car it replaced.

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With one exception. If you take a look at the new 1 series from this angle (photo above) it looks like it is a car for a 85 year old. That large nostrilled nose with lowly set headlights looks so sad and droopy like a very, very, very old man who suffers from acute depression, or irratable bowel syndrom. This new 1 series still needs some time for people to get used to its styling. Well, the last model has been around since 2004 and I have grown accustomed to it. Accustomed, but not thrilled by it, mind you.

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Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.

  • 1
Mazda6 Jun 19 2011 09:39 PM
seriously...u got to be kidding...i think BMW has one of the worst hatchback model in the market. This new model is even worst....
Rigval Jun 21 2011 02:02 PM
The saving grace of the 1 series is that it's RWD. But I really do think this new one looks better than the earlier version. As I mentioned, it LOOKS BETTER...it does not mean that it's the supermodel of hatchbacks.
Droll Jul 06 2011 09:23 AM
unfortunately, most customers won't know it's RWD (or even care about it). people buy it for the "Joy" (oh horrors of horrors!)
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