In the Jet Li-starred movie "The One", the protagonist (played by the aforementioned Mr. Li) subdues all his counterparts which, in turn, gives him the power to bend reality and reach near omnipotence.

Bavarian Motor Works (BMW), with its 1-series compact car, hopes to do likewise.

"This car (the 1-series) is the first and only premium car in the compact car class; with this car we've actually opened an entirely new market. There is no market for this car right now so we're creating one. With the 1-series we're creating an entirely new segment in the Philippines, that of the premium compact car," said BMW Philippines corporate communications head Lito German.

Mr. German claimed that the 1-series fills a need for an up-and-coming market with particular needs. "The 1-series fulfills the need to have a great, practical everyday car and at the same time delivering the spirit of driving. In short, it (the 1-series) is a wonderful car to drive but it delivers practicality in many aspects. Those who are single, those who are recently married and those starting out in the corporate world will definitely enjoy this car. The 1-series' ability to blend the fun part of driving and the ability to become a do-everything car will surely fulfill the wishes of our target market."

What comes with the 1?

All base models come with rear-wheel drive, anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and a unique start/stop button, which turns on the hatchback's engine at the push of a button. The key is inserted into a slot underneath the button and deactivates the engine immobilizer, thus paving the way for the all-important start/stop engine button push. Also standard on the "1" is BMW's proprietary Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which relies on the presence of certain brake load characteristics and the intervention of engine electronics to bring the 1-series back on the road during unstable deceleration.

The 1-series chassis boasts of 50/50 weight distribution due to the placement of the engine and the transmission at the front and the driveshaft and differential at the rear. With this fact, it is interesting to note that when one opens the hood of the "1" one will notice that there is no battery. But when one opens the rear hatch via a push of the BMW logo located in the middle and pulls out the trunk liner, the battery and all its required cables are there.

Which brings to the fore the absence of a spare tire in the trunk and the 1-series' 205/55 R16 run-flat tires that wrap around 16-inch wheels. BMW figured that with the tires' ability to run without air at a maximum of 80 kilometers per hour or 80 kph, there will be no need for spare rubber and all its necessary equipment. "The tires were meant to travel a further 250 kilometers so that you can quickly find a vulcanizing station or gas station," added Mr. German.

Young couples with children will appreciate the fact that the "1" is equipped with airbags all around for front and rear passengers alike. Passengers in front are protected by a two-stage front airbag and a side airbag in the armrest, while curtain head airbags in the front and rear provide protection during side collisions and shield occupants from shattered glass.

The 116i comes with a Steptronic-equipped six-speed manual transmission (m/t) and a five-speed automatic transmission (a/t), while the 120i comes in m/t only.

Options and packages

For those who think that the 1-series is just a latecomer to the compact car crowd might want to re-evaluate their opinions. "This car is a sportscar in disguise and more. I wouldn't compare the 1-series to any mass market product out there, because the 1-series has tons of features that you won't find in any other compact car. Also, we have a new ordering system that allows the buyer to get a base form '1' and customize it to his or her heart's content and wallet's capability," said Mr. German.

Already BMW Philippines offers three (3) packages for those who wish to customize their 116i or 120i for their individual tastes. These are a Sport package, an Executive package and a Tech package. "The Sport package can be easily seen in the interior, where there are electrically adjustable sport seats with inflatable lumbar support. These seats also have a movable front extension for taller people. Basically, these seats should keep you firmly planted on your behind during spirited driving. Suspension-wise, we lowered the suspension by 15 millimeters or 15 mm (the 1-series' stock ground clearance is 145 mm) and made the rear suspension stiffer," said Gil Balderas, BMW Philippines market and product planning supervisor.

Mr. Balderas added that the Executive package is tailored for comfort, with supple leather seats (but without the aforementioned inflatable lumbar support system), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a much softer suspension. "On the other hand, the Tech package has a Comfort Access System (CAS) in which the technology for the 1-series key is just like the 7-series key. CAS makes the car's doors all open and the hatchback's engine starts immediately when you arrive at a certain distance from the vehicle, provided you have the key inside your pocket," explained Mr. Balderas.

What' your flavor?

Indeed the mix of practicality and passion for driving can be seen in the 1-series. This hatchback comes in three gasoline variants 116i (1.6 liters or 1.6L, with a 115 horsepower or hp output), 118i (coming in early 2005) and 120i (2.0L, with a 150 hp output). The 116i is worth Php 1.595M, while the 118i (plus the aforementioned Executive package) is Php 1.890M. The 120i Executive package version is pegged at Php 1.995M, while the 120i Sport package version is Php 2.070M.

Based solely on looks and features offered, BMW's newest vehicle may be the one to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the compact car arena. Whether the 1-series can bend reality with its presence is another matter.