By Ronan Glon
Monday, May 14th, 2012 @ 2:47 am
 
The folks at BMW have mastered the art of launching new models on the weekend. After the MINI John Cooper Works GP and the BMW 3-Series Touring comes the three-door variant of the entry-level 1-Series.

The three-door 1-Series features the same overall design and silhouette as the second-generation five-door hatchback that bowed several months ago. Doors aside, the biggest aesthetic difference between the two models is that the sides of the three-door variant are more sculpted, giving it a more aggressive appearance. A less-visible difference is that the three-door hatchback does not have window frames.

Buyers can order the three-door model as either a four-seater or a five-seater. Whichever option is chosen the rear set of seats can fold down to free up extra cargo space.

All 1-Series models are available with BMW's ConnectedDrive infotainment system. It works with iPhones and other smart phones and lets passengers play music, surf the internet and get real-time traffic information.

The three-door 1-Series will be powered by the same engines that are found under the hood of the five-door model but that's not all: the new bodystyle will also inaugurate a new range-topping performance-oriented model called the M135i.

Those who have been closely following the development of the 1-Series will immediately recognize the car as it was displayed as a concept at the Geneva Motor Show last March.

The M135i is powered by a gasoline-burning 3.0-liter straight-six that sends 320 horsepower and 331 foot-pounds of torque to the rear wheels. When equipped with an automatic transmission it sprints from zero to 62 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds and on to an electronically-limited top speed of 155 miles per hour. Models equipped with a manual transmission take 5.1 seconds to reach 62 miles per hour.

To handle the extra power the range-topping 1-Series is equipped with an uprated suspension and a beefier set of brakes. 18-inch light alloy wheels come standard.

Although the M135i will be launched as a three-door, BMW has announced that it will later be offered as a five-door.

The three-door 1-Series is scheduled to go on sale throughout Europe before the end of the year. Pricing was not released.

At the time of writing BMW does not plan on selling either variant of the 1-Series hatchback in the United States. American buyers who want an entry-level BMW will need to wait until the German automaker launches the coupe and convertible models.

It is worth noting that rumors circulating around the auto industry indicate that the coupe and convertible models will adopt the 2-Series moniker.