Photography by Mike Crawat
The 1-series, launched with the E82, was warmly welcomed to the BMW lineup. As a small sports coupe, it was the replacement E30 and E36 guys had been asking for for ages. The 1M took the car to new levels, and today sits as a cult classic, holding unprecedented values when compared to most new BMWs. Its successor, however, became the 2-series: quite clearly the next coupe in the lineage but with a new badge. In Europe, however, the 1 series continued as a hatchback-only variant, following in the footsteps of the 1st-generation 1-series hatches we never got in the US.
Initially, the F20 and F21 fell short in my eyes; its wide-eyed front end looked a bit odd in comparison to the rest of the lineup, and it lost much of the sportiness I saw in the original 1. The 2-series seemed like the car it should have been, and without much thought, I threw the second-generation 1 series in the pile of cars like the E36 and E46 "ti" butt-less coupes: cars I'd never mind not seeing again. However, this example, shot recently by the always-talented Mike Crawat, has me second-guessing everything I've ever thought or said about the "hot hatch."
First things first, it's hard to argue: planting nearly any car flat on the ground is bound to make it look better. While a loss of practicality is worthless in the eyes of some, it's hard to suggest that the F20 doesn't benefit in every way. Maarten Camman, the owner of the four-door hatch before you, clearly agrees, and to suit the car, turned to Air Lift Performance for a set of air struts and management, giving the car a sense of both style and practicality.
Wanting to pair something unique but fitting with his choice of suspension, Maarten built a set of custom Hamann PG1 splits. As a wheel originally built by the tuning house Hamann, they were born to cater to the lines of a BMW, although its doubtful that the engineers and designers at Hamann ever expected to see the wheels on a new BMW years and years later.
Built out to 18x8.5 and 18x10.5, the wheels fill the arches to the brim, leaving no room or margin for error on fitment, but the result is fantastic. Seeing the car with a vintage set of wheels and a proper suspension setup, it's quickly changed my mind on what the F20 and F21 might be capable of.
It's always a joy to browse through the latest works of Mike Crawat, and his latest shoot offers a fresh taste on an often under-appreciated car. So, having seen one with some tasteful bits and pieces, what do you think of the F20 hatch? Would you take one if they were offered in the United States? Or is the 2-series more your pace?