The Ugly Bavarian (or A Little Criticism of Criticism)

By Alex Ricciuti


Can you see a difference?

Dan Neil at the LA Times thinks the BMW 1 series is ugly.

I have to say I agree with his judgment on its looks, even if I’ve only once sat in the car and had to be placed in treatment for a bout of claustrophobia – so, I can’t say anything about the way it drives.

Now, I envy Neil. He has my number-two dream job (I won’t reveal my first, which involves…ah, forget it). Meaning, I would be doing exactly what I’m doing right now, except getting paid enough to purchase consumer goods and services such as food, shelter and clothing. And I’m a huge admirer of Dan Neil’s talents, which I’ve written about before. Although, reading that post now, it kinda verges on the sycophantically creepy. Rest assured, though, I’m not the type to go all Glenn Close and boil anyone’s bunny.

But I do feel the need to advise Neil on something he wrote in his review of the 1-series.

“I search the stars in vain for a reason the designers gave this car a notch-back design — so that there is a discernible trunk in the back — when it so plainly aches for a fastback.“

The answer is simple, Dan. There is a fastback version in Europe. But when you say fastback in the United States of America, someone will inevitably provide its bastardized translation: hatchback. Subsequently, as soon as American consumers hear the word hatchback they, each and every one of 300 million people, immediately think of their uncle Lou’s 1984 Dodge Omni and flee accordingly in the opposite direction, howling madly and flailing their arms in the air in hysteria.


And since when can’t the LA Times afford to spring for a photographer instead of lifting its photos of the car from the BMW press site (the German plates sort of give it away) like some second-rate car blog (not this one!) too afraid to break copyright rules? This does not bode well for my career in automotive criticism (gotta get back to that novel) if a huge paper like the Times is that cost-conscious with its auto section even with a story by a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer.

Alex Ricciuti is a freelance writer and automotive journalist based in Zurich, Switzerland. He writes frequently for Automotive News Europe. He also blogs on all things automotive at

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. The hatchback 130i is a much better-looking car than the notchback we can have, but Americans puke up on hatchbacks as a rule, as you point out. What is BMW to do in that situation other than what they have done?

    Not sure why all the barbs aimed at Dan Neil because I feel fairly certain he knows about the existence of the hatchback 1 series, I think he was just trying to make a point. And it (the notchback) is a little ugly.

  2. I lived through the econo-hatch period in the UNited States and I still cannot figure out why Americans have such a distaste for the hatchback. There were a lot of crummy cars around in various bodystyles then, and the hatchback ends up with the budget tag. I can’t understand it.

  3. I think Dan Neil knows that a hatchback of the BMW 1 Series is sold elswhere outside the U.S.

    I don’t think the 1 Series notchback coupe is ugly, but it sure ain’t pretty. Another reason to reflect on just how wrong BMW styling has gone under Bangle.

  4. It’s okay, but it’s not great in the looks department. From what everyone says, it’s a great car to drive, but how have things gone so downhill at BMW design?

  5. I don’t think Bangle is the one to blame here – he has been in charge since 1992, and the E39, E46 and pretty much everything else in the 90s were in his responsibility.
    The decision for more bold styling came from the board of directors, who wanted to move the brand forward, even against the traditionalists.

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