BMW is never a predictable company.
The styling of the latest 1 Series has proven controversial but if you value a quality drive over a pretty face, it’s the very first car you’d turn to.
Now more efficient, more spacious and more luxurious, it looks set to continue its record of success.
The 1 Series has always been distinguished by the quality of its driving dynamics and it’s good to see that BMW hasn’t been tempted to compromise on its principles.
Although there has been rumour of four-wheel drive models for foreign markets, the UK selection is resolutely rear-wheel drive.
The chassis balance remains as good as ever but a wider track than its predecessor (51mm at the front and 71mm at the rear) makes this car even more planted through corners.
The engines have been given a refresh with a choice of two innovative four-cylinder petrol engines and three redesigned four-cylinder diesel units.
The turbocharged BMW 118i produces a maximum output of 170hp at 4,800rpm, punching from zero to 62mph in just 7.4 seconds, going on to a maximum speed of 140mph.
The 116i also features a twin-scroll turbo, making a more modest 136bhp but will still zip through the sprint to 62 in a spry 8.5 seconds.
One consequence of running a transmission tunnel through a compact hatch has inevitably been rather compromised accommodation.
While this fundamental issue hasn’t gone away, BMW has loosened the 1 Series’ belt a little. It’s 83mm longer, 14mm wider and 30mm longer in the wheelbase than the car it replaces.
This means that rear-seat passengers benefit from a further 20mm of legroom.
In addition, there’s a good deal more storage space, with large front door pockets, two cup holders on the centre console and a roomy glove compartment.
And there’s 30 litres more luggage space compared to its forerunner, taking the total to 360 litres. Fold the 60/40 split rear seats flat and this can be increased to a maximum of 1,200-litres.
If previously controversial BMWs are anything to go by, the rather divisive styling of the latest 1 Series will get easier on the eye over time, whereupon buyers will learn to love it for its engineering and driving dynamics. It’s certainly hard to argue with the changes BMW has wrought.
Aesthetics aside, the faults with the old car were easy to identify. It was too cramped in the back, it didn’t ride smoothly enough and the interior finish didn’t match the class best. Consider that to do list ticked off.
Although much has changed, the 1 Series remains the default choice for those craving a premium hatch with uncorrupted steering, great chassis balance and brilliant efficiency.
Many of the BMW’s more subtle attributes are lost on a clientele drawn chiefly to its badge, but whatever your motivation for purchase, that warm and fuzzy feeling that accompanies making a smart decision is never too far away.
AT A GLANCE
CAR: BMW 1 Series range
INSURANCE GROUPS: 17-31
CO2 EMISSIONS: 99-137g/km
PERFORMANCE: (120d) 0-62mph 7.2s / top speed 142mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (120d) (combined) 62.8 mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: stability control, ABS, twin front and side airbags
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: length/width/heightmm 4322/1762/1421