There’s a revolution in compact car design going on at BMW at the moment. Whether by bad luck or bad judgement, though, that revolution won’t impact upon the firm’s biggest-selling compact car for another two years, and that is a source of annoyance unlikely to be lost on many in Munich.

Having already brought us the 2 Series Active Tourer and Grand Tourer premium MPVs, the new X1 and the latest Mini hatchback and Clubman, BMW’s front-wheel drive UKL1 platform will first father the X2 and Z2 convertible before BMW finally gets around to pressing it into service under an all-new 1 Series at some point in 2017.

At which time, BMW may finally concede that engineering the original 1 Series as a rear-drive compact premium hatch cost a lot and delivered relatively little for a clientele who – according to the firm’s own research – didn’t even know which wheels propelled the car.

For those who did, and for anyone else minded to bag an example of the rear-drive hatch before it’s too late, enter the final facelifted version of the 1 Series. To its credit, and in spite of its plan for an overhaul, BMW has gone to a lot of trouble updating the car’s engines, suspension, styling, cabin and equipment level in order to give the 1 Series a decent send-off.

And it needed to. Since the F20 1 Series originally went before the road test desk’s gaze in 2011, it has been supplanted on our ‘compact premium’ class podium by the sophisticated and constantly improving Audi A3 and the pragmatic Volvo V40. But improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions seem like the right place for BMW to begin the fightback, so it’s to the 116d Efficient Dynamics Plus in particular that our attention turns.

A new-generation three-cylinder turbodiesel engine gives this low-emissions special better performance and economy than its predecessor and makes it one of the most frugal combustion-engined cars that money can buy. But does it now – finally – command the attention of business car users in the manner of its bigger siblings?

To find out what our sister site, What Car? thought of the BMW 1 Series, watch the video below.

Top 5 Premium hatches

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the BMW range

Driven this week

  • Lamborghini Aventador S
    First Drive
    21 January 2017
    Is an upgrade to 730bhp and the addition of four-wheel steering enough to realise the Aventador's potential?
  • Ford Focus RS Mountune FPM375
    First Drive
    20 January 2017
    Does an official Mountune upgrade of 25bhp and 30lb ft, improve the already rampant and rather magnificent Ford Focus RS?
  • Audi S5 Sportback
    First Drive
    19 January 2017
    The Audi S5 Sportback is more bruising GT than practical sports car, but it makes sense for those wanting a fast executive saloon in coupé get-up
  • First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Despite receiving a cosmetic and mechanical refresh, Lexus's compact executive saloon still fails to provide much driving involvement
  • 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5h review
    First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Big-selling plug-in SUV gets a light refresh in the face of new challengers to offer decent economy but only average driving dynamics