You could set your watch by BMW’s model renewal cycle. The second-generation BMW 1-series turned up to its Autocar road test almost seven years to the day after the first. We liked the original car enough to award it a four-star rating and were impressed by its excellent performance, mechanical refinement and desirability. But it also disappointed in several key areas.

Despite being four grand cheaper than an equivalent 3-series, it was consistently outsold in the UK by the bigger BMW saloon, not to mention most of its key rivals – and that’s in its second largest global market.

The baby BMW brought a unique selling point to the premium C-segment – driven rear wheels – but not without compromise. Finding room for a longitudinal engine up front and a transmission tunnel made the car cramped in the rear. In a few areas, it fell short of BMW’s usual standards on cabin quality. Most frustrating of all, it didn’t have the balanced, involving drive we expected from a ‘standard drive’ BMW.

Into which context enters the second-generation 1-series. After a complete redesign and restyle and a through engineering overhaul, can the new 1-series stamp greater authority on what has become Europe’s most important market segment for premium brand players? And does the car now have the compelling dynamics of a class-leading BMW?


Top 5 Premium hatches

  • BMW i3
    Two versions of the BMW i3 are on sale: a pure electric model or a range-extender variant

    BMW i3

  • Audi A3 Sportback
    All Audi A3s feature multi-link rear suspension, denied to some other MQB-based VW Group cars

    Audi A3 Sportback

  • The new Volvo V40 is the Swedish firm's sleek and sporty-looking answer to the VW Golf, A3 Sportback and BMW 1-series

    Volvo V40

  • The BMW 1-series has sold more than two million units globally since it was launched in 2004

    BMW 1-series

  • The latest Mercedes A Class apes the successful formula of the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series

    Mercedes-Benz A-class


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