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

Driven this week

  • Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster 2017
    First Drive
    29 March 2017
    It's the slower and cheaper of the two AMG GT Roadsters, but these adjectives are harsh given this excellent open-top's broad range of talents
  • Mercedes AMG GT C Roadster 2017
    First Drive
    29 March 2017
    Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster arrives with an upgraded chassis over the Coupé and tweaks that make it even more thrilling to drive
  • First Drive
    29 March 2017
    Sporty GT Line styling gives Kia's city car the visual lift it needs to go toe-to-toe with its European rivals, and the 1.2-litre engine does a power of good for its drivability
  • Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI 110 SE Navigation
    First Drive
    29 March 2017
    This is a first UK drive of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf, which comes with an updated infotainment system and a lower price. What's not to like?
  • Volkswagen Golf R
    First Drive
    29 March 2017
    A facelift for the fantastically capable all-rounder delivers more power and new tech to the cabin, improving on an already exceptional formula