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 premium MPVs and the new Mini hatchback, BMW’s front-wheel drive UKL1 platform will first father the X1, X2, Z2 convertible and Mini Clubman 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 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?

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

    1
  • Audi A3 Sportback
    All Audi A3s feature multi-link rear suspension, denied to some other MQB-based VW Group cars

    Audi A3 Sportback

    2
  • Volvo V40
    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

    3
  • The second generation 'more grown-up' Mini Clubman

    Mini Clubman

    4
  • BMW 1 Series
    BMW 1 Series gets nip-and-tuck treatment for 2015

    BMW 1 Series

    5

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