The 1-series is a car that looks as if it has been steered, albeit carefully, in the right direction. BMW talks less about dynamic rear-driven handling, and at reassuring length about enhanced comfort and accommodation, improved efficiency and new-to-the-class technology. Which is a good start. Longer than the old 1-Series by 85mm, the current car has a wheelbase that has been enlarged by 30mm, with 21mm of that extra inter-axle length gone to additional rear legroom. Both tracks have been widened, too, by a gnat's over 40mm at the front axle and over 60mm at the rear.
Although it has grown, the new car is 30kg lighter than the old one. It would have been 60kg, but climate control now comes as standard. And a thorough structural redesign means the car’s body-in-white is now more than 30 per cent more torsionally rigid across the front bulkhead. That’s good news for ride and handling, too.
Adrian van Hooydonk’s styling update hasn’t cured the ungainly proportions of BMW’s smallest model, but the net effect is a clear improvement. The new car looks lean and more aggressive than the last. The biggest aesthetic bugbear remains the car’s profile, though. Short, tall and backward leaning, it still looks awkward: like a gangly pup that has had the carpet pulled out from under its paws.
Developed in tandem with the new 3-series, the new 1-series, like the last, has all-independent suspension – MacPherson struts up front and a five-link rear end. The car is sold exclusively with turbocharged engines, including big-selling 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre common-rail diesel units.
Recent additions to the range include the 125i, 125d diesel and M135i, a flagship that forms part of BMW's new M Performance range. Every 1 Series model can now be had with M Sport trim, offering welcome styling upgrades but with lowered suspension that does nothing for ride quality.