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 hatchbacks, Countryman and Clubman, BMW’s front-wheel drive UKL1 platform will be pressed it into service under an all-new 1 Series at some point in 2019, not before making its appearance in the X2 SUV first.
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 better-looking Mercedes-Benz A-Class. But improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions seem like the right place for BMW to begin the fightback, in the shape of three and four cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Starting at the bottom is the triple-pot 116d and 118i, while the vast majority of the range is supplied with a four-cylinder motor powering the 118d, 120d, 125d, 120i and 125i. Topping the range is the majestic M Performance M140i with its 3.0-litre straight six in its nose.
But it’s to the 116d EfficientDynamics Plus in particular that our attention turns, as 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?