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?

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Premium hatches

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25t
    First Drive
    18 December 2017
    Petrol version of the Jaguar XF Sportbrake doesn't quite sparkle as much as you would think, but it gives the mid-sized exec car better overall refinement that the diesels can only dream of
  • Mercedes-Benz X-Class
    First Drive
    18 December 2017
    The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is expensive for a pick-up, but it lifts the bar on commercial vehicle comfort while retaining tough qualities
  • Vauxhall Viva Rocks
    First Drive
    15 December 2017
    Vauxhall's city car gets an urban SUV makeover in a bid to court younger buyers. Is that enough to turn the Viva into a Suzuki Ignis beater?
  • Volkswagen T-Roc 2.0 TSI
    First Drive
    15 December 2017
    Do 187bhp and 4Motion all-wheel drive make the current top-spec T-Roc exciting to drive?
  • Nissan Micra 1.0
    First Drive
    15 December 2017
    Nissan plugs the gap in its Micra range with a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre petrol engine, but is it good enough to unseat the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo equivalents?