If there’s one thing that the 1 Series really scores on is headline economy and CO2 for the performance. Engine for engine, the BMW out-powers and out-torques an equivalent rival from the likes of Audi and Alfa Romeo but still manages to match or better them on CO2 emissions and mpg.

All the diesels, bar the 120d in range-topping Sport or Urban trim, sit below the 120g/km threshold, while the more powerful 125d emits 126g/km. And the CO2 rating of the 116i petrol is a more than respectable 132g/km, as is the 118i petrol’s 137g/km. Of course, the extra performance potential of the 125i inevitably has an efficiency cost, but BMW can claim 154g/km and 42.8mpg.

Such impressive economy figures come courtesy of BMW’s extensive roll-out of its Efficient Dynamics technology, including automatic stop-start, low-resistance tyres, brake-energy recuperation, automatically disconnecting ancillary components and, on manual versions, an optimal gearshift indicator.

A 116i may well offer more in terms of outright performance than its nearest rivals, but it is certainly not without a premium. A bottom-rung 116i ES will cost you about £2000 more than an equivalent VW Golf, £1500 more than an entry-level Alfa Romeo Giulietta and £500 more than the closest Audi A3 Sportback. ES spec doesn’t include iDrive, Bluetooth, a USB connector or a 6.5in flat menu screen.

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And if you want the desirable Sport spec, including the 17in alloy wheels, sports seats and extra interior and exterior trim of our test car, you’ll need to spend north of £21k. That would otherwise buy you an excellent 168bhp Giulietta MultiAir.

Impressive though they look in isolation, the 116i’s economy and CO2 figures are broadly comparable with those of its rivals. However, for private buyers, a 116i will retain a good six percent more of its original value than the Audi or the Alfa over three years and 36,000 miles.

It is also worth mentioning the M135i at this point, as it represents something of a bargain within the 1 Series range. If all options are ignored (meaning no automatic garbox or adaptive dampers), this 316bhp car can be bought for £29,995. That's £10,000 less than the BMW 1M Coupé with only fractionally more power, and cheaper also than a VW Scirocco R with much less power.

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