With this second-gen 1 Series, BMW has addressed three of the four main criticisms levelled at its predecessor. Without setting any class standard, this car is spacious enough to meet most reasonable expectations. It’s sufficiently well mannered to make for perfectly comfortable everyday use. And although the materials still leave something to be desired in places, the cabin quality now does its maker credit.
The base 116i outperforms its nearest rivals against the clock and, in the real world, probably at the pump. However, original criticism number four still stands. When you’re out for amusement, the new 1 Series, like the old one, handles like BMW’s black sheep.
Three out of four problems solved ain’t bad, of course. But for the car that represents the entry point to all things BMW, three out of four also seems like a significant opportunity missed.
BMW says that 70 percent of 1 Series buyers are new to the brand, and if that’s true, maybe the car’s main failing isn’t so critical. More rounded dynamics, greater refinement and usability, some great powertrains and a more appealing driving environment make this a 1 Series that’s much easier to recommend against its peers, after all.
It just doesn’t distinguish itself from other cars in the class by providing the entertainment you expect from a car with a blue-and-white propeller on the bonnet. And now you wonder if an ordinary 1 Series hatch ever will.