Longitudinal engines have always presented a huge packaging hurdle for the 1 Series, simply because they leave less room for passengers than a transverse motor would.

In a perfect world, a shorter three-cylinder engine might have redressed that equation at least a little. But, as evidenced in all sorts of ways which we’ll come to, a perfect world is not where the 1 Series exists.

It's short on elbow and knee room, but the driving position is good for taller drivers. I'm 6ft 4in and don't struggle for leg or head room, but the driver's seat feels confined

And so the 1 Series remains a tight fit when you slide in behind the wheel. For longer-legged drivers, with the steering column at full telescopic range and the seat slid all the way back, it can be an awkward squeeze just to slip in between the B-pillar and the steering wheel.

Once you’re in, the cabin feels snug around your extremities – more so, in fact, than the interiors of most superminis do. If you don’t like that close-fitting impression from a compact car, chances are it’ll just feel restrictive.

In the rear cabin, the entry and exit routine is even more awkward, and there’s limited head and foot room in particular – so limited, in fact, that there’s space for teenagers and smaller adults only. The boot is a more reasonable size, being smallish but within about 10 percent of family hatchback norms on loading length, overall width and under-shelf height.

New seat upholsteries are among the changes made to BMW’s interior but, fitted with optional Dakota leather, our test car couldn’t show them off.

The standard leather steering wheel (complete with audio remote controls) and standard-fit iDrive system with 6.5in multimedia set-up will both meaningfully improve the ambience and technical appeal of less generously equipped cars. There are also new trims on the upper centre stack and around the audio and climate control consoles.

On top of all of that, there are three trim levels to choose from: SE, Sport and M Sport. The entry-level SE trim comes with a decent amount of equipment, including climate control, automatic wipers and lights, keyless start, DAB tuner and front foglights.

Upgrade to the mid-level Sport models and you will find 17in alloys shod in runflat tyres, four driving modes and sport seats, while the range-topping M Sport trim sees the addition of an aggressive body kit, LED head and foglights, interior ambient lighting and sports suspension. Part with a further £1295 and the M Sport Plus pack will adorn your 1 Series with a Harman and Kardon stereo and M Sport braking system.


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If you find these 1 Series a bit pedestrian, than fear not: BMW has you covered with its M140i, which gets a full on M bodykit, dual-zone climate control, a chrome dual-exhaust system, a sporty steering set-up and BMW's superb 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine pumping out 335bhp and 368lb ft of torque.

But even so enriched, the 1 Series’ cabin still doesn’t present much of a threat to the decluttered class of an Audi A3’s interior, or the smart-looking insides of a Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The fascia continues to look and feel a bit plain and dull in places, and while many of the materials and switches feel worthy of a premium price tag in isolation, they somehow labour to create that impression when collectively judged.

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