It’s interesting to note that BMW’s press material for this new ‘F40’ 1 Series only references the fact that it’s now primarily front-wheel drive just once.

Perhaps Munich might still be nervous of a backlash from any disgruntled brand traditionalists, despite what it’s come to learn about the people who actually buy the 1 Series. Regardless, BMW’s smallest model is now based on the same UKL2 mechanical model architecture that underpins the likes of the X1, X2 and Mini Clubman. Proportionally, it’s now shorter than its predecessor (in terms of both overall length and wheelbase), while also being both wider and taller.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Though prominent, this isn’t one of BMW’s bigger recent ‘kidney’ radiator grille interpretations – and it’s different from others because the chrome of the kidneys meets in the middle. It may seem awkward to some, but at least it’s a distinguishing feature.

This also sees the 1 Series switch from longitudinal to exclusively transverse-mounted engines for the first time. One three and two four-cylinder powerplants make up the diesel line-up, in the 116d, 118d and 120d xDrive (read all-wheel drive) models, with power outputs ranging from 114bhp to 188bhp. On the petrol front, there’s the range-topping M135i xDrive and the 1.5-litre three-cylinder fitted to our entry-level 118i.

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The ‘B38’ engine tested here is related to that used in the Mini hatchback and produces 138bhp and 162lb ft. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox sends this power exclusively to the front wheels in our test car, though a six-speed manual is the standard transmission option. The more powerful four-cylinder engines, meanwhile, come with an eight-speed torque-converter gearbox with four-wheel drive.

MacPherson front struts and a rear multi-link arrangement represent the basic suspension architecture of all 1 Series models, though there are three configurations to choose from. SE and Sport models get regular coil springs as standard; suspension is stiffened and lowered by 10mm in M Sport models. BMW will also sell adaptive dampers as an option, though you’ll have to forgo the option of 19in alloys, as well as the uprated M Sport brakes and variable-ratio M Sport steering that come as part of the M Sport Plus package – which our car had.

BMW quotes a kerb weight of 1320kg for the car, although on our test scales the 1 Series was 1431kg – split 51:49 front to rear.

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