BMW has hardly ambushed its competitors with this third-gen 1 Series. However, by refocusing on what really motivates premium hatchback buyers and picking the best mechanical layout for a car with strength across the disciplines, it has given the VW Golf rival a better chance of commercial success than it ever has before.

While a design overhaul was inevitable, it’s a shame Munich didn’t hit on a more distinctive look for the car. It’s a shame, too, that a bit more of the material class of the 3 and 5 Series couldn’t be reproduced. But while you might think it a greater shame still that BMW has settled for only an marginally more athletic, agile-feeling take on the front-driven compact five-door norm, we’d wager that owners won’t be among the objectors.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Baby BMW gains plenty and loses little by having a driven front axle

Most will more likely recognise greater accomplishment and drivability in the 1 Series’ ride and handling than its predecessors had, and now be very pleasantly surprised by how much on-board technology, easy everyday usability and space the car has gained. Premium-brand products have to be much more than great to drive to succeed in 2019, after all – and the 1 Series is now a much more complete car than it was.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - BMW 1 Series

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the BMW range

Driven this week

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the BMW range

Driven this week