The rear-driven BMW 1 Series has always appealed more to keen drivers as an idea than as a fully realised car.
Back in 2004, when I was a youngster starting out in this job, I remember being drawn so instinctively to the notion of a proper ‘standard-drive’ BMW as an alternative to a run-of-the-mill front-drive hatchback. The car’s promise was to take the humble hatchback into new and truly involving territory in terms of driver appeal.
But it was a promise the 1 Series has scarcely, if ever, come close to fulfilling. Squeezing a longways engine, a transmission tunnel and rear-wheel drive into such a small car clearly presented BMW with enormous packaging challenges. Even in today’s 1 Series, you become aware of them when you see how cramped the car’s rear seats are compared with those of its transverse-engined rivals.