The all-new second-generation 1-Series gets a fresh face that resembles that of the X1 crossover but sticks with rear-wheel drive, often considered the hallmark of a true BMW.
Rear-wheel drive is favoured by BMW and other premium manufacturers such as Mercedes and Jaguar because it can provide sportier handling, but it is a mechanical layout that makes it harder to provide a car with a roomy interior. BMW claims that the new 1-Series provides more space than the old, although rear-seat legroom, which was very tight in the original model, increases by only 20mm, or less than an inch.
The initial engine line-up consists entirely of four-cylinder diesel and petrol power units. The petrols, badged as 116i and 118i, provide 136 and 170 horsepower; even the 116i is good for a very respectable 0-100km/h (62 mph) acceleration time of 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. Three diesels – badged 116d, 118d and 120d - all scrape below the important 120g/km barrier in official CO2 emissions tests. The 120d is the fastest car in the new 1-Series range, with a top speed of 142 mph and a 0-62 mph time of 7.2 seconds; that compares with 140 mph and 7.4 seconds for the 118i petrol.
Prices for the new 1-Series, which arrives in the UK in September, start at a very competitive £19,375, and Mercedes has done BMW's newcomer a big favour by discontinuing the CLC, the only other premium-badged rear-wheel drive car of a similar size.