BMW 1 Series

A dog's dinner to look at... but the most fun in its class

Price: from £19,375 (£23,090 116i Sport as tested)
Engine capacity: 1.6 litre (136 bhp)
Top speed (mph): 130
0-62 (seconds): 8.5
Fuel economy (mpg): 49.6
C02 emissions (g/km): 132

Its bonnet still stretches away into the distance, its sides are still unfeasibly high for a small car and its rear-end still looks like it has been smashed against a heavy goods lorry at speed. Yes, the BMW 1 Series is still an ugly car. And while BMW has given the smallest car in its garage a mid-life design makeover, an updated engine and fixed some of its biggest flaws, the odd combination of sloping curves and drastic leading lines have done little to make it more attractive to look at.

Not that Britain's army of Beemer fans and fully grown boy racers with company car allowances to spend are likely to mind. More than 1.2 million models of the "poor man's BMW" have been sold worldwide since its launch in 2004, and the new model is expected to be as popular as ever. This despite concern from Jeremy Clarkson and the high-speed idiot brigade that the entry-level 1 Series is sailing dangerously close to diluting BMW's performance brand.

Why then has the 1 Series been so popular? It might be a dog's dinner to look at (and seem a step-down from the sporty mile-eaters and executive behemoths which are central to the brand), but from behind the wheel it comes close to achieving BMW's claim of being the "Ultimate Driving Machine". Yes it's nonsensical advertising speak, but the 1 Series really does succeed in ticking lots of performance boxes, as I found out on a trip down to the Goodwood Revival in a 116i Sport model recently.

Its rear-wheel drive set-up (for sports car-like acceleration) sacrifices cabin space, but delivers agile handling that's firmly planted into corners and blisteringly quick out of them. BMW research shows that 80 per cent of 1 Series owners don't know if their car is front- or rear-wheel drive, or even know what the distinction means, but it's BMW's USP and one that's not abandoned on even this, its cheapest model. And as I head south, its smooth snatch-free transmission, excellent build quality and laser-guided steering make navigating London's congested streets and hooning through the open-country roads of Sussex equally enjoyable.

Parking by a shiny 6 Series convertible (the top of the BMW range) in the Goodwood car park it's still hard not to feel like the poor relation in the perfectionist German family, but that misses the point of the 1 Series. Yes, it's a fantastic driving car, but like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf it is a five-door family hatchback with all the practicality, comfort and economy that entails. Gone even is the poor ride and cramped rear space (it's 85mm longer and 17mm wider than the one it replaces) of the original model. It's by no means perfect (with prices starting alarmingly high for a hatchback), but it really is a practical and livable machine that's also a fantastic driver's car.

Most buyers will opt for one of the more frugal diesel engines, soon to include the ultra-green 116d ED, which claims (provided you don't thrash it too often) CO2 emissions under the magic number of 99g/km, meaning car tax and congestion charge-free motoring. But even in its less-engaging incarnations it still plays to a buyer keen to ditch the humdrum of Vauxhalls, Fords and Toyotas for a proper dose of German luxury. And in this it delivers not only practicality and economy but the best handling and most fun per mile in its class. Squat looks aside, BMW has finally got the small car just right.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

    PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

    Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

    Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering