We’ve always had a soft spot for the baby BMW and the new 1 Series looks like making that spot just a little bit softer.  After 10 years, and nearly 2 million sold, this is a car that proves subtle improvements are more than enough when you have such a good car to start from.

Yes, we know the arguments aboout how there are much cheaper options with bigger boots and more rear legroom.  How the 1 Series is just an hyped-up hatchback with a premium price added for the badge.  We know that it’s looks are either love or hate and how it’s got a bit of a chunky derriere. Quite frankly, we couldn’t care less if we tried.  And we’re not trying.  What we like about it is the set-back cabin that gives epic views of that long, sweeping bonnet.  The short overhangs and hunkered down look that just ooze speed and agility.  The fact, and forgive us for being blindingly, staggeringly, childishly obvious, that you can get a rear-wheel drive hatchback with a straight 6 engine that has the ability to wag it’s tail on a wet roundabout like an overexcited dog on it’s way to the local park.  It just looks fun, and for that simple reason, we love it.  

The new 1 Series looks good from any angle, especially the front.  The apron has been lowered, the air intakes enlarged and the BMW trademark kidney grille reshaped, all of which serve to accentuate it’s sporting presence on the road.  The new models come with LED Daytime running lights as standard and, for the first time, the new headlamps can be upgraded to a full LED option or the top-spec Adaptive LED option.  The distinctive rear lights now incorporate LED technology too.  Inside the cabin the iDrive system with a 6.5″ screen is standard, the optional Sat Nav comes with a new touchscreen input system and a masssive 8.8″ display.  Added touches of refinement are found in the chrome surrounds for the air vents, radio and air conditioning controls and the high-gloss panels that house them.  

Engine wise it’s all changed under the bonnet.  The new range of BMW engines reduce fuel consumption by up to 12%, always good news, and the exhaust system meets the new european regulations so the new models offer great value on road tax too.  If you’re harbouring a slightly frugal nature then the 1.6L, 4 cylinder engine in the 118i or the 1.5L, 3 cylinder diesel in the 116d are the ones to check out.  The 116d is exceptionally good, offering 78.5mpg – 83.1mpg if you go for the EfficientDynamics Plus option – but even the larger 2.0L turbo diesel in the 125d can break the 60mpg mark and the 1.6L petrol engine can easily return 50mpg plus.  For those with a more devil may care attitude to economy, the M135i is the daddy of the range.  A traditional BMW straight 6, with turbo lovingly bolted on, hammers out 326bhp and brings the horizon a hell of a lot closer in under 5 seconds, and despite giving the impression of a having a pint-sized nuclear bomb going off under your nose it will still give you 37mpg.  This is definitely on the list of cars we want to road test so the lovely, generous and kind-hearted people at BMW can expect a polite request some time soon – flattery might move us up the list, you never know.  If it does, can we please try the optional 8 speed auto with paddle shifts and launch control rather than the 6 speed manual?

The BMW 1 Series comes in three standard trims – SE, Sport and M Sport. The standard equipment fitted on all models includes remote control central locking, keyless engine ignition, electric windows and heated exterior mirrors.  Inside the cabin you get the usual BMW refinements of automatic air conditioning, a multi-function leather steering wheel adjustable for height and reach and a rain sensor with automatic driving lights control. BMW Professional Radio including CD player with DAB, six loudspeakers and an AUX-In socket, and Bluetooth audio streaming functionality are also included on the SE, along with the aforementioned iDrive operating system and 16-inch alloy wheels and fog lights.  You also get the added bonus of an embedded SIM card for the Intelligent Emergency Call and BMW TeleServices function which can be upgraded to include an internet portal, Real Time Traffic information and allow you to control a whole range of apps via the iDrive system.

An extra £1,000 for the Sport trim secures you a set of 17-inch alloy wheels, ambient lighting, black high-gloss interior trim, Sport exterior styling, Sport steering wheel and Sports seats. For the extravagant amongst you – or those on a generous company car scheme – splashing out £2,700 upgrades the SE to the M Sport with 18-inch M Sport alloy wheels, aluminium hexagon interior trim, M Aerodynamic body styling, M Sport suspension, Sport seats, Alcantara upholstery and an M Sport leather steering wheel.  The new M135i has its own specifications with even larger front air intakes to keep the beast under the bonnet cool and uprated steering, suspension, gearbox and wheels/tyres developed specifically for the high performance car this is.  The options list of the new BMW 1 Series can be further tweaked to suit comfort, functionality and entertainment and includes electrically adjustable and heated seats for the driver and front passenger, two-zone automatic air conditioning, a heated steering wheel and the Harman Kardon Hi-Fi system, complete with 12 loudspeakers and a digital amplifier with 360-watt output.  

Love it or hate it, the BMW 1 Series is a great car that offers solid performance and looks great.  If you hate it then all we can say is, you’re wrong.  If you love it, the new models are on sale from the 28 March and your local dealer will be delighted to assist you in your choice.

Words:  David Young