This is the third-generation BMW 1 Series – and this time round, the premium family hatch has undergone a real transformation. BMW has ditched its famous rear-wheel drive setup in favour of the front- or four-wheel drive of all its main rivals, making the 1 Series more spacious and practical than before in one fell swoop.
You can even see its influence from outside, because despite the 1 Series being a similar size overall, its bonnet is now shorter to maximise passenger space. It also sports BMW’s enlarged kidney grilles and the popular M Sport trim looks suitably racey thanks to 18-inch wheels and high-gloss black exterior trim.
Its interior is still one the best in its class, with a dashboard angled towards the driver, smart materials and an expensive, sporty look. Its front seats feel great too, especially in M Sport trim with Dakota leather seats, and there are neat touches like backlit trim dotted around the interior. Entry-level SE versions get an 8.8-inch iDrive infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, while top versions get a digital instrument panel and 10.25-inch central touchscreen display.
Space up front is fairly similar, albeit with slightly more shoulder room, but it’s legroom in the back that gets the biggest boost. With five doors as standard and more space, it’s a lot more practical for passengers and child seats, but there is one unexpected surprise – despite BMW’s efforts, headroom is still poor for anyone of six feet or more. Boot size has increased by 20 litres to 380, exactly matching the rival Volkswagen Golf hatchback.
What about the million dollar question driving enthusiast’s will be asking? Put those fears to one side, because not only will most drivers be unaware of the 1 Series’ new front-wheel drive, it could well be the best car in its class to drive – we’ll have to drive it in the UK to be sure. It has a natural balance in corners, excellent engines and a choice of a smooth eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox. This is a car that’s as refined and comfortable as it is composed, feeling a lot like the BMW 3 Series from behind the wheel.