The BMW 1 Series is the only car in its class to come with rear-wheel drive – the same as you get in an F1 car, people – so it’s no surprise that we’re impressed with the dynamics of the car, particularly the fun it offers up in corners.
There are eight engines available for the BMW 1 Series, but they are tuned in a whole host of different ways that may confuse.
Turbocharged petrol units start with a a 1.5-litre unit producing 136hp that, confusingly, is fitted to the 318i. Those looking for more power can pick the 12oi, which packs a 186hp 2.0-litre engine, or the 125i – with the same engine boosted to 218hp for 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds.
The 1 Series is unique among rivals thanks to being rear-wheel drive
Diesels are based on three- and four-cylinder units. A 1.5-litre engine is known as the 116d, while the 2.0-litre units – producing 150, 190 and 224hp respectively – make up the 118d, 120d and 125d.
It’s very difficult to pick a bad diesel engine here because they’re all fast, economical and smooth compared to their rivals. Thankfully, they aren’t all ludicrously expensive either – the entry level 116d EfficientDynamics offers 83.1mpg economy from its 116hp 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo diesel unit. It’s more fun than most eco-biased rivals such as the Golf BlueMotion, too, and is our pick of the range.
If money isn’t a concern, the M140i has to be the pick of the range. Not that it’s poor value – it offers tremendous performance for the cash. The three-litre straight-six turbo produces 316hp, allowing it to hit 62mph from a standstill in less than five seconds, when fitted with BMW’s eight-speed auto, and can reach a limited top speed of 155mph. It’s a relatively affordable rival for models such as the Audi RS3 Sportback and Mercedes A45 AMG.
The BMW 1 Series is great fun to drive but it’s also good at motorway speeds, due to the very impressive levels of refinement. The suspension is a bit on the firm side, especially on the M Sport models, but overall there is a suitable compromise between comfort and handling. However, rear visibility isn’t great, and some testers weren’t convinced that it was better to drive than some of its front-wheel-drive rivals. That all changes if you pick quick M140i though, and even the diesels are more fun than most competitors.