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 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.
It’s 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.