BMW’s 1 Series has always been a popular anomaly amongst premium hatchbacks – it’s the only car in the segment to eschew the packaging advantages of front-wheel drive and stick doggedly to rear-wheel drive in favour of better driving dynamics.
The marque has taken the step of extensively updating the model for 2015 with refreshed styling, new engines and improved levels of standard equipment. It goes on sale on the 28 March priced from £20,245.
The front-end has been restyled to look lower and houses larger air intakes. The iconic ‘kidney’ grille has been reshaped and headlights now have LED daytime running lights as standard across the range. Full LED and adaptive full LED headlights are now available higher up on the options list. New L-shaped taillights complete the facelift.
A new style of cloth is now fitted to the seats to enhance the premium feel and the standard 6.5-inch screen relays information and entertainment to the passengers. BMW’s ‘professional’ navigation is available which brings a bigger touch-sensitive scroll wheel and a larger 8.8-inch display. Elsewhere there are new gloss black panelling and chrome control surrounds.
More extensive changes have taken place under the bonnet. There are 136hp or 170hp 1.6-litre petrol engines from the previous Mini, or a 2.0-litre from the current Cooper S. The top petrol (available in the M135i) is still a 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six but now has 326hp, enough to sprint to 62 from rest in just 4.9 seconds.
The 1 Series features BMW’s new range of diesel engines. A 1.5-litre three-cylinder, borrowed from the current Cooper D, features in the 116d and offers 116hp and, in EfficientDynamics Plus guise, it can achieve 83.1mpg while emitting 89g/km of CO2. This is partly achieved through active aerodynamics, which involves closing various external vents when not needed.
The 118d, 120d and 125d all get the same modular engine as the 116d but with another cylinder and another half a litre of displacement. These produce 150hp, 190hp and 224hp respectively.
Other enhancements for the diesels include an aluminium crankcase and cylinder head (as opposed to the heavy steel normally used), ancillary devices (alternator, air conditioning pump, etc) that shut off when not needed, and brake-energy recuperation via the alternator/generator.
The optional eight-speed automatic gearbox has been reworked with longer gear ratios and reduced internal friction to deliver even greater efficiency. It features a ‘predictive shift strategy’, which preselects the gear most appropriate for the driving situation using data from the sat-nav – tech that’s only previously been seen on Rolls-Royces.
Basic SE models come with air conditioning, a multi-function leather steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers, a CD player with DAB and AUX-in, Bluetooth audio streaming functionality and the iDrive operating system. The Sport trim level adds nicer interior elements and sportier styling while M Sport brings 18-inch alloys, an M Sport body kit, sports suspension and Alcantara upholstery.
Options include electrically heated and adjustable seats, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel and a Harman Kardon 12-speaker 360-watt sound system. Upgrading the iDrive to BMW’s professional navigation brings a bigger screen and control knob.
Driver assistance and mobility
All 1 Series come with an embedded SIM card to enable automatic emergency calling and BMW TeleServices from the car. This lets you access optional internet-based services including real-time traffic data, BMW’s concierge service and BMW’s internet portal.
A variety of safety systems can be specified including a rear-view camera, high-beam assistant, road-sign assistance as well as lane departure and collision warning systems.
Serious about buying a 1 Series?
Before you commit to the BMW 1 Series, make sure you check out our aggregated reviews of its rivals – the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class. Or, to save yourself some money, take a look at the similarly-sized Ford Focus, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Vauxhall Astra or Mazda 3.