The BMW 1 Series has gone mainstream. In musical terms, the original drummer has left the band and its third album is being produced by some slick Americans of the kind who endlessly pump out immensely successful number ones for Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Ed Sheeran.
What, exactly, has BMW done? Well, the 1 Series’ USP has always been rear-wheel drive – a layout more commonly associated with sports and luxury cars. However, while it’s true that the outgoing M140i hot hatch is a characterful beast, the more run-of-the-mill 1 Series actually wasn’t as good to drive as many of its front-wheel-drive rivals. Can the reinvented, front-wheel drive 1 Series turn things around?
The larger 3 Series and 5 Series have always been rear-wheel drive, and the 1 Series previously adhered to this tradition. However, to develop a third-generation 1 Series with rear-wheel drive would have meant developing costly new underpinnings. So, the cold, hard, ruthless – and possibly brilliant – decision was made to part with tradition and make the new car front-wheel drive. Hence the latest 1 Series shares many of its oily bits with cars like the BMW X1 and X2 SUVs, as well as Minis.
This fundamental change meant that the car could be completely repackaged. The previous engines had to be mounted lengthways, which, combined with the mechanical gubbins required for rear-wheel drive, ate into the space available in the rear seats and boot. With the engine now mounted sideways and driving the front wheels, it promises the interior space to finally go toe to toe with the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class – but it still has virtually the same footprint as the previous 1 Series.
The result? Read on to find out. And if you want to buy a BMW 1 Series then head to our New Car Buying page to find out how much you could save.