Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There are a total of five engines available at launch for the 1 Series: two petrols and three diesels. The petrol menu lists a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder (badged 118i) and a 302bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that powers the M135i hot hatch. Of those we’ve only driven the M135i so far, and performance is suitably brisk, picking up really well from low revs and pulling nicely through to the red line, with a nice parpy exhaust note as an accompaniment. In outright acceleration from 0-62mph it offers near identical pace to the Mercedes-AMG A35 – the M135i is just 0.1sec slower.
The diesel range is made up of a 1.5-litre three-cylinder 116d and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit with two different power outputs in the 118d and 120d. The big seller is expected to be the 118d – and we can see why. It offers punchy performance and impressive fuel economy, will chew through motorway miles without a problem, and the pace on offer is similar to the equivalent A200d in the A-Class.
Suspension and ride comfort
There are three suspension options on the 1 Series. As standard you get passive suspension and adaptive dampers are optional. Alternatively, there’s also a lower and stiffer M Sport option. So far, we’ve only driven the diesel 1 Series on the optional adaptive dampers, and, while body movements were well controlled – especially at high speeds – the ride is pretty firm, especially at low speeds.
The M135i gets its own M Sport suspension set up, which you can also add adaptive dampers to. It’s stiff, but not uncomfortably so, and provides excellent body control.
If you’re thinking of upgrading from the previous rear-wheel drive 1 Series to the new version – you’ll find the front-wheel drive handling much tighter in all respects. The steering is smooth, precise and responsive, helping the new 1 Series feel agile. The front end feels especially sharp and there’s lots of grip, giving you plenty of confidence when threading it along a twisty road.
The four-wheel drive M135i has its own lowered and stiffened suspension set up to help it remain flatter in corners, and gets a limited-slip differential to maximise traction on winding roads. It also has quicker sports steering which helps it feel even more agile, without making it uncomfortably twitchy.
Noise and vibration
Refinement is impressive at high speeds, with a bit of road noise but not much wind noise. The engine is barely audible at a cruise, too, so the 1 Series should prove to be a laid-back motorway companion.
However, at low speeds there’s a fair bit of diesel grumbling in the 118d, as well as some vibrations up through the pedals and steering wheel, which can all get a bit annoying when you’re queuing in traffic.
A six-speed manual transmission is available as standard on the 118i, 116d and 118d, and a seven-speed automatic can be chosen on the 118i and 116d. The 118d can be chosen with an eight-speed auto, which is the only gearbox offer in the 120d and 135i. So far the latter is the only gearbox we’ve tried, and it proves a slick-shifting unit.