Steers and corners incredibly well and it feels smooth at all speeds
Off-set driving position and some scratchy plastics are the only problems
Even the basic cars keep you safe, with six airbags and stability control fitted as standard
Parts of the interior look and feel cheap but the engine won't let you down in the long-run
Tall types need not apply: passengers and luggage will both be jostling for space
Base models miss out on Bluetooth
The 1 Series is a lot more fun to drive than it is to squeeze a family into, but if you don't mind sacrificing some practicality then there's a lot to enjoy here. It has near-perfect poise when it comes to steering and cornering, and the fact that it's driven by the rear wheels rather than the front ones makes it sharper to drive than its rivals.
The suspension is firm but smooth, although it does make itself heard as you ride the speed bumps. The 116i petrol engine is strong and smooth, the 116D Efficient Dynamics is the most economical but still punchy enough, although it comes with lowered suspension which makes the ride a tad firmer.
The 1 Series puts the 'small' into 'small family car'. Front legroom is good, but there's less headroom and rear legroom than you'd find in an Audi A3 or VW Golf. The boot is slightly larger than a Golf's but it's shallow and narrow - at least folding the rear seats leaves a flat floor.
A high transmission tunnel boxes the driver in, while the offset seat and pedal layout is irritating. The chunky windscreen pillars and small rear window make seeing over your shoulder a bit tricky, too. At least managing the controls is easy - if you go for an SE model with the snazzy but easy-to-use iDrive infotainment system.
All versions get alloy wheels, air-con and electric windows as well as an MP3-friendly stereo, while only base models do without Bluetooth which is slightly more generous than the A3's kit.
The old 1 Series was rated 'above average' for mechanical reliability in the latest JD Power owner satisfaction survey. Hopefully this latest model will prove just as dependable.
Every 1 Series has six airbags and stability control fitted as standard, helping the BMW achieve 91% for adult protection and 83% for child protection in Euro NCAP crash tests. That's not as good as a VW Golf, but is a still a very respectable score.
The 1 Series costs more than a comparable VW Golf or Audi A3, but the 116D Efficient Dynamics version makes a very compelling case as a company car - its low CO2 emissions qualify it for attractive Benefit in Kind (BiK) tax rates.