AT12MARWhen the first generation BMW 1 Series was released, it was the only rear-wheel drive compact hatchback on the market and proved that you needn’t plump for an unsubtle range-topping hot hatch in the search for driving thrills. The new one continues the trend, but addresses some of the criticisms levelled at the old model.

The new looks – particularly the sad looking headlamps – may be a bit love or hate, but the interior is now class leading. Ultra-modern design and a lot of 3D surfaces make it a first-class place to spend time. In an example of the attention to detail that has gone into the 1 series, the grain of the leather is matched by the interior plastic mouldings, resulting in a tactile delight worlds away from the previous model, which had the odd expanse of cheaper plastics amongst the leather and brushed aluminium.

Being a BMW, the 1-Series is available with kit you just can’t get on your run of the mill Vauxhall Astra. The new eight-speed automatic gearbox is a particular highlight: smooth and fast changing, it makes newer twin-clutch efforts look needlessly over engineered. Other options, including Internet connectivity and high-end Harman Kardon stereo, emphasise the premium nature of BMW’s smallest car and make the ownership experience feel special – if you can afford them.

The new 1-Series still can’t match the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf for practicality and if you’re looking for a family bus then you’re probably better looking at those models. However, they don’t hold a candle to the 1-Series in terms of driver enjoyment. The rear-wheel drive configuration, coupled to potent engines with linear power delivery, combine to give an engaging driving experience which will enliven even the dullest early morning commute.

So, leave the kids at home and re-discover what you loved about driving in the first place. Get a BMW 1-Series.

12-plate wish list

Feb 01: Hyundai i40 Tourer
Feb 02: Audi A4
Feb 03: Ford Focus
Feb 06: Citroen DS4
Feb 07: Volkswagen up!
Feb 08: Vauxhall Astra GTC
Feb 09: Audi A1 Sportback
Feb 10: Renault Scenic
Feb 13: Subaru XV
Feb 14: Renault Twingo (video)
Feb 15: MINI Coupe
Feb 16: Nissan LEAF
Feb 17: MINI Coupe (video)
Feb 20: Hyundai i30
Feb 21: Chevrolet Camaro
Feb 22: Porsche 911 (video)
Feb 23: Kia Picanto
Feb 24: BMW 1-Series
Feb 27: Honda Civic
Feb 28: Hyundai Veloster