The 1 Series’ new front-wheel-drive layout means it’s much roomier than the car it replaces. There’s enough legroom for a pair of six-foot adults to sit comfortably behind front-row dwellers of a similar size. Headroom is adequate, too, although cars with the panoramic sunroof will make tall passengers feel a little more hemmed-in. Bulky side bolsters also mean the useable bit of the rear bench is narrower than it would otherwise be, so some rivals are better at taking a third passenger in the back.
The boot is also now bigger – pretty much the same is in the Audi A3
and VW Golf
, and slightly bigger than in the Mercedes A-Class
– and the boot also has a handy false floor for levelling out the load area when you fold the back seats down. They go pretty flat when you do, too.
The driving position has lots of adjustment, although the pedals are rather offset to the right. This isn’t a massive issue on automatic versions, but it can cause things to feel a little awkward in cars with a manual gearbox. Thick rear pillars and small rear windows also mean your over-the-shoulder visibility is rather hampered, and it causes the rear of the cabin to be a little on the dark side.
The 1 Series may have switched from having its rear wheels driven to having its fronts doing all the work, but it still has a distinctly sporty character
. The steering is quick, responsive and nicely weighted (although it does tug you from side to side as you accelerate in some versions), and with lots of grip and tight body control, the car feels sharp, eager and alert when changing direction. This focus on agility does mean the 1 Series isn’t the smoothest-riding car of its type – you can feel more of bumps and potholes than you do in some rivals – but it stops short of being uncomfortable. Besides, we’ve only had the chance to drive the car on the lower, stiffer suspension that M Sport cars get, so cars with the standard setup might well be cushier.
We’ve also driven the high-performance M135i version with optional adaptive suspension fitted. This changes its stiffness according to which driving modes you select, and there is an appreciable difference between the settings. Regardless of the mode, it’s comfier than the other version we’ve driven, and it also handles even more sharply. It’s not an expensive option, either, so we’d say it’s well worth the investment.
The M135i’s standard four-wheel drive also means upgraded grip and traction in corners, which with the amount of power on tap, is probably just as well.