I don’t like the idea any more than you. This is not the first front-wheel drive BMW, but as its earlier effort, the extant 2-Series Active Tourer is the least lovely BMW I can recall driving, that’s not much of a comfort. This new 1-Series is the first truly mainstream BMW to pull you along the road. But this time I don’t think it’s going to matter a damn.
I say ‘think’ because, in its wisdom, BMW sent me a 120d to test which comes with four-wheel drive as standard, which slightly muddies the water. Even so this is a cracking car. No longer does the 1-Series feel like the BMW you buy because you can’t afford the one you really want. The interior is far more spacious than before, quality has been transformed and the ride and refinement are as good as you’ll find on the best VW Golf, which is a far bigger compliment than it sounds.
Like other small BMW diesels I’ve driven recently, the engine has lost some eagerness – almost certainly the price paid for WLTP compliance – but the car is still fast and still frugal. And I really like the way it handles. No, you can’t go drifting it, but who drives such cars that way anyway? What matters is that the turn in is sharp, the steering accurate and the chassis receptive to mid-corner changes of plan.
On paper this should be the worst 1-Series to date. In reality it’s the best by far.
BMW 120d xDrive M-Sport Auto
Engine 2.0 litres, 4 cylinders, turbo
Power 187bhp at 4000rpm
Power to weight 118bhp per tonne
Transmission eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Top speed 143mph
Verdict A true Golf rival
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