What is it?
A bigger, more economical and economical BMW 1 Series. It's due to arrive in the UK in September in five-door guise, and the range will eventually include a three-door, a coupé and convertible. This five-door model heads-up the replacement model line, as it's by far the biggest seller. The latest 1 Series is marginally more spacious, better to drive and boasts some very impressive economy and emissions figures. If you're replacing your company car next year then the BMW is likely to be very high up the list.
Is it any good?
BMW's people are surprisingly frank when discussing the shortcomings of the car that this 1 Series replaces. The new one is a bit bigger, not by huge amounts, but the rear seats are slightly more spacious and there's a bigger boot. Access to the boot is easier, thanks to a significantly wider and lower tailgate. The interior materials are of a quality to justify the BMW badge, it rides with far more composure and equipment levels are very comprehensive. Optional highlights include sector firsts like internet connectivity - allowing web radio and real-time traffic information. And the styling? That will divide opinion, but we can assure you that the 1 Series looks better on the road than it does in pictures.
Key to the standard equipment list are the EfficientDynamics fuel and emissions saving technologies. All 1 Series models get a stop-start system and a new driver aid BMW is calling Eco Pro. Select it and accelerator pedal and gear changes (on the automatic gearbox at least) are all altered to maximise fuel economy. To assist the driver, it gives gearshift prompts and suggests a less heavy right foot via icons among the instruments.
Eco Pro mode features on all of the two petrol and three diesel engines. Choose any of the diesels - badged 116d, 118d and 120d respectively - and the emissions (when the cars are fitted with the standard 16-inch alloy wheels) are just 119g/km. Economy ranges between 62.8-64.2mpg and power spans from 114bhp to 181bhp. That best 64.2mpg combined consumption figure is, surprisingly, from the highest 181bhp 120d model.
That 120d is quiet and rapid, too, with a 7.2 second 0-62mph time, which makes it the quickest model in the new five-door line-up. Smooth and hushed, it's easy to drive, especially when mated to the optional eight-speed automatic transmission. The fully electric power steering system is quick and accurate, though optional Variable Sport Steering makes the wheel feel inconsistently weighty at times. Other options include three suspension choices, with standard, sport or Adaptive M Sport available. The standard system offers a fine ride and handling balance, Sport adds tautness with little loss in comfort and the Adaptive M Sport brings the ability to switch between settings. For UK roads the standard set-up should offer the best all-round compromise.
Alongside the familiar ES, SE and Sport trims, the new 1 Series will be offered in Urban specification. It brings white highlights inside and out. Avoid it.
Should I call the bank manager?
Pricing starts at £19,375 for the 116i petrol, or £20,195 for the 120d. If minimising running costs is your goal then you might want to wait until BMW releases the 116d EfficientDynamics. It promises 99g/km and an official combined fuel consumption figure of over 74mpg.
Greater ride comfort, a slight increase in passenger space and more equipment all add up to a more compelling entry point to BMW ownership. It's the economy advances that impress the most, though. The 1 Series is now a no-brainer for company car drivers who want a BMW roundel on their bonnet and sensible running costs. They're just about impressive enough to even forgive the 1 its slightly awkward nose.