New BMW 1 Series

Nearly two million 1 Series models have been sold since the introduction of the first generation a decade ago – and now the latest incarnation is here.

The M135i, in three or five-door formats, feels like the heady motor that it is. Its testosterone-fuelled 322bhp petrol lump with well-weighted, razor-sharp, steering enables you to slice through corners with style.

The 120d, in contrast, feels domesticated. Its steering is light and, with diesel power, there isn’t the same level of zest. In many ways the oil-burner drives like any number of premium quality hatchbacks; cars like the VW Golf and Audi A3 spring to mind.

Whichever model you drive, the 1 Series hasn’t undergone a radical change. Its looks have altered a bit with a nose and tail nip and tuck, and the interior kit has been bulked up.

But it is the new power-plants that make the biggest difference, and particularly the ushering in of the 1.5 litre three-cylinder diesel that features in the latest MINI, which has been fitted to the BMW 1 Series 116d. Fresh four-pot petrol-turbos appear in most of the other motors.

When it comes to the diesels, the three-cylinder 116d sets free 114 horses in both normal and Efficient Dynamics guises, while the 118d, 120d and 125d models all use varieties of the same 2.0 litre four-cylinder unit, putting out 148bhp,187bhp and 221bhp. It is the three-cylinder that produces the major savings at the pumps, but all these engines are more cost-effective than their predecessors.

Step inside any of the latest 1 Series cars and you’ll find well-manufactured cabins, with dashboards that look rational, yet classy. The seats are comfy too, but the most awe-inspiring and stirring model is the M135i. Its chunky steering wheel, bucket seats and guttural exhaust all point in the direction of real athleticism.

The M135i is a hardcore hot-hatch. Six cylinders give it an instant lead, while the silkiness of the 322bhp engine, harmonising with the tuneful tailpipes, combines to make this Bimmer one heady concoction of bliss.

It will do the 0-62mph dash in just 5.1secs and will race all the way up to 155mph. The M135i’s adroitness and adhesive-like road-holding make it such a great motor to drive, especially on our winding British rural routes.

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Max speed: 155 mph
0-62 mph: 5.1 secs
Combined mpg: 35.3
Engine: 2979cc, 6 cylinder, 24 valve ‘TwinPower Turbo’ petrol
Max. power (bhp): 322
Max. torque (Nm): 331
CO2: 188 g/km
Price: £31,195 (3 door), £31,725 (5 door)
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√ Grip
√ Thrills
√ Comfort
X High price

By Tim Barnes-Clay, Motoring Journalist
Twitter @carwriteups

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