► New 2015 BMW 1-series facelift tested
► We review the 116d Efficient Dynamics Plus
► Just 85g/km of CO2 and 83mpg!
The BMW 1-series range has just been facelifted; it’s a more thorough overhaul than is usual for the Bavarians, featuring a cosmetic nip ‘n’ tuck and a far-reaching raft of engineering upgrades, including a suite of new engines. This is one mid-life facelift you’re unlikely to miss.
We’re testing the UK’s best-selling version, the 116d – equipped here in ultra-clean Efficient Dynamics ED Plus spec for an £850 premium. There are some startling figures bandied about on the spec sheet: like 83 miles per gallon economy and 85/km of CO2, thanks to the addition of the Mini’s three-cylinder drink-averse diesel engine.
Does this make it one of the cleanest and most frugal mid-sized hatches on sale today? Is it still fun to drive? Can appearances in the top 10 seller’s chart dent its desirability? Read our full UK road test to find out…
BMW 1-series facelift: fixing the damage inflicted by the ugly stick
I remember seeing the current BMW One at a sneak preview in Munich before it was unveiled and my jaw hitting the floor when I clocked the front end. To these eyes the outgoing 1-series was one of the ugliest snouts ever to emerge from Munich’s design studios – and thankfully an entirely new nose has been grafted on.
Stylists have binned the globular, misshapen headlamps that so dominated the One’s front end, substituting much sleeker lights, LED day-running diodes and reprofiled kidney grilles for a wider, more elegant look. The rear lamps are new, too, stretching across the tailgate and now splitting to lift with the hatchback. It’s a successful facelift for the F20 1-series, giving it a whole new lease of life. Choose from three- and five-door bodystyles, but beware tight rear packaging. Legroom, in particular, is in shorter supply than in some superminis.
The engineering changes for the 2015 facelift
Inbound are the latest BMW engines, pilfered from across the range. The Germans are streamlining their engine choices and focusing on new modular units based around the optimum 500cc-per-cylinder principle. Hence the 1.5-litre three-pot fitted here; sling another cylinder on and you get a 2.0-litre four, add another pair and you reach a 3.0 straight six. You get the idea…
This three-cylinder 1.5 diesel powers everything from the Mini to the soon-to-be-facelifted 3-series and it’s a great addition to the range. It’s hushed and well-mannered, with very little diesel clatter and it enjoys revving.
Not that you have to stir the gearlever too much, thanks to a stout 199lb ft of torque. BMW is one of the brands to have cracked perfect uniformity of controls; every touch surface has a BMW-y feel, the shift having that slightly rubbery but precise action, the pedals a Germanically precise heft. Only Porsche does this family feel better, in our view.
Can the 116d Efficient Dynamics Plus really do 85mpg?
Given a helium-assisted right foot, probably. We managed 56mpg even while pressing on, and if you ease off the gas you’ll easily surpass 60-70mpg. Set the car up in full Eco Pro mode to tailor the climate control, electrical assistance systems, start-stop and active air flap control to minimise fuel consumption.
It’s a slippery beast, the 116d ED Plus; BMW quotes a drag coefficient of 0.29, which is an impressive aero figure for a stubby hatchback. Ours rolled on 205/55 R16 tyres, skinnier than most fitted to 1-series. End result? Fine motorway refinement and little wind or road noise.
You’ll pay no annual road tax in the UK for a 116d ED Plus – and it’s clean enough to qualify for 16% benefit-in-kind taxation.
How does it drive?
The revised 2015 1-series range drives well, with a beautifully damped ride that feels remarkably sporting, even in this eco warrior ED spec. BMW has a rare advantage with its rear-wheel drive offering in this sector that no other rival hatch can match.
The steering is thus uncompromised by the effects of torque steer and, although electrically assisted in the name of lower CO2, it offers an accurate helm. This weediest 1-series is not exactly fast (0-62mph takes a leisurely 10.4sec) but it never feels too slow and you’ll enjoy driving it more than most mid-sized family hatchbacks.
Step up to the myriad more powerful Ones – culminating in the M135i – for more performance thrills. It’s worth noting that there is now a more pronounced difference between the Eco+, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings on the – terribly named – Driving Experience Control switch on the transmission tunnel. Nudge the rocker and select your preferred speed of gearchange and throttle response, among other settings.
Inside the 1-series cabin
Interior ambience is one area where the 1-series lags behind rivals. While the exterior facelift has spruced up the design considerably, the cabin is feeling its age (despite the addition of some new chrome flourishes and piano black here and there). We’d say it lags behind the modernity of the cockpits in an A-class or A3.
It’s just lacking sparkle, cohesiveness and flair: it’s a mass of black switchgear and plain plastics – and there are numerous signs of cost-cutting, such as the wafer-thin rickety glovebox lid. We like the old-school manual handbrake, though.
And there’s nothing wrong with the excellent (if expensive at £1295) Professional sat-nav screen; you can now draw letters and numbers for sat-nav entry on the iDrive controller and the 8.8in screen is a paragon of clear mapping and logical menus. iDrive has come of age. From September 2015, all BMWs will come with cheaper sat-nav as standard as part of the roll-out of deeper connectivity services.
The 1-series facelift has been a stylistic smash hit – removing one of the barriers to entry for the previously dumpy premium hatchback. It’s still a riot to drive for something planted so firmly in family hatchback territory, and in 116 ED Plus spec it boasts some outstanding figures to trim your fuel and tax bills. Just watch out for the ageing interior – and a cramped cabin.