transmission tunnel) running through the centre of this rear-wheel-drive car that comes in the way of legroom for a third passenger. Still, the overall legroom is decent and the headroom is surprisingly good, thanks to a scooped out roof section. The seat, however, is a bit low, so comfort is not as good as it could have been. What’s important is that neither of its competitors fares much better; visibility from the back seat of the A-class is poor, and the V40 has very poor headroom.
This car has been engineered with the driver in focus and this is quite apparent as soon as you get behind the wheel. There’s a beautiful heft to the steering, despite it being an electric unit, and it instantly feels just right. Light enough not to be a chore, but feel-some enough to relay messages up from the front wheels, the steering keeps you abreast of goings on between the road and the tyre. And this gives the driver tremendous confidence.
There’s plenty of grip too. Wide 225/45 R17 tyres keep the car planted on the road and this allows the driver to carry lots of speed into corners. Of course, the fact that the car doesn’t roll too much helps a lot too, as this allows you to carry even more speed from corner to corner. What makes all the difference, of course, is the rear-wheel-drive setup. Whereas a front-wheel-drive car has to both put power down to the road and steer the car via its front wheels, rear-wheel-drive cars like the 1-series split up these responsibilities. Here, the rear wheels transmit power and the front wheels steer the car.
The 118d diesel we’re driving here uses a slightly de-tuned version of the 2.0-litre diesel motor we find in the 3-series and the 5-series. The 141bhp it makes compares well with the A-class’s 107bhp and even the Volvo’s 148bhp. What helps it eke out an advantage, however, is the eight-speed automatic gearbox. While the motor isn’t as spiky or punchy initially as, say, the Volvo, it pulls and pulls all the way to 4,700rpm. So, performance is pretty effective as the engine is always pulling hard. Whichever way you look at it, there’s little doubt that the driving experience is up there with the larger cars from BMW.
The new 1-series is also pretty refined. The diesel seems to be smoother than the one under the hood