50: BMW 1 Series – does enough to justify the premium badge

Top 100 cars for 2020: BMW engineers take a bow, you can sit at the same table as the Ford Focus engineers

 

They say necessity is the mother of invention. When BMW’s bean counters decided to forgo the company’s trademark rear wheel-drive format for its smallest range of cars, several major engineering egos took a hit.

This car is meant to justify a price premium over the likes of the VW Golf or the agile Ford Focus. BMW engineers take a bow, you can sit at the same table as the Ford Focus engineers.

The new car has the agility to twist and turn through the bends without dragging its front nose, engaging steering and smooth power delivery, combined with a smart modern cabin. That’s enough to justify its premium badge.

Aside from a little wind noise the car is remarkably smooth, while the diesel delivers great wads of torque at the flick of your right ankle. But the 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol with manual transmission is our favoured flavour. The M135i is a blast, though pricey at €50,830.

Best model: 118i Sport manual for €33,480. Price range: €32,100 to €50,830. Finance from €268per month. Co2 emissions: 100 to 155g/km. Sum up: Retains the fun.