However, work the engine hard and the encouraging gurgle from the exhaust at lower crank speeds is replaced by a rather anodyne, synthesised mechanical growl as the revs climb past 4000rpm. It’s even more noticeably augmented in Sport mode. It’s not an unpleasant sound as such, just one that’s fairly inauthentic. And it’s certainly not a patch on the howling straight six.
Accelerating hard also reveals another quirk that will be alien to owners of the old 1 Series: torque steer. It’s not much, just a subtle tightening of the wheel as the Torsen diff does i’s bit, but there’s enough corruption to let you know that this is a very different kind of BMW. Moreover, it’s not a problem that afflicts the A35 or Volkswagen Golf R. That said, traction is exceptional, the combination of the four-wheel drive and the faster-acting traction control catapulting the M135i out of corners with the sense that not a single horsepower is wasted.
On the way in to corners, there’s terrific front-end bite, too, the BMW’s nose reacting instantly to the quick steering, which delivers decent feedback, and staying resolutely locked to your chosen line. Lift off the throttle and the M135i tucks even further into the apex, with the multi-link rear axle giving enough rotation for genuine off-throttle adjustability.
Get back on the power and the front diff helps resist understeer, but with an open rear diff and a maximum 50/50 torque split, the BMW simply fires straight and true out of the corner, the only drama being that slight torque-reaction tightening of the steering. It’s fast and very effective across the ground and that mobile multi-link rear axle delivers a real sense of agility, but it doesn’t feel very BMW-like. The relative purity of the old car has been replaced by a feeling that the M135i and its various systems are trying just a little too hard to please.
What about the rest of the car? We’ll leave you to make your own mind up about the styling (it looks a little MPV-like to our eyes), but in all other respects, the 1 Series is a better car than its predecessor. Despite essentially sharing the same footprint as its predecessor (it’s actually 5mm shorter) it’s a roomier machine, with more head and leg room (up by 33mm) in the back and a bigger and class-competitive 380-litre boot.
The interior looks and feels more upmarket, too, the sweeping dashboard design, knurled metal-effect ventilation controls and wall-to-wall soft-touch plastics helping make it more than a match for the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Another area where it matches its rival is in the tech stakes. It lacks the Merc’s slick, full-TFT dashboard, but the BMW’s standard 8.8in touchscreen infotainment system is easier to operate, thanks mostly to the fact that it continues to use the firm’s intuitive iDrive rotary controller and hot keys. It’s also packed with all the latest connectivity and live services, plus its own version of the ‘Hey, Mercedes’ voice control. Oh, and you can also unlock and start the car using your smartphone - no key required.
Refinement has been vastly improved, with less wind and engine noise in the cabin. Our car was fitted with the optional two-stage adaptive dampers (Comfort and Sport), which have an underlying firmness even in their softest setting but do a decent job of isolating you from bumps, on Germany’s smoothly surfaced roads at least. Potholes and sharper imperfections are less ably dealt with, the suspension thudding awkwardly and stiffly over these more jagged obstacles.